First Finnair long haul flight – experience and thoughts on AY -v- BABack to Forum
Having been a previously loyal (but not uncritical) BA traveller, I decided that I’d spread my wings and try some of the other One World carriers in 2017 so that I could form a (slightly) more informed opinion. Having done long-haul on CX and short haul on QF and AA, I found an unbelievable AY fare LHR to PVG when they did a flash sale to the Far East back in March – return ticket for £1320. Equivalent BA flights from Heathrow at the time of booking was £2600 and even ex-EU it was still coming in at around the £2000 mark so I was very happy with this price and looking forward to my flight. I’ve set out my experiences on each leg below and added my thoughts on how it compares with BA.
1F18 Oct 2017
I flew from LHR to HEL in business class on AY832 in an A350.
I had spent the night at the recently opened Premier Inn attached to Terminal 4 (booked in advance for the bargain rate of £44 thanks to a tip off on Head For Points). If you need to stay at LHR overnight then I would definitely recommend the Premier Inn – it’s large but efficient and the rates are excellent if you can book in advance (I’ve booked another room for January for £29) plus everything’s still new in it so it all works well.
I used the free Heathrow Express connection to get from Terminal 4 to Terminal 3, arriving at Departures at 8.10am. The Finnair check-in desks are in Zone E and were very easy to find. There were queues in both the economy and priority lines so I joined the back of the priority line, which moved pretty quickly and I was seen in about 5 minutes. There was a friendly greeting from the check-in agent who checked my Chinese visa and told me my suitcase would be checked through to PVG. He then directed me to use the priority security line and the Cathay Lounge before wishing me a pleasant flight.
I went upstairs to Security to find a queue at priority security which was slow moving due to only 2 security gates/machines being operated but which wasn’t helped by the fact that none of the staff were reminding passengers to remove belts, take out keys etc and the number of novice travellers resulted in hold ups. The staff were curt but not as rude or aggressive as I’d previously seen and I thankfully avoided needing to go through the body scanner of shame and was airside by 8.30am.
Although the Finnair agent had told me to use the Cathay lounge, I’d been there on my last trip through Terminal 3 and hadn’t been that impressed so instead decided to have breakfast in the BA First Lounge. I got a friendly greeting from the receptionist and made my way to the small dining area, expecting to find it chocka but it was actually pretty empty. Even so it took several minutes before I managed to get anyone’s attention and ordered the eggs benedict. While I was waiting for it to come out I checked out the buffet but wasn’t impressed by the cooked breakfast items available – especially as the scrambled eggs kept running out and staff were slow to replenish them while there was no toast at all. The waiting staff all seemed to be faffing about and weren’t particularly interested in serving people. It took a while for my eggs benedict to come out but they were worth waiting for – the eggs were perfectly cooked and the ham and hollandaise sauce both had a good flavour to them.
After I finished eating I went into the main lounge and helped myself to a glass of pink champagne and a cup of coffee (everything in balance). I used the lounge wi fi to check my emails and found the connection to be strong.
At 9.35am I decided to head for the gate. My flight was leaving from Gate 36, which is about a 10 minute walk from the BA lounge and because I stopped off for another coffee on the way, I found that boarding had already started when I got there so I joined the back of the priority line, which moved quickly. Boarding was by an airbridge and there was a friendly greeting from cabin crew.
It was my first time in an A350 and I’d preselected seat 2A at the time of booking (having done some research on Flyertalk’s Finnair Forum, it had got the best reviews – especially as the area in front of seat 1A sometimes found itself housing the in-flight snack basket, which meant more risk of being disturbed during the flight). Finnair’s business class is in a 1-2-1 layout and there are no overhead lockers over the middle seats, which means the cabin has a much more open feel to it. It’s also divided into two mini cabins. Business class was full for this flight but I didn’t notice any issues with people trying to fit their belongings into the overhead lockers.
The seat itself was clean and in good condition and although I liked the light grey colour palette, my immediate impression was that it’s not particularly practical from a dirt point of view. There was a pillow in an attractive green case sitting on the seat. Storage wise, I was a little disappointed. There’s a hook for earphones on the window side of the seat and a large side table area plus a narrow shelf for the Finnair magazines (which can also be used to store the menu) but the only real storage option is a cubby hole built into the right arm rest, which could take a couple of novels, my glasses and my phone but wasn’t big enough for my 11” Mac as well. I know that people hate the BA Club World drawer, but I can get more items into it. My other quibble with the seat was that the right arm rest (which is adjustable up or down) is slightly too far out to be of much practical use and in any event, has to be put down for take off and landing.
The seat itself was slightly firmer than I was expecting and I can see how the cubby footrest at the end would cause problems for taller people when they are trying to sleep (although the space underneath it is useful for storing shoes etc), but I have to say that for me it wasn’t an issue at all. The seat controls are built into the left side of the seat and are clear and easy to use and there’s also storage for the IFE controller and USB charging ports for mobile devices. I liked the fact that the seat points towards the window and that you don’t have to worry about anyone clambering over you during the flight. I guess that some people may feel a little exposed to the aisle, but that wasn’t an issue for me. Quibbles aside, I thought the seat product was much better than the BA seat.
While we were waiting for boarding to complete a member of cabin crew came up to me to greet me as a One World Emerald card holder and tell me the anticipated flight time. I’ve had 4 BA flights since turning Gold for the first time and I haven’t yet had any recognition from BA cabin crew about it so I was genuinely pleased by this (and yes, I know they were probably responding to an iPad instruction but it’s still nice to get a bit of personal treatment). All pilot and cabin crew announcements were in Finnish and English.
Boarding completed at 10.10am and we pushed back a couple of minutes later. A safety video played while we taxied to the runway. The screen size was great – bigger than BA – and the touch controls worked well, which made me very keen to try it out during the flight. As an additional nice touch, there’s a main screen on the front bulkhead of the cabin, which shows the view from the tail camera, which I really enjoyed. Unfortunately there was a long wait for our slot and we didn’t get airborne until 10.47am (about 30 minutes later than scheduled).
I switched my watch to HEL time so the rest of this report refers to that.
Hot towels were brought around soon after take off together with a set of ear buds and I was quick to try out the entertainment system. The hardware confirmed my good expectations – screen is very easy to use and even with ear buds the sound quality was pretty good. I liked the fact that Finnair has a home screen that gives you a timeline of what to expect on the flight and I also liked the map and the ability to take a look through the plane’s cameras. Unfortunately the other content wasn’t that great. There was a good mix of old and new movies (including Asian films), and although there was nothing that caught my eye that was more to do with me than what was on offer. The TV selection was pretty poor though – no box sets, just a couple of episodes from different shows, some of which were several years old. I was also a little disappointed by the music selection – I tried the soul/Motown channel and there seemed to be a large number of cover versions on it. I ended up settling on a couple of episodes of Family Guy that I hadn’t seen before. I also set my phone to charge up using the USB connection, which was easy to use.
A drinks run was done from the front. I asked for a ginger ale but apparently Finnair doesn’t stock it on its flights so I had a Coke instead. I loved the glassware they use – distinctive and quite classy. It’s the first time I’ve ever been tempted to slip something from the aircraft into my carry on luggage (I didn’t though!)
Once the drinks run was completed the cabin crew started their food service at about 1.25pm, again from the front. There was no choice on the flight and no menu cards so you had to ask what was on offer (in this, BA do have it right with their new menu cards). Today’s offering was a salmon starter followed by beef with rice and pearl barley and spinach. Warm bread rolls were served together with another drink (I opted for another Coke). Presentation wise, I liked the Finnair crockery – simple and elegant – and although the coffee cup green design has a bit of a 60s vibe to it, I thought it looked good. The food is all served together on one tray, which is no different to BA – and although the main course reminded me a little of school dinners, it tasted a lot better than it looked. I also liked the fact that you get little salt and pepper plastic dispensers (so much better than the packets BA give you). However, unlike BA there’s no desert – just 3 chocolates, which were tasty but compared to BA, which gives you a desert and cheese, it’s not as good – but the coffee was very good. Having flown BA to HEL in August, I’d say that BA is better on its food offering than Finnair.
The trays were cleared away from the front at 1.50pm and I was offered another drink, which I declined because I was literally stuffed. I watched TV and read my book for the rest of the flight. The toilets were clean and well stocked with hand wash and hand lotion but I have to say I preferred the toilets at the front of the business class cabin (next to the main galley) as there’s a window over the toilet, which has a certain novelty value.
At 2.55pm the pilot gave a 20 minute warning, followed by a 10 minute warning at 3pm and I enjoyed watching our descent into Helsinki from both the window and the on board cameras. We landed at 3.10pm (5 minutes earlier than scheduled) and I was off the plane via an airbridge at 3.20pm and heading for the Finnair lounge.
All in all my first flight with Finnair was a very positive experience. I’ve got to say that if you can get the A350 on AY to HEL then it’s literally no contest compared to BA – I loved the space and the seat and it all felt much more premium (although there are elements where BA is better, i.e. having a menu and a desert) and although I wasn’t wholly impressed with AY’s entertainment selection, on the A350 you do at least get an entertainment system rather than having to please yourself for almost 3 hours. I really had a spring in my step when I got off this flight and was hugely looking forward to the next flight to PVG.18 Oct 2017
I flew from HEL to PVG in business class on AY57 in an A350.
My incoming flight from LHR arrived at a HEL gate that was literally only a couple of minutes walk from the Finnair Lounge where I received a friendly greeting from the receptionist and went into the premier area. Having already eaten on the plane, I couldn’t bring myself to try any of the food on offer and just got a Sprite. I selected a seat in the relaxation area of the lounge and connected to HEL’s wifi, which offered a strong connection. The lounge was pretty full – to the extent that at one point there was an announcement asking people not to put their bags on the seats next to them due to a shortage of space.
At 4.25pm the screens showed that boarding for my flight had begun and I walked over to Gate 34, which was only a couple of minutes away from the lounge. I joined the back of the priority line just as the gate agents announced that boarding would be by groups. The priority line promptly started boarding at 4.40pm by an air bridge and I received a friendly greeting from the cabin crew who pointed me to my seat.
As on my LHR – HEL flight, I’d preselected seat 2A at the time of booking. Business class was full for this flight but again, I didn’t notice any issues with people trying to fit their belongings into the overhead lockers.
The seat itself was clean and in good condition. There was a pillow in an attractive green case sitting on the seat, together with a duvet, Bose headphones, an amenity bag, a flight information pack, slippers and a bottle of water waiting for me.
The information pack contained a dinner menu, wine list and breakfast menu complete with instructions to the crew on when to be woken up, a Chinese landing card and a shopping form. The amenity bag was in an attractive green and white case (the pattern complementing the crockery design) but the contents were a little meagre – an eye mask, ear plugs (which were better quality than the foam plugs BA gives out and came in their own little plastic case), a toothbrush a mini tube of Colgate, L’Occitane lip balm and L’Occitane face serum. I like L’Occitane products and buy them anyway, so I was perfectly happy with it and felt that the case was better than the old BA shoe bags that business class passengers used to get. I also liked the slippers, which were very comfortable and something I’ve only seen on BA’s Japan flights (no doubt other posters can tell me if they’re also given out on flights to China).
As I waited for boarding to complete I was offered a pre-departure drink of blueberry juice, water or champagne. I chose the champagne, which, despite being at room temperature, was perfectly drinkable. I also received a personal greeting from the purser welcoming me to the flight and asking me to tell him if I needed anything during the journey. I’ve never had that on a BA flight and I thought it was a very nice touch.
Boarding completed at 5.05pm and newspapers were brought around. We pushed back at 5.30pm and a safety video played during our taxi. After a brief wait in line we were airborne by 5.45pm.
I really like the welcome screen on the IFE system which gives you a time line for your journey of what to expect – although there will be more on this later. Finnair offers an hour’s free wifi to business class passengers, but I didn’t feel the need to try it. I did love the Bose headphones though, which together with the large screen makes for a good hard product IFE system. It’s just a shame that the content doesn’t quite do it justice because although the movie selection is fine, the music and TV options were pretty much the same as per my LHR – HEL flight and I’d already watched a lot of what interested me.
At 6.15pm a flight attendant came around to confirm my dinner order as I’d made my selection a few weeks earlier on-line. I have to say that Finnair make the process for pre-ordering food unnecessarily complicated – they give you the menu for your flight (which I’ve set out below) but you can also choose a special Finnish inspired item which is only available on pre-order and the links for the food offering menus aren’t highlighted very well on their website.
The dinner menu for the flight was as follows:
– Marinated mushrooms and Jerusalem artichoke puree.
– Cold smoked duck breast, roast pumpkin and pumpkin seed cream; or
– Roast beef, potato salad with mustard and tartar sauce.
– Roasted whitefish with stewed buckwheat and cauliflower; or
– Pork neck char sieu, oyster sauce and steamed rice; or
– Creamy potato and leek soup; or
– Your choice of salad with chicken or goat cheese (warm)
Cheese from Finnish small producers – Peltolan Blue and “Viinitarhuri” strong matured milk cheese and rhubarb jam
– Wilhelmina or geisha shortbread; or
– Finnish organic JYMY ice cream (vanilla or rhubarb)
The drinks choices were
– Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut champagne
– Schloss Johannisberg, Rotlack, Riesling, Kabinett 2013
– Le G de Château Guiraud Bordeaux, 2016
– La Réserve D’Angludet cabernet sauvignon 50%, Merlot 40% and Petit Verdot 5%
– Message in the Bottle, Sangioverse 80%, Merlot 10%, Syrah 10% 2015
– Château D’Orignac Aoc Pineau des Charentes Pineau
– Petit Guiraud Sauternes sémillon 65%, sauvignon blanc 35% 2015
I confirmed that I’d pre-ordered the over-cooked reindeer entrecote, barley risotto, porcini, roasted artichoke and thyme sauce and opted for a Coke (as the flight didn’t stock ginger ale) with a glass of the Riesling.
The amuse bouche arrived at 6.20pm together with my drinks. I really liked the mushrooms – there was a great tang to them and the puree was tasty – they both went very well with the Riesling.
Unfortunately there was then a long gap before the starters arrived at 7.05pm. I went for the duck, which was salty but tasty. It was then another 30 minutes before the main arrived – the reindeer meat was tender but the risotto wasn’t great and the sauce over powering.
There was another 30 minutes before the cheese came out, which was okay but not inspirational.
By the time the cheese was cleared away it was 8.20pm, which is why I come back to that timeline of expectations that Finnair gives on its IFE screen because according to that, service should have been completed by 8.00pm. Given how small the business class cabin is, I was pretty shocked that they were still going and given this is an overnight flight to PVG when the whole point for most travellers is to try and maximise sleep, I really didn’t think this was good enough and I wasn’t particularly impressed.
I decided that I really needed to get some sleep so declined desert and coffee and made up the bed. This was very easy to do and I thought the pillow and duvet were perfectly fine and the bed itself was perfectly comfortable. Unfortunately the noise from the cabin (both from the service and the fact that the crew decided to do a shopping run) made it difficult for me to completely drop off, so I was effectively snoozing in short bursts.
When I woke up I switched to PVG time so the rest of this report refers to that.
At 5.20am the cabin crew started the breakfast service. The offering were:
– Scrambled eggs with mozzarella cheese, turkey sausage and hash brown; and
– Fresh fruit.
– Noodles with scrambled eggs and prawns; and
– Fresh fruit.
I went for the Chinese breakfast, which was okay but a little too salty for my tastes.
Breakfast things were cleared away by 6am and I read my book for the rest of the flight until 6.55am when the captain gave a 10 minute warning to landing. We eventually landed at 7.05am and I was off the plane by 7.15am via an air bridge.
There was a bit of a walk to the health inspection and quite a long queue for immigration but I was through by 7.40am and found that the bags were already coming off the conveyor belt when I arrived at baggage reclaim, with mine being one of the first out. As a result, I was on my wait out of the airport to meet my driver at 7.50am.
My second Finnair flight was not as positive as my first. I still enjoyed the sense of space and I liked the hard product seat and IFE, which is more premium than that offered by BA on its long haul flights. The food was okay – I liked the amuse bouche (which BA only offers in First) but the amount of time taken by cabin crew to do the service was just not acceptable for an overnight flight. I’ve been on BA A380 flights where cabin crew have taken over 2 hours to do a meal service but they do at least have the excuse of having to service many more passengers than AY. Given that Finnair puts a screen up indicating service would be completed with 90 minutes, for it still to be going on after 120 is not good enough. I don’t know if that’s typical (my flight back suggests that AY cabin crew do take a long time) but it’s disappointing on an overnight flight where sleep is more of a priority than food. The IFE selection is also not great for such a long flight – the movie selection was okay but they need to invest in some TV box sets and pick more up to date series to highlight (there were episodes of Friends on there). For the price I paid for the flight, I can’t say that I was put off and complaints aside, I would still look to fly Finnair to the Far East again, but I would be more prepared for the flaws next time and prepare accordingly.18 Oct 2017
I flew from PVG to HEL in business class on AY58 in an A350.
I arrived at PVG at around 7.30am on the Maglev. It took about 10 minutes to walk from the Maglev platforms to Depatures (which involved going through a security screening and putting my suitcase and hand luggage through an x-ray scanner, which was a little irritating given that my bags had already been through 2 x ray machines on the Metro and Maglev but over quickly) and I found the Finnair desks in Zone B at the far end of the terminal.
There was a queue to drop off bags and it took around 10 minutes before I was seen by a check-in agent who immediately told me that due to late arriving aircraft, my plane would not be departing at 11am and not 9.20am as scheduled. To be fair to Finnair, they had sent me an email and a text message about this before I set off to the airport but I hadn’t seen either as I had my phone switched off. I instantly realised that the late departure would mean missing my 4pm connection from HEL to LHR and asked if this would be taken care of. I don’t think the agent understood my concern as he assured me that my flight would be getting in at 3.20pm as it would make up time en route and I would still get my 4pm flight. I was a little sceptical about this (not least because although I may have made a connection that tight, I was pretty certain my suitcase wouldn’t) but I figured I’d be able to take it up with Finnair on arrival at HEL. The check in agent told me that I could use the Cathay Pacific lounge next gate 68 or the Priority Pass lounge at gate 77 and thanking him, I watched my suitcase trundle down the belt and headed to security.
Because there didn’t seem to be a priority security line, I joined the back of the regular line, which was moving pretty quickly. After getting my passport checked and my departure card taken, I joined the security line, which moved quickly and even though I was wanded after going through the gate (despite not setting it off), I was airside by 8.15am.
I checked out the Cathay lounge, which has a nice space and was very peaceful but the food selection was terrible – basically pot noodles and some very ropey pre-packed sandwiches – so I headed to the Priority Pass lounge, which was a lot busier as it’s shared with a number of other airlines, including China Southern, but which had a good food selection, including a noodle bar that made food to order.
I wasn’t particularly hungry and found a table in the restaurant area where I settled for some cornflakes and pastries. Other food on offer included spaghetti in pesto, rice with nuts, porridge, congee, turkey sausage, fish and chips, ham and cream potato. The alcohol selection was very limited – Baileys, Barcardi, wine and beer. Soft drinks were also limited to apple juice, orange juice, water and sodas.
After eating, I vacated the restaurant area and found a quiet table and comfy chair overlooking the apron. The lounge had its own wifi service, which wasn’t too bad but did cut out a couple of times. There was a soft drinks fridge near the toilets where I helped myself to a ginger ale and a can of Coke. The toilets themselves were clean and I was surprised to find that they had Japanese electronic toilets fitted (which is always a cause for excitement).
I left the lounge at around 10.20am because I needed to buy some gifts from Duty Free (where I was subjected to a bit of a hard sell by some of the attendants). Gate 63 was about a 10 minute walk from the lounge and I arrived to find that people were already lining up just as the gate agents announced that boarding would begin in 10 minutes. There were 3 lines at the gate – 1 for each of the 3 boarding groups and I was pleased to see that they were being policed and enforced. I joined the back of the priority line and watched as the gate agents went down the line checking passports and boarding passes.
Boarding finally began at 10.45am and I was pleased to see that there were separate air bridges for the business class and economy passengers, which is a nice touch and made for a speedier process. I got a friendly greeting from the cabin crew, who pointed me to my seat.
I had played it safe and preselected seat 2A again. Business class was full for this flight but I didn’t notice any serious issues with people trying to fit their belongings into the overhead lockers and a member of cabin crew actually offered to help me when I needed to push down a cabin suitcase in the locker over my seat in order to fit my 2 bags in.
Unfortunately the seat itself showed the problem with the choice of light grey colour palette as there were some marks on the fabric, although the seat itself was otherwise clean. There was a pillow in an attractive green case sitting on the seat, together with a duvet, Bose headphones, an amenity bag, a flight information pack, slippers and a bottle of water waiting for me.
The information pack contained a lunch menu, wine list and light meal options and a shopping form. The amenity bag had the same eye mask, toothbrush/toothpaste, ear plugs and L’Occitane lip balm and face serum as on the flight out.
As I waited for boarding to complete I was offered a pre-departure drink of blueberry juice, water or champagne. I chose the champagne, which, contrary to the flight out was perfectly chilled and very pleasant.
Boarding completed at 11am and we pushed back at 11.10am. The cabin crew went around clearing tables and collecting glasses as they did their final checks. A video safety briefing played as we taxied and we were airborne by 11.30am. One thing that I really like about Finnair is the welcome screen on the IFE system, which gives you a time line for your journey of what to expect and when you’re expected to land. It was pretty obvious from looking at the timeline that my 4pm connection was toast but I knew there was a flight at 5pm and figured I could get it sorted out at HEL connections.
Hot towels were brought around after we were airborne and then cabin crew came around to check on my menu choices. As on my flight out, I’d made my selection on-line a few weeks earlier (going for the pork meatballs) but the full lunch menu was as follows:
– Cherry tomato and mozzarella skewer.
– Carpaccio of Parma ham, smoked halibut, parmesan cheese and pesto; or
– Smoked salmon and zucchini.
– Pan fried red snapper, dill cream and potatoes au gratin; or
– Pot braised pork meatballs with seasonal Nordic mushrooms, bok choy and steam rice by Chef Steven Liu; or
– Ricotta cannelloni with creamy tomato sauce and roasted vegetables; or
– Finnish salmon soup; or
– Chicken Caesar salad
Cheese – Cheddar and Saint Paulin
– Vanilla ice cream
The drinks choices were exactly the same as on my HEL-PVG flight:
– Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut champagne
– Schloss Johannisberg, Rotlack, Riesling, Kabinett 2013
– Le G de Château Guiraud Bordeaux, 2016 50% Sauvignon Blanc, 50% Sémilon
– La Réserve D’Angludet cabernet sauvignon 50%, Merlot 40% and Petit Verdot 5%
– Message in the Bottle, Sangioverse 80%, Merlot 10%, Syrah 10% 2015
– Château D’Orignac Aoc Pineau des Charentes Pineau
– Petit Guiraud Sauternes sémillon 65%, sauvignon blanc 35% 2015
Lunch service started from the front at 12.00pm. The amuse bouche was okay but not particularly exciting – it was literally cherry tomatoes and mozzarella balls on a stick. Similarly the smoked salmon and zucchini was literally that, which showed a lack of imagination (although I liked the presentation). A bread basket was offered and I was encouraged to take two pieces of bread (which has not been my experience on BA). Drinks were refilled as I was waiting for my main course and having enjoyed the Riesling on my flight to PVG, I opted for it again – perfectly drinkable and pleasant and well chilled.
The meatballs were very tasty and the sauce was excellent but for some reason they decided to serve the rice in a separate cup (literally, a cup), which was very strange. I guess it was to stop the sauce from making the rice soggy but it was still weird. The cheese was fine but it only came with 1 cracker, which was disappointing and the vanilla ice cream was as good as vanilla ice cream ever is.
The service here was a lot better than on my outward flight, with my coffee cup and tray cleared away by 2pm (compared with two and a half hours on my flight out before I gave up before desert) but the in-flight time line said it would take 90 minutes so clearly something’s not right given how small the business class cabin is. I don’t know if part of the problem is that there are quite a few courses to get out, which I guess is what takes the time (certainly only BA you don’t get an amuse bouche and both a cheese and dessert course in long haul). Food quality wise though, the main course was very good and the overall menu – while not particularly inspiring – was filling and tasty enough.
I decided to try and get some sleep and made up the bed. This was very easy to do and I thought the pillow and duvet were perfectly fine and the bed itself was perfectly comfortable. Unlike the outward flight, there wasn’t much noise from the cabin crew or rest of the cabin, which meant I got about 4 hours solid sleep, which is pretty good going for me.
When I woke up I switched to HEL time so the rest of this report refers to that.
I browsed the IFE but the selections were no better than on the way out in terms of TV and audio. The movie selections were better and I opted for something I’d watched in the cinema a few months previously. Again, it’s a shame that the soft product IFE is not as good as the hard product because the screen and Bose headphones are great. Unfortunately the sound on my IFE suddenly cut out about 2 hours out from HEL and could not be rebooted so I switched to my book.
The light meal service started from the front at 1.30pm. The offerings were:
– Roasted tuna salad with black pepper, artichoke heart, green asparagus and grilled zucchini (COLD); or
– Fried Shanghai noodles with pork, bok choy and dumplings.
I opted for the noodles, which were tasty and well prepared. The tray was cleared away by 2.15pm and I was offered some more vanilla ice cream, which I did not say no to. (As a side note, Finnair had no problem keeping their ice cream cold – the last few BA flights I’ve taken have all seen melted ice cream being offered, which really isn’t good enough).
The following snacks were also available during the flight although I was too full to try them out:
– Filled sandwiches, cup noodles, fresh fruits, nuts and dried fruit, toasted corn and chocolates.
I read my book for the rest of the flight and a member of the cabin crew came to tell me that although I would miss my connection for the 4pm flight, it looked like I had been rebooked on the 5pm and they told me to check at Transfer. I liked the positive approach on this and noted that they were going around to a number of passengers who were also going to miss their connections. It did a lot to put my mind at ease that everything would be in hand.
At 3.10pm we got a 20 minute warning from the captain and an arrival video played. We ended up landing at 3.30pm and were off the plane via an air bridge at 3.40pm.
My third Finnair flight was a lot better than my second. I still enjoyed the sense of space and I liked the hard product seat and IFE, which is more premium than that offered by BA on its long haul flights. The food was perfectly fine (even if the menu was uninspired) and the service was a lot better on this leg, which made me think that my HEL-PVG leg had been an aberration rather than the norm. The IFE selection still isn’t great for such a long flight – the movie selection was okay but they need to invest in some TV box sets and pick more up to date series to highlight but I guess many passengers preload their tablets anyway so it’s an issue that you can work around. For the price I paid for the flight, I thought that I got a real bargain and the proactive nature of the service has definitely made me keen to try Finnair on my next long haul trip to the Far East and I am keenly keeping an eye on their sale fares with this in mind.18 Oct 2017
I flew from HEL to LHR in business class on AY995 in an A320.
I got off my arriving flight knowing that I’d missed my original 4pm connection and prepared to join a scrum at Transfers to find out if I was confirmed on the 5pm flight. I was therefore very pleasantly surprised to get to the end of the airbridge to find a Finnair member of staff waiting with new boarding passes for everyone who had missed their connections plus an express escorted connection service for those passengers who could still make their next flight. I was genuinely impressed with this (and it’s not something I’ve ever noticed on BA) because I think most people accept that things go wrong on planes and sometimes they’re late but it’s how the airline handles it that makes all the difference. The seamless nature of the process and confirmation that I was on the 5pm flight took away the stress and worry and if there’s one thing that’s guaranteed Finnair will be getting my money again, it was this.
I went through flight connections with a spring in my step and was pleased to see the queues moving quickly and security staff were polite and pleasant – even when I discovered that I’d mistakenly left a bottle of water in one of my bags. (Heathrow security staff would have probably taken me to one side for a solid scolding).
I went to the lounge, which was busy but I easily found a seat in the relaxation area. Having eaten a lot on the plane I wasn’t hungry but the food spread did look very good and I liked the look of the beef and vegetable soup and smoked lamb in red wine sauce. As it was, I settled for a glass of champagne and a Coke.
I headed to gate 50A at 4.30pm. Boarding for group 1 passengers had already begun and it was clear that we would be bused to a remote stand. We boarded the buses at 4.40pm but there was no separation of group 1 passengers from group 2, which means that there was a scrum when we finally got off at 4.50pm.
Boarding was via steps and we got a friendly greeting from cabin crew. I’d been allocated seat 1A in the front row but when I went to stow my bags in the overhead cabin, I got told to wait by the cabin crew as passengers were still boarding. I was the only person in business class told to wait and as I watched the lockers start to fill up, I began to get very irritated and when I saw an economy passenger put their case in a business class locker I decided that I’d had enough and forced my way into the line so I could get my bags in what little space was left, which involved playing bag Tetris with suitcases and other bags and even then I couldn’t get my small rucksack in.
At this point, the cabin crew (who had watched all this without saying anything) suddenly told me that I could put my rucksack into a coat cupboard. To be honest that really annoyed me because they could have just said at the start that I could put both my bags in there, rather than making me wait. The end result was to leave me feeling frustrated by the less than premium experience and my irritation grew when the cabin crew then made an announcement that because this was a full flight passengers would need to stow their second bag under the seats in front. Had they done this from the start I think it would have been a lot better and I was also unimpressed by the fact hat cabin crew made no effort to try moving bags in the overhead lockers to fit more in – especially given that some incredibly selfish passengers had stowed their cabin suitcases horizontally rather than on the side, which meant they took up more room.
The seat itself was clean but the light grey material was showing definite signs of wear. Business class was in a 3 x 3 format with the middle seats blocked out. There were 6 rows in business class and it was about 90% full.
As boarding continued the pilot announced that there would be a minor delay to departure due to a late arriving plane but he reassured us that we would make up time en route. Boarding itself completed at 5.05pm and newspapers were brought around.
We pushed back at 5.12pm and a safety video played as we taxied to the runway. We were air borne by 5.25pm.
The cabin crew made an announcement that passengers in economy class were allowed free water and blueberry juice but other food and drink items had to be paid for. I think this is a lot better than the BA buy on board offering where you don’t even get that.
Immigration cards and hot towels were brought around and I enjoyed a spectacular view of the Finnish coastline until it disappeared beneath the cloud cover. I then switched to LHR time so the rest of the report refers to that.
A drinks run started from the front at 4.30pm with the dinner service starting afterwards at 4.45pm. Finnair doesn’t give out menu cards for short haul flights (which I think is a mistake and an area where BA does do better). The starter was smoked salmon followed by chicken with vegetables, pearl barley and gravy and finished with a chocolate cake. The food was all perfectly tasty and very filling. Unlike BA, Finnair doesn’t add a cheese course to its short haul business class meals, so that’s another area where BA is better. Trays were cleared away by 5.35pm but we were offered more drinks and coffee during the remainder of the flight.
We got a 20 minute warning at 5.50pm and landed at 6.05pm. I was off the plane at 6.25pm by air bridge and made the walk to immigration where there was no queue at the egates and I got to baggage reclaim just as my suitcase was coming out. As a result I was out of the airport at 6.35pm, which is a lot faster than I’ve managed on BA flights.
My fourth and final Finnair flight was a bit of a mixed bag. The service recovery on the missed connection was absolutely spot on and – as I said – I would fly Finnair again on the basis of this alone. However, boarding was a hot mess and although boarding by bus is usually a faff whatever airline is doing it, I felt that it was too much of a scrum while the cabin baggage experience left me decidedly hacked off and irritated. The food was fine, the on-board service pleasant and the seat comfortable. I don’t think that there’s an awful lot of difference between Finnair and BA on short haul business class (and given the changes to BA’s short haul meal service with the addition of menu cards and a cheese course plus desert I think BA just nudges it). However if I was flying economy to HEL, I’d go Finnair over BA just because they don’t charge you for water or juice.18 Oct 2017
What lovely reports, thanks for sharing. I believe Finnair uses Marimekko cutlery (we love them, we have a store that sells them in Seattle) which explains why it’s so classy yet simple. I’m reading the food options and given I’m Hindu veg, I’d better book an Asian vegetarian meal! None of those main course options will work for me!18 Oct 2017
Thanks, MarkivJ. Definitely order ahead if you have dietary requirements (especially if you’re a vegetarian) because the main menus all seem to be heavy on meat.
I’ll check out on line to see if I can find Marimekko crockery in the UK because I was really taken with it. 😀
1F18 Oct 2017
Many thanks for such a detailed trip report. I have also invested in a sale fare to Asia, £1600 LHR/SIN/HKG/LHR so I am pleased you were so positive about Finnair overall. I am a little confused why you don’t rate the CX F lounge in T3, why not? My last experience of the BA F lounge was a world away in terms of what was on offer,has there been recent improvement?19 Oct 2017
Good Report, it used to be a joke that BA makes AY look good, a dig at how bad BA was when AY used to be. poor Not any more. in terms of their hard product, service and food i would rather fly AY than BA19 Oct 2017
Thanks SGJNI1961 and Steve.
I am a little confused why you don’t rate the CX F lounge in T3, why not?
The last time I was in there it was absolutely packed and I struggled to find a seat. I liked the restaurant – great service and the food was good quality. I would definitely eat in CX over BA First but I found it easier to find somewhere quiet to sit in the BA First lounge.
in terms of their hard product, service and food i would rather fly AY than BA
I have to agree with this. My sister and I are planning a trip to Thailand next year and having heard horror stories of the old bird BA flies there, I’m trying to persuade her to give AY a go. I suspect that if they do a good fare it should be pretty easy.
1F19 Oct 2017
1nfrequent, with regard to flying to Thailand from LHR, I am doing the trip in reverse with QR next month, ridiculously cheap and amazing fare via DOH could also be an option, I will update the group upon my return I am looking forward to the QR J experience and get my tier point etc20 Oct 2017
Normally an Emirates stalwart, but have booked Finnair BKK-DUB at Christmas as EK wanted £3,000 and AY £1,900. Then had to book DEL-DUB-BKK for next April – EK quoted £7,000 (!!!) whilst AY was rather more reasonable £1,350 (yes – 1/5 the price!). No contest really. My relatively few flights with AY have all been good, and Helsinki is a joy to use as a transit airport.20 Oct 2017