16th October 2014 at 09:00 #578328
Anonymous16th October 2014 at 09:00 #578329
Finnair A340 business class, flight from Hong Kong (HKG) to Helsinki (HEL) (connecting onto BA short-haul to LHR), AY70. Review by Ian_from_HKG
PRIOR TO DEPARTURE
We purchased the tickets on-line. We normally fly non-stop, but the need to get back to the UK for a family funeral which coincided with the start of the school and university year meant that all direct flights were booked. However, the price was good, and the connections convenient. We checked beforehand that the flights would have full-flat seats rather than the angled-flat seats which appear on some Finnair planes.
I went online to learn more, to select our seats, and also to pre-order meals (additional choices are available on flights ex-HEL). As we were at the airport a few days earlier anyway we checked to see where the check-in desks were located and noted there did not seem to be queues, so on the day we decided to take the Airport Express train to the airport and check in there rather than using the in-town check-in (where queues are usually shorter). We also checked in on-line beforehand.
On the day we arrived at the airport there was no queue whatsoever. Check-in was swift and efficient, and we were given boarding passes for both sectors. Our bags had priority stickers. We were directed to the Plaza Premium lounge (yeah, right…). Non-status passengers should note that under oneworld rules, business class passengers can use any oneworld-operated business class lounge, and with superb lounges offered by Cathay Pacific (CX) and Qantas (QF) at HKG, using the PP lounge would be insane. In any case, as a oneworld Emerald cardholder, we used my entitlement to CX's The Wing First Class Lounge. Much has been written about the HKG lounges before, so since we weren't using AY's designated lounge I will leave it there.
BOARDING AND SEATS
We were a little later than intended getting to the gate, which was just switching to Final Call, so the main rush was over. The separate counter for business class passengers had very few people in it so we were swiftly aboard. Since we weren't there for the main rush I can't comment on how well the different queues were policed.
Pre-take-off drinks were passed around in rather Scandinavian glasses (rippled outside – hard to describe – not ideal wine glasses, more the sort of thing I might buy to use outdoors at a country home).
The seats are in an alternating 1-2-1 and 2-2-1 layout (you can see pictures at http://www.jaunted.com/story/2013/5/7/11047/83045/travel/Flight+Review%3A+Helsinki+to+Bangkok+in+Finnair%92s+New+Business+Class+(Part+1)). Each seat has at least one large side-table, and the feet of the passenger behind go into a cubbyhole under that table. The cabin is in muted greys and creams except for the pillows and duvets which are LIME GREEN and white. And yes, I used capitals on purpose. The colour is LOUD. Not quite neon, but pretty hideous, frankly.
Each seat already had a very basic amenity pack in a recycled paper bag (frightfully eco, the Finns) containing socks, eyeshade and earplugs. However, the pack did bear a legend saying that other toiletries were available on request (including mini-deodorant, which I thought was a splendid idea, although annoyingly I forgot to ask for one – even though the deo I use only has to be applied twice a week so carrying one with me is never much of a concern, I did think that having a travel-sized one could be handy). However, there were tubes of moisturizer, shaving kits, and toothbrush/paste kits in the toilets so you could help yourself to most of the things "missing" from the amenity kits anyway. I was also pleased to see the toilets had cloth handtowels.
Each seat had a serviceable adjustable reading light mounted into the seatback, with three different brightness settings. Annoyingly, the overhead reading lights were misaligned (on this and our return flight), shining over the tables rather than the seats. There is a small illuminated cubby above the side-table, large enough for headphones or a bottle of water, and there is a small cubby for shoes beside the footwell (something I like, although it was pretty small and I struggled to get both my deck shoes into it).
Over-ear headphones were provided. These were of fairly ordinary quality. There were seatback TVs which, being accustomed to CX, I thought were of decidedly modest size and definition, but perfectly watchable. These could be controlled by a fairly basic remote stowed in the armrest, or by using the touchscreen. Although the TV selection wasn't huge, there was a very reasonable selection of films, albeit not much in the way of new releases so I tended to re-watch things I had seen before – nonetheless, at no point did I feel there wasn't anything I wanted to watch, so overall I would say that the IFE was perfectly acceptable.
Seat controls are on the edge of the armrest. The seats themselves were reasonably comfortable with a decent amount of padding. When fully reclined, I thought that for someone of my size (6'3", with UK size 9½ feet) the cubbyhole for my feet was a little smaller than I would have liked, but at least I could lie outstretched (which I can't do on British Airways’ Club World) and was also able to lie on my side without feeling that the lower part of the seat was misaligned. Overall, I thought that the seat was far from class-leading but nonetheless perfectly adequate.
It seemed that the bulkhead seats had a larger cubbyhole for the feet, so I would definitely aim for one of those in future. In addition, the solo A seats (which are only in alternate rows) look great, with no neighbour, but a large side-table on both sides. The seats on the other side are not so good since the side-table appears only on one side.
Well now, this is where my review stops being objective and starts being very subjective for a bit, while I get some stuff off my chest. Two things here. Call me prejudiced, snobby, or whatever you like, but this is me:
1. I hate being "marketed at". The seemingly endless announcement about in-flight shopping around take-off time was way, wwaayy, wwwwwaaaaayyyyyy over the top. Honestly, the more desperate you sound trying to sell me stuff, the less likely I am to buy it, and the more annoyed I am likely to get. The flight was due to take off at 00:25, for ****'s sake, do you really think your passengers' first priority at that point in time is buying your in-flight duty-free? Seriously?? Oh, well of course I know the answer to that full well – I know you don't think that is when your passengers are at their most receptive/gullible/defenceless, because you decided to do it again later in the flight. AT THREE IN THE MORNING!!!! I mean, really?!! WTF??!!! AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!!
2. Wildly excessive make-up. I am sure that most Finnish people don't look orange. Yet each female FA's make-up regimen seemed to be (a) getting a bucketful of orange foundation, taking a deep breath, sticking their face in and shaking it around until their breath ran out, and then (b) running around the corner to the local car-body paintshop and having them airbrush on blusher and eyeliner in industrial quantities. Not a good look!
Okay, rant over…
The service was actually fine. The elder female FA was somewhat brusque, but never rude, and all the FAs were very prompt in responding to the call button. Said elder FA was also most helpful and responsive when we realised shortly after take-off that my seat controls weren't functioning properly, ripping off the seat cushion and attempting to use the manual controls hidden underneath to make it recline, and when it became apparent that the seat wasn't going to co-operate, moving me to another seat.
The dinner took a while to be served. I don’t recall the menu, I’,m afraid, but there were two choices to start (I had a salad) and three main courses – vegetarian, carnivore and fish. I had beef, which was both woefully overlooked and yet tasty. The breakfast was a bit disappointing, too. As noted above, on flights ex-HEL, additional choices are available when ordering on-line (some of which sounded very tasty).
The wines were pretty good – Nicolas Feuillatte champagne, a German Riesling, a white Burgundy, Cloudy Bay Pinot Noir (the Memsahib thoroughly approved of that!) and a Crozes-Hermitage. There was also a port (Niepoort) and an after-dinner (sweet) Riesling. Better than the food!
All in all it was not at the same level as CX (my preferred carrier to London), but then again we were paying about 40% less – seen in that context, the offering was very acceptable indeed.
ARRIVAL IN HELSINKI FOR TRANSIT, AND LOUNGE
On arrival we had a short walk to security. Clearly other flights were arriving at around the same time, but the queues moved relatively quickly so it didn’t take too long before we were through. The security personnel were very polite and helpful. Signage wasn’t great the other side, but fortunately I already knew which gates to aim for in order to get to the Finnair lounges. I have already described the lounge in a review I did of my onward flight, which you can read at http://www.businesstraveller.com/discussion/topic/British-Airways-A320-3.
The non-stop options for HKG-LHR are BA, Virgin Atlantic (VS) and CX. I haven’t flown VS for a long time. Even leaving aside the fact that Finnair are a lot cheaper on this route, I would definitely choose this over BA. It is even making me have second thoughts over whether I would pay the significant premium to fly CX (where the experience is unquestionably better) given that it only adds about two hours to the overall journey, although in fairness it does mean less “usable” sleep given that one cannot easily time sleep to be at the end of the journey when I would normally most want it (given that the flights get in at the start of the UK day). Ideally I would get a solo bulkhead seat for the extra privacy and legroom. And next time, I would remember to ask for the mini-deodorant!16th October 2014 at 14:32 #578330
Great Review IFH. I guess you just have to hope you get the new product as the old one doesn’t sound great. Chances should diminish I guess as fleet gets upgraded – but plane changes as you alluded to before might throw a spanner in the works!
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