Tried & Tested

Finnair A340-300 business class

24 Jul 2009 by Tom Otley

THE LOUNGE The business class lounge was busy, although there were enough seats for everyone. I wanted to work and, after finding a voucher for free internet access, used this to get online, wondering if it was my lucky day to get this much free wifi access. After 20 minutes, I got a seat near a plug socket, and found that a normal European adapter fitted.

I could hear flights being called in several languages, but about five minutes before departure time, I looked at a screen to see my flight to Hong Kong was on its final call. I asked the attendant at the front desk when she would announce the flight, and she told me they didn’t call them.

I gathered my belongings, ran to the desk and received a very frosty reception from the staff, who asked me why I was so late. They weren’t impressed with my excuse and were so annoyed they didn’t notice when I gave them the wrong ticket (the one for the London to Helsinki leg). This was only spotted on board, after an innocent traveller was challenged by a member of the cabin crew for sitting in “my” seat, 5C. In fact, for this longer sector, I was in 4A, a window seat.

Thankfully, I wasn’t last to board – a couple more business class passengers came after me, alerted either by the screens or by the sight of me running out of the lounge.

THE SEAT Finnair’s angled lie-flat product has five pre-set positions for eating, sitting (two of these), take-off/landing and dining make the seat easy to use, and there’s a large adjustable table which folds out of the armrest. There is also a laptop power socket between the seats for keeping electrical devices charged.

ENTERTAINMENT The IFE option featured AVOD and had a good choice of films, TV programmes and music. You can even chat with other seats on the plane using the telephone or, more usefully, call or send SMS messages to the ground.

FOOD AND WINE A three-course dinner was offered with choices including pork, bamboo and Chinese mushrooms in soy sauce, and a good choice of wines including Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut Vintage 2003, and a Château Ferrand Lartigue St Emilion 2001.

COMFORT There was a toiletry bag with essentials including earplugs and eye masks for those wanting to sleep. It was a day flight, so I worked on my laptop and watched a couple of films.

ARRIVAL About two hours before we arrived, I was offered a choice of a hot or cold breakfast. The cabin was then tidied and we landed in Hong Kong about 30 minutes late.

We disembarked via an airbridge, and then queued for 20 minutes for immigration. By the time I reached the baggage reclaim hall, my luggage had already appeared.

VERDICT A good service, although considering so many passengers are transiting from northern Europe to Asia (Finnair is number one for this in terms of passenger numbers), perhaps giving more help and direction might be useful. The seat was a typical business class lie-flat, the food was good but service was a little severe.

Why fly via Helsinki?

Helsinki is on the Great Circle Route between Europe and Asia. Finnair is a number-one choice for European passengers heading down to Asia, and there are good connections to Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Mumbai, Delhi, Hong Kong, Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou, Bangkok and Seoul. The gates for both incoming short-haul flights and long-haul to Asia are only yards apart, and there are wine bars, cafés and restaurants to relax or work in. There’s even a specific website (viahelsinki.com) to help you compare flight distances and times, and book tickets with Finnair.

Fact File

CONFIGURATION Business class seats are in a 2-2-2 layout, while economy is configured 2-4-2.

SEAT STATS Pitch is 63 inches, width is 20.5 inches, recline angle is 169 degrees.

IFE SCREEN 10.6 inches.

PRICE Return fares from London to Hong Kong (via Helsinki) with Finnair for early September started from £2,386 for business class and £570 for economy online. (Fares are quoted midweek to midweek including a Saturday-night stay.)

CONTACT finnair.com.

Tom Otley

To read the return economy class review, click here.

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