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Finnair A330 Business class

18 Sep 2011

First Impressions I had checked in for my flight the night before so when I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA) at 0830, I only needed to drop off my luggage and the process was hassle-free and very quick. Though there are kiosks to print out boarding passes, I chose to go to the counter as I wanted to request for a vegetarian inflight meal.

There was no line at the Finnair counter so the entire process took less than five minutes, leaving me with just under an hour before my flight’s departure at 0920. There were short queues at security clearance and, being a Hong Kong citizen, I went through immigration very quickly.

The lounge Business class passengers or upper tier Finnair Plus members have free access to the pay-in Travelers’ Lounge when departing from HKIA, which is located close to Cathay Pacific’s The Wing lounge, near Gate 1.

The lounge was large, well equipped but rather crowded. There was a buffet, a variety of newspapers, wifi internet access, showers and spa services. Unfortunately, I could not make use of most of the facilities as I did not have too much time to spare. I also could not hear the news broadcast on the TV over everybody’s chatter, so I left after a quick cup of coffee.

Boarding AY62 flight was departing from Gate 19, which did not require a shuttle train ride. I strolled over slowly and got there after everyone else had boarded so I did not have to wait in line.

The seat Finnair’s A330-300 used on this route is split into two classes, with 42 in business class and 221 in economy.

When I checked in online the day before, I selected seat 6D, which is in the front row after the galley. There are only two rows in this part of the aircraft before the economy class cabin, which means a sense of exclusivity despite the occasional noise from the galley and economy class (for a seat plan, click here). 

The seat on this flight was an angled lie-flat. Finnair is still in the process of introducing its new flat-bed seats to its fleet and only some of its A330s have this new product. Therefore, at the moment, there is some uncertainty with regards to which seat you may get on this route (see story here).

I found it difficult to settle down into a comfortable position. The seat is quite narrow and, since the seat has a shell back, during recline the seat elevates and slides forward. Therefore, in any position other than the fully flat or the upright position, the bottom half of the seat did not slide out enough and there was no way of adjusting that leaving passengers in an awkward position.   

The flight After much wriggling around, I finally felt comfortable enough for a short nap. When I woke up, I was pleasantly surprised to find that the cabin crew had tucked me into a blanket and a bottle of water was placed on the side table. Instead of reading, I decided to browse through the inflight entertainment system, which was quite limited. Though it was an AVOD system, there were not many movies or shows to choose from. In the end, I chose to watch Woody Allen’s Midnight In Paris, even though I had already seen it before. 

The cabin crew then started laying out the meal tables soon after to serve the appetisers, which consisted of a salad, grilled vegetables and a zucchini soup. For the vegetarian main course, I had a choice between mushrooms with rice and mushroom ravioli in tomato sauce. I chose the latter, which was delicious, soft and not too heavy.

Service throughout the flight was attentive and intuitive. At regular periods, cabin crew would come out with snacks and drinks for everyone, as well as asking each passenger whether they needed anything specific. For example, at times when I could not decide what I wanted to nibble on, the crew members seemed to know exactly what I was yearning, almost telepathically. The flight took just under 10 hours, which seemed to pass quickly as I alternated between reading and watching Midnight In Paris.

Arrival There was some intense turbulence just before our descent but we touched down smoothly. We got off the flight quickly, there was no line at immigration and our luggage came through as soon as we reached the carousel. Within minutes I was on my way out.

Verdict The seat was awkward, but the service saved the day. The Hong Kong-Helsinki route is a popular one so it is a pity that the flat-bed seats are not a permanent feature yet. Within the next two years, however, the carrier will start to take delivery of its A350s featuring the flat bed, which will eventually be used on this route (see story here). The new seats, when combined with Finnair’s attentive service, will surely offer great flying experiences.

Alisha Haridasani

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