BA/AY euro J class comparison.

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This topic contains 16 replies, has 10 voices, and was last updated by  alainboy56 23 May 2017
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  • rferguson
    Participant

    I recently flew to Helsinki and back from LHR in Business/Club class using BA on the outbound and Finnair on the return and thought i’d compile a little ‘comparison’ report. For clarity sake: 1) I am employed by BA. 2) some benefits are based on FF tier (and noted where applicable)

    Check in (travelling with hand baggage only. OW Emerald)
    BA: Used a kiosk to print my boarding pass and proceeded through the ‘First Wing’. There was one person in front of me in the line and I was through security in moments and to into the lounge ninety seconds later.
    AY: Again used a kiosk to print my boarding pass. Finnair also has a very efficient ‘fast track’ facility and I was again through in moments. It is then quite a trek to the lounge (a good ten minutes) and you have to pass passport control first to the non-schenghen gates. There is a lounge located en route for schenghen departures but it’s quite bare bones. Whilst HEL is great as a transit port as everything is in one terminal I don’t find it a pleasant airport to negotiate. Hallways are narrow, there are no real open areas and arriving and departing passengers are mixed making it very busy with people going in all directions.
    Winner: a draw as some aspects such as the airport design are outside Finnairs control.

    Lounge
    BA: I used the BA First Class lounge. As far as First Class lounges go it is fairly basic in terms of offerings. Saying that there is something for everyone – hot/cold options. Soup. Cheese. Sweets. Sandwiches. It was relatively busy though there were still a lot of quiet areas to sit. For comparisons sake I also visited the J class Galleries lounge. Food options were disappointing although once again there was plenty of space to find a seat.
    AY: Perhaps the poorest aspect of the Finnair experience. They have two main lounges cheek and jowl with each other. The ‘Premium lounge’ for OW Sapphire and Emeralds (considered the better of the two). And the ‘Business Class lounge’ for Business Class passengers. Aesthetically the Premium Lounge is very nice and even has a sauna. Think typical nordic. Food options are pretty good also – canape style snacks and one or two hot dishes. It was a little annoying that the only self service drinks available are tea and coffee. I did see one small fridge with some coke and diet coke too but something as simple as a sparkling water has to be ordered from the tended bar – where there was quite the line up. What was really unacceptable though was the fact it was literally standing room only. And I don’t mean that as an exaggeration – there were people stood and crouching in every vacant space. The lounge was so crowded that the staff kept making announcements over the PA ‘ladies and gentleman the lounge is very full today. If you have a bag on a seat please remove it’. When I left the lounge there was an angry mob at reception as the staff were declining guests of card holders due to the capacity problem. I also visited the next door business class lounge. A much bigger and more basic space but again suffering the same capacity issues as the Premium Lounge next door. The food and drink options were REALLY poor in the Business Class lounge. Think post-mix sodas and chips, nuts and one plate of slop.
    Winner: BA. Though at a quieter time I would prefer the Finnair Premium lounge to the BA LHR T5 J class lounge.

    Aircraft/seat
    Both flights were operated by A320 aircraft and I had the front bulkhead window seat on each. I know BA charges for seat selection for non top tier card holders and i’m not sure what Finnair’s policy is.

    Aesthetically BA’s aircraft had the sleeker of interiors. Leather seats, mood lighting. The Finnair aircraft looked a little dated but ‘comfy’. I did like that Finnair scattered some pillows and blankets around the J cabin though – not available on BA.

    Both airlines adopt the ‘middle seat free’ concept in Business Class. Both have the same pitch throughout the aircraft – according to seatguru 30″ on BA and 31″ on AY. BA covers the middle seat with a cocktail table where as on Finnair it is just left vacant (or in my case with a blanket and pillow on it).

    Neither airline had IFE – both showed the moving map on the overhead screen. Neither had connectivity. One thing I found annoying about Finnair is the looooooong promo videos they play via the overhead screens.

    Winner: Pretty much of a muchness. Finnair might edge it for the extra inch they give. BA is more sleek looking though.

    Catering
    BA: Printed menus were distributed and then hot towels offered. A bar service was then carried out with full size bottles of fizz and wine served with nuts. The tray was presented with the starter (pepper melon carpaccio with king prawn) and cheese plate and dessert. Once the starter was finished this was cleared away and there was a choice of main: chicken supreme with gnocchi or miso glazed cod with wasabi mash. The food was good, particularly the starter and cheese. The fish was a little overcooked. Tea and coffee were served afterwards.
    AY: A bit disappointing really. No menus. Hot towels. Bar service before the meal with pretzels. Loved the glassware though. One even accidentally fell into my bag. The meal itself didn’t excite. It’s a no choice take it or leave it affair all on one tray. The tray contained the small starter (sweet rye bread with some raw fish – delicious). The main course (salmon and mash). And a small chocolate. No cheese. No proper dessert.

    Winner – BA.

    Overall – to be honest I don’t know. Seating wise they are more or less the same. The crew on each were friendly and attentive. I was impressed with the food on BA and disappointed by Finnair. I did expect more. As for the lounge situation, Finnair really needs to sort it out. But saying that, if this comparison was in reverse (ie AY from LHR and BA from HEL) then I would have had access to the Cathay F lounge before the Finnair flight and been subjected to the AY lounge prior to the Finnair flight.

    ***My personal opinions only***


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    Interesting comparison and one question, which is a small drift…

    The BA First Class lounge – you wrote….. “As far as First Class lounges go it is fairly basic in terms of offerings

    The lounge is only named “First Class”, the reality is the Concorde lounge is meant to be the real First Class lounge and the lounge you refer to, is really just a Gold or even a business class lounge :)..

    Not sure how I would refer to the silver lounge upstairs though…

    I only mention this as perhaps passengers expectations may need to be managed.


    Philip
    Participant

    Who wants to compare European Airlines on their European routes, with European hardware….its all overpriced economy, but nothing else.


    rferguson
    Participant

    Philip – given the level of discussion on this forum about airlines intra european business class products I would imagine some are interested in comparisons.

    But you have a point when you say ‘it’s all overpriced economy’. To a degree that’s true. But in fairness, often this is reflected in the fare charged. I paid £196 return to Helsinki during a Finnair sale (the BA flight was a codeshare). Given that this is a very small premium over the cheapest economy deals out there, I found it good value for a three hour flight in each direction. In my case the £35 premium each way was more than worth it for the middle seat free, good level of catering, bubbles and increased tier points. If I wasn’t a frequent flyer and had no access to the lounge or fast track otherwise it would be a steal.

    While the airlines in asia or australia offer a ‘real’ business class experience for short haul flights the price they charge reflects this. A quick example – searching on kayak.co.uk for the cheapest non stop return flight from HKG to SIN on random dates in September is UA at £963. Cathay or SQ are far more expensive. The cheapest flight you can find in the same month for the short ONE hour hop from Sydney to Brisbane on Qantas is £763. These fares are not the most expensive fully flexible type. These are the cheapest fares available.

    So – why the european airlines offer what could genuinely be called an enhanced economy product as Business Class I guess it’s mainly because in the european market passengers in most cases would refuse to pay the kind of fares airlines in other parts of the world are charging.


    rferguson
    Participant

    MartynSinclar, agree with you. The Concorde Room is the First Class lounge proper. I don’t understand why BA don’t rename the First Class lounge the ‘Gold’ or ‘Emerald’ lounge instead.


    esselle
    Participant

    The AY premium lounge area at HEL was originally built as a multi-sauna experience, with about 5 different saunas, treatment rooms etc when the HEL non-Schengen extension was constructed. Frankly, a potty marketing pipe dream. They removed it, created the Premium area to distinguish between “tiers”.

    I have not visited during high demand, and thus have always found it to be quiet and relaxed, but can imagine it would get a bit rammed as it is not that big.


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    Interesting comparison and one question, which is a small drift…

    The BA First Class lounge – you wrote….. “As far as First Class lounges go it is fairly basic in terms of offerings

    The lounge is only named “First Class”, the reality is the Concorde lounge is meant to be the real First Class lounge and the lounge you refer to, is really just a Gold or even a business class lounge :)..

    Not sure how I would refer to the silver lounge upstairs though…

    I only mention this as perhaps passengers expectations may need to be managed.

    A convenience?


    1nfrequent
    Participant

    Interested to read your comments rferguson as I’m doing my own BA/AY comparison later this summer. I keep seeing the Ay food offering described as hearty, which is perfect for me but the CE food offering sounds like a genuine improvement.

    1F


    stevescoots
    Participant

    having done BA and AY on that route myself I agree with the review. what i would say is the food is more of a personal choice issue. On the lounges the AY is far calmer as i route through early hours but the offerings are very basic. BA pips it for choice, AY for enviroment and cleanliness


    FDOS_UK
    Participant

    I don’t often fly from London to Helsinki, but when I do, Norwegian is my choice of carrier.


    alainboy56
    Participant

    I travel quite frequently on this route and used to, by choice, always opt for BA, as 3 hrs without a glass or two of red is not good and AY were for many years BOB, which I hate and used to constantly tease my wife about (who is Finnish) on how cheapskate AY were. She does assure me that coffee and blueberry juice is free though, which is more than you get on ‘B(loody) A(wful) these days
    So now, lo and behold, BA has gone BOB and we are back on level terms.
    However, I also, when fares are justifiable, choose the BA ‘J’ product over AY.


    rferguson
    Participant

    alainboy56 you are right. Although AY are also BOB it was nice to hear over the PA that tea, coffee and blueberry juice are offered free. BA should definitely take a leaf out of their book on that front.


    Colin
    Participant

    Interesting comparison thanks!

    Booked onto my first AY flights for a self funded J trip to Thailand in Feb (That AY have just switched to be all A350) so was interested to read this. May also be using them for my next SGP trip depending on what weird and wonderful options the TMC come up with…

    Just two points:
    – From the AY website, it seems the “Premium” lounge is only for oneworld Emerald, not Sapphire;
    – The AY site makes reference to a Sauna in both the Premium and Non-Schengen lounges. I hope this is true, as I won’t be Emerald by next year, and I love a gimmick!!!


    MartynSinclair
    Participant

    I used to use AY to BKK via HEL, until I suffered minor frostbite when deplaning via steps in minus something or other in a T Shirt, when in transit!!

    The only real service problem I had though with AY is the bright lights the crew insist on keeping on during the loooonnnggg meal service on a night flight.

    I am being encouraged to use them again and may give them a try…


    alainboy56
    Participant

    @martynsinclair — jokingly you can get frostbite anytime there! It has to be the coldest capital in Europe – it was snowing in Helsinki just last week! Yes its a very cold place. They have 1 week of summer per year, and you will share that hot week with 35 million mosquitos!

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