Tried & Tested

Finnair A330-300 Business Class

31 Oct 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, which was quick and easy.

Though there are kiosks to print out boarding passes, I chose to go to the counter as I wanted to request a vegetarian in-flight meal. Fortunately, 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 I breezed through immigration very quickly.

THE LOUNGE Business class passengers or upper-tier Finnair Plus members have free access to the pay-in Travelers’ Lounge at HKIA, which is located close to Gate 1. The lounge is large and well equipped but it was rather crowded when I got there, making it impossible for me to relax or unwind. There is a buffet, newspapers, wifi internet access, showers and spa services.

BOARDING Flight AY62 departed from Gate 19, which did not require a shuttle train ride and wasn’t too far from the lounge. I strolled over and got there after everyone else had boarded so I did not have to wait in line. I was warmly greeted when I stepped onto the aircraft and was offered help with my hand-carry bag.

THE SEAT The A330-300 used on this route is split into two classes, with 42 seats in business class and 221 in economy. When I checked in online the day before, I selected seat 6D, which is in the first 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. It also meant I could access the galley very easily whenever I felt peckish.

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.

I found it difficult to settle in comfortably. The seat, with a shell back, is quite narrow and there are only three options: upright, sleep and a strange in-between one that puts you in a “banana position”. During recline the seat elevates and slides forward, but the bottom half of it does not rise up enough at times, and it cannot be adjusted separately. As a result, reclining into any position other than fully extended feels awkward.

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? Rows 5 and 6 are great for quick boarding and disembarking, and row 6 has more legroom. However, I’d stay away from the window seats as it can be difficult to get in and out when your neighbour is in the angled flat 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 in-flight entertainment system, which was stored in my armrest due to the location of row 6. Though the IFE system was AVOD, it only consisted of 24 music channels and 34 movies, which I feel is quite limited after being spoilt for choice while travelling with Asian carriers that offer more than a hundred movies and a much wider selection of music.

Soon, the cabin crew started laying out the meal tables to serve the appetisers – a salad, grilled vegetables and zucchini soup. For the vegetarian main course, I had a choice of mushrooms with rice or 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, as well as ask each passenger whether they needed anything specific. When I couldn’t decide what to eat, the crew members always knew what to suggest. Mostly I was happy with the chocolates served on board: they were by Fazer, the Finnish equivalent of Ladurée. The flight took just under 10 hours, which seemed to pass quickly as I alternated between reading and watching movies.

ARRIVAL There was some intense turbulence just before our descent but we touched down smoothly. We disembarked 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. Within the next two years, the carrier will start to take delivery of its A350s featuring flat-bed seats, which will eventually be used on this route. The new seats, combined with Finnair’s attentive service, will surely offer a great flying experience.

FACT FILE

PLANE TYPE A330-300

SEAT CONFIGURATION 2-2-2

SEAT PITCH 62 inches/157.5cm

SEAT WIDTH 19.8 inches/50.3cm

SEAT RECLINE 170?

PRICE Internet rates for travel in December in business class on this route start at HK$32,466 (US$4,168).

CONTACT www.finnair.com

Alisha Haridasani

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