Flight Report: Finnair A350 Business Class
It was about time I experienced for myself the Airbus A350 XWB aircraft.
The chance to do so came from the hand of Finnair, that kindly invited me to test their business class service on the Helsinki to Hong Kong route - a nice opportunity also to visit Helsinki Vantaa airport and get some first hand insights about Finnair's Asia-focused hub operation (more on this on upcoming posts...!)
Finnair is currently using its 7 A350-900s (it has a further 12 on order) on routes to Beijing, Shanghai, Singapore and, our destination on this occasion: Hong Kong.
What follows is my flight review of Finnair's A350 business class on Flight AY69 on 5th December 2017.
Helsinki, Europe - Asia hub
The Finnair long-haul business class experience starts at Helsinki airport.
Although quite peripheral from a European perspective, Helsinki is located right on the Europe to East Asia Great Circle Route, a circumstance that Finnair is making food use of to develop its long-haul hub.
The airport experience combines Nordic style and cozyness with quite a few elements, from signage to the staff's language skills, designed to make the transit more welcoming for Asian travelers, a rather well-executed strategy (more on this, also, on a separate upcoming post!).
But let's go to Finnair's lounge -well, in fact there are two of them, one of them in the Schengen and the other (the largest and the one we used) at the non-Schengen area of the airport, past the passport controls.
When I talked about "Nordic cozyness" I refer to things like the airport sauna - well, THE SAUNA is truly an institution in Finland, so, at a time when airlines are trying to provide a local and "authentic" edge to its passengers, Finnair's lounge could not be without one.
I had plenty of time before my flight, so I thought - why not?
And I must say I was truly impressed - the wellness area, where the sauna is located, was spotlessly clean. There are individual cabins with shower, padlocked cupboards to leave your stuff and complimentary towels and toiletries.
I do not know whether this was due to the hour (I had a midnight flight) but I was the only one in the sauna, and the wellness area for that matter, so the experience was akin to being in your own private sauna.
As you may have imagined, taking a sauna and a shower before a 9 hour night flight is quite a relaxing experience...although, given my tendency to snooze my iphone's alarm clock, I did not dare to try one of the sleeping pods that are also provided at the lounge. Went for some light snacks and reading on the panoramic armchairs instead!
Then a short walk to the gate (the advantages of an airport built at a human-scale!) and onto the A350!
The first impression when getting on board is the nice smell of new pervading the cabin, the sort of you get when you are driving a new car out of the dealer shop.
Finnair's business class seats were also a positive surprise (I chose not to check them online in advance to get the full experience on the go).
Although open on the sides, they provide a pod-like sensation, with plenty of space to leave the whole array of things I like to have with me during the flight: phone, notebooks, documents, etc. Plus Finnair's complimentary toiletries bag, design by Marimmekko, perhaps Finland's most famous design brand.
The service on board was just great, not much to add here - as a thing of note, most of Finnair's flights are staffed by crews that are fluent in Asian languages and the announcements are made in the language of the country of destination, a sign of the airline's commitment to its focus strategy.
Food was another of the highlights of the experience - two meals were served on each of the flights, dinner and breakfast - and, indeed, Finnair has gone to great lengths to provide a combination of European and Asian food styles.
Those passengers that are into food can find interesting information about this on the in-flight entertainment channels, where they will find some short videos explaining Finnair's approach to food, as well as in the paper menu available next to each business class seat.
As you would expect on a new generation aircraft, the electronics were also top-notch, with a foldable screen. If anything, perhaps the movie selection was a bit limited, but with fast-speed wifi onboard, you end up dividing your time between the screen and your own online devices (there are also sockets to charge your phone, a very nice anxiety-relieving detail).
In fact, found myself with little time to play around with all the different in-flight entertainment options, including the online shopping platform and the powerful content-rich FlightPath3D flight tracking maps.
But this is, of course, because I slept too well! This sums it all up really...