CHECK-IN As I was transferring to London from Seoul via Helinski (click here to read a review of the earlier flight), I had already checked in and been issued with a boarding pass. I had landed at 1345 local time and my onward connection was scheduled for 1600. I stopped for a bite to eat and a bottle of water at a cafe in the quiet departures area not far from my gate (37b), which was located downstairs just a few minutes away.
BOARDING I went down to the gate at 1535, as advised on my boarding card, and took a seat with everyone else who was waiting. The process started shortly after, at 1540, and at 1555 everyone was loaded on to shuttle busses and driven to the awaiting plane. I was in my seat just after 1600, and was pleased to find no one sitting next to me. The captain informed passengers that the flight would be two hours 50 minutes.
THE SEAT I was in window seat 10A, above the engine. Business class was from row one to six on this service, with economy from row seven to 27. The seats are configured 3-3 (A-B-C, D-E-F) throughout, but with middle seats kept free in business so it is effectively 2-2 (A-C, D-F). Upholstery was dove grey fabric, which looked new, and the fold-down seat-back tray tables were sturdy enough for typing on a laptop. The magazine slots above the tray table also seemed a better use of space than the nets lower down, which tend to restrict legroom somewhat. There were also drop-down IFE screens showing silent documentaries.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? If you are looking for extra legroom, opt for exit row 11. It is also better to sit nearer the front as you will get served food and drinks sooner and disembark quicker.
THE FLIGHT Take-off was at 1615, and once airborne the crew began the refreshment service. In economy, only tea, coffee and soft drinks were free, with alcohol at a fee. For example, beer is €4, wine €6, champagne €10, and spirits €5. Snacks available on my route included 30g Pringles for €3 and caramel muffina for €1.50.
At 1645, crew handed me a plastic pack containing my vegetarian special meal – a roll, some rice with roasted red pepper and some cold carrot and chickpea cakes. Other passengers got a more appetising looking chicken pasta salad and a brown roll in a cardboard tray. When it came to sampling my snack, it tasted better than it looked – with the savoury rice containing some pleasant spices and small chunks of pineapple, and the carrot and chickpea cakes equally tasty.
ARRIVAL The aircraft landed at 1900 (1700 local time), but there was a 15-minute delay on the tarmac as we waited for a parking stand to become available. Once the doors were disarmed, disembarkation was quick and efficient, and after a ten-minute walk to immigration, I was relieved to find there was no queue at the e-gates. However, I then had to wait 20 minutes at baggage reclaim for my luggage to come through.
VERDICT A decent short-haul flight with a modern economy class seat and pretty good complimentary light meal. The crew were professional. No complaints apart from a few delays after landing.
PRICE Internet rates for a return flight to Helsinki in business started from £796 in December.
CONFIGURATION 2-2 (A-C, D-F)