Tried & Tested

Finnair A320 business class

14 Sep 2011 by Tom Otley

First impressions I checked in for the flight 24 hours prior to departure and so arrived at Terminal 3 Heathrow at 1450 for my 1610 departure on AY840. The airport was fairly quiet, and not having bags to check in I took the escalators up to the departures floor and walked through fast track security where there was no queue.

There was only one person in front of me for the X ray and again this took less than a minute. I then noticed that the double doors marked Emergency Exit were open, with a view of the shops beyond, and since the passenger in front of me had walked through unchallenged I did the same. Although this probably isn’t allowed, it completed the quickest journey through T3 London Heathrow I have ever achieved, and one which was even quicker than the time I used the Virgin Atlantic T3 drive-in service, though admittedly, that was a little more glamorous.

If I had known how quick it was going to be, I would have timed it accurately, but it can’t have been more than 90 seconds from being outside T3 and being airside. Once there, I looked around for someone with whom I could share the joy, but finding myself, as usual, alone with a wheelie bag and a laptop case, I walked to the lounge.

The lounge this is lounge C, the new Cathay Pacific lounge, which is spacious and has lots of natural light, particularly this Autumnal afternoon. Since I have a gold card (Emerald in Oneworld) I sat in the First lounge and started to work. There was good selection of newspapers, food and drink, including three Chinese dishes available for order (freshly prepared).

Free wifi and some good wines were only marred by bizarre Scottish instrumental music playing too loudly. It explained why I had seen a well dressed businessman sitting on the floor by the lifts before the entrance. He had been explaining he needed somewhere quiet to make a call. For a full review of the lounge from an earlier visit, click here.

The other problem with the lounge that particular afternoon was as a result of a power failure all the plugs had no power, so I stopped working and went to the gate early.

Boarding there was no priority queue for passengers at Gate 3C so we waited in line and had our boarding cards taken. We were then warned there would be a short delay, which then stretched to about 30 minutes before we boarded. Once on board we were told by the captain that the delay was due to strong headwinds, but the good news is that on the way back to Helsinki they would be in our favour, and we would arrive on time.

The seat: Finnair’s A320 is divided into two classes – economy and business, and has a number of different seating configurations with differing numbers of seats on board. There is no difference between the economy and business class seating, they are all blue and of the same size and seat pitch, but the middle seat is not sold in business class. The dividing curtain can be moved forward and backwards depending on demand, and on this flight it was behind row 8. To see a seatplan, click here.

I had selected my seat online, and noticed that as normal, business class passengers were seated towards the front of the cabin, with the rear part almost empty, and so had selected 7K. The aircraft was reasonably full in economy, but in business only a quarter of the seats were taken, and so I had the back two rows on both sides to myself, meaning I could spread out and have a window seat while having unimpeded access to the aisle.

The flight my jacket was taken, a selection of English and Finnish newspapers were offered, and we took off late. Shortly after the seatbelt sign went off we were offered hot towels, a drinks service, and then an Asian style hot meal of Japanese vegetable maki, Bulgogi (Korean beef with jasmine rice) and mango cake. Wines and other drinks were offered. I had a spicy tomato juice (Mr and Mrs T Bloody Mary Mix).  

The flight took around two and a half hours and I read, mainly because the only in-flight entertainment was on drop down screens too small to read the subtitles and there was no sound, either in the cabin (obviously) or through headphones – none provided, and no socket in the seat in any case. I asked a flight attendant about this and she said it was intended this way, so presumably it is just something to look at and read if you have good enough eyesight. After CNNs Living Golf and a slapstick programme in which unknowing members of the public had unfunny practical jokes played on them, the screens switch over to the moving map.

Arrival As promised we arrived on time and were quickly off the aircraft. I had no luggage to collect, and so was quickly through immigration and on my way to the Helsinki Hilton.

Verdict Excellent, good food and service, though it’s a shame there aren’t headphone sockets for those who want to watch the TV, or perhaps listen to a little music.


Tom Otley

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