Finnair has unveiled a complete change to its business class cabin at the same time as launching its long-awaited premium economy cabin.
The routes which will first see the new seats will be announced on March 1, 2022, when the new premium economy cabin becomes available for customers to book (for travel from May 11, 2022).
The new cabins were presented today in Helsinki. Business Traveller took a walk around one of the retro-fitted A350s the day before in a hangar at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.
The new business class seating is called Airlounge and is a departure from Finnair’s previous two business class seats, both of which were adapted ‘off the shelf’ seats, firstly from Thompson Aero (the Contour Vantage seat) and the current Zodiac Cirrus III (Aries) seat. You can read a review of the business class on board a delivery flight in 2015 from Airbus in Toulouse here
and to read more about the different types of seat, see our Business class seat guide
The new seats will roll out across the carriers’ long haul fleet of A330 and A350 aircraft, starting this month. The €200 million investment also includes improvements to economy class. This new seat concept was originally conceived by PriestmanGoode of London and was further developed by Collins Aerospace, with customisation and final design execution by Finnair and its design partner, Tangerine.
The most surprising aspect of the business class seat is that it does not recline. There are a range of sitting and sleeping positions, and when you want to sleep you raise both the footrest and leg rest (what the airline calls ‘infill panels’) to create a fully-flat bed.
A mattress and duvet are already at the seat (by Finnish brand Marimekko) and so the cushion and pillow can be used to get comfortable during the flights, and when it’s time to sleep, as with the previous Finnair seat, leg room comes from your feet being in the alcove created by the side table of the seat in front, though this is very spacious (particularly so in the front row of each of the two business class cabins).
The seat feels roomy, and unlike several of the new generation business class seats it does not have doors, and so instead of terming itself a ‘suite’ has gone for ‘lounge’ instead which sounds odd, but does suit the feel of the cabin. Finnair says that the seat ‘takes inspiration from lounge furniture and is designed to maximise customer comfort, space, and freedom to move during a long-haul flight.’
The centre seats will be good for travelling companions, and there is a divider which can be raised and which is certified for take-off and landing, so if travelling solo in one of those seats, privacy is maintained.
The spaciousness of the seat hasn’t meant losing storage, which includes a space for personal items and a laptop, along with certification for pillows and blankets to remain in the footwell area for take off and landing, as well as shoes under the footrest. There is a smaller table than some business class seats, though it can be manoeuvred into several positions.
There are lots of power options including USB-A, USB-C, PC power – and new wireless mobile charging on the side table. All the long-haul aircraft are equipped with internet connectivity, so the carrier’s ‘Nordic Sky’ wifi continues, and the inflight entertainment system has been improved with “a more user-friendly, customised interface” though this wasn’t operating when we visited in the hangar, and there is a wider 18-inch screen.
In contrast with the current business class seating on its A350s and A330s, the carrier has gone for darker colours, though its relationship with Finnish brand Marimekko continues with pillows and a duvet, with Maija Isola’s designs still a recognisable theme from earlier iterations of business class.
David Kondo is Finnair’s head of customer experience product design. He says Finnair wanted “to rethink business class and create more of a residential environment, emulating the comfort you would expect at home”.
“By doing away with complicated seat mechanisms and using 3D curved shells, we’re able to provide a larger flexible living space,” Kondo continued. “This allows customers to move more freely and take up different positions which traditional aircraft seats do not allow.”
The lighting is a lamp which doubles as a reading light, there is a ‘Do not disturb’ light which turns the seat designator a glowing red on the outside of the seat shell, and the new cabin mood lighting has been designed in partnership with Jetlite to combat the effects of jetlag. The design scheme is inspired by Nordic nature, complete with the Northern Lights display as the cabin is dimmed for sleep.
All meals will be served on new chinaware from Finnish design house Iittala, with the Kuulas dining collection is designed by Harri Koskinen and “inspired by the contemporary home environment”. The tableware is designed for an in-flight environment and is almost 20 per cent lighter than Finnair’s previous tableware, which supports Finnair’s weight reduction and CO2 reduction targets.
A new food and drinks service includes “an up to six-course meal in modern bistro-style and another lighter meal”. Post-Covid, between meals there’s a new refreshment area in the galley between the two business class cabins.
The new premium economy seating is by Haeco, and Finnair is the launch customer of its ‘Vector Premium’ seat, customised by Finnair and again, designed in partnership with Tangerine.
Premium Economy is in a cabin of 26 seats immediately behind the rear business class cabin. The seat has a 38-inch legroom, stowage area for laptops and small personal items, memory foam cushions, an eight-inch recline, leg rest and six-way headrest. There is a single leaf meal tray for work and dining, individual reading lights, PC power and USB-A ports. The IFE is through a 13-inch touchscreen.
Premium Economy customers will get two meal services as well as a selection of drinks throughout the flight. A three-course meal will be served on new chinaware designed for Finnair by Finnish designer Harri Koskinen and Iittala, with a light meal service just before landing.
The textiles are by Finnair has teamed up with renowned Finnish design house Marimekko to bring unique textiles to Premium Economy, complementing the warm and inviting onboard atmosphere. The neck pillow and woven blanket have been designed specifically for the new Premium Economy seat to enhance the travel experience and comfort.
In economy class, there are new lighter seats for Finnair’s A330 aircraft and three new A350 aircraft (where the new seat will be ‘line-fit’), which will offer enhanced ergonomics, personal stowage options, USB-A & C connectivity and a larger IFE screen with an updated user interface. For the majority of the A350 aircraft in service, the economy cabins will get new seat covers and the updated IFE.
Finnair currently flies from Helsinki to London Heathrow (three times per day), Manchester (two times week), Edinburgh (two times a week) and Dublin (four times a week).
This summer the airline plans to serve nearly 100 destinations in Europe, Asia and the US including new long-haul routes to Busan, in South Korea, Tokyo Haneda in Japan as well as Dallas and Seattle in the US.