Tried & Tested

Finnair MD-11 business class

1 Jan 2007 by Mark Caswell

First impressions I arrived at Delhi airport at 2235 for Finnair flight AY022, which was due to leave at 0200. Passengers should make sure that they have their tickets ready for inspection at the entrance to the terminal, as access is not allowed to non-ticket holders. This caused a queue at the entrance and some confusion regarding the use of e-tickets (which seemed to be a new concept to the inspectors), but on the plus side it does mean that potential hawkers and pickpockets are kept out of the terminal building.

Once inside the building, passengers should have any checked baggage screened and tagged at one of the security points before heading to the check-in desk. This flight took place in the inaugural week of Finnair’s new thrice-weekly route from Helsinki to the Indian capital and there were a few teething problems regarding activating check-in desks and separating business and economy-class passengers – it took around half an hour to complete check-in, but staff were courteous and apologetic for the delay. I was informed that the flight had been delayed for three hours due to problems at Helsinki, and directed to the Mujarajah executive lounge on the first floor.

The lounge The Mujarajah lounge was closing when I arrived, but I was informed that my pass would be valid at the neighbouring Sheraton lounge. The lounge was fairly crowded, but I managed to find seats along with the rest of my travelling companions – there is a bar, snack area with sandwiches and a coffee machine, international newspaper stands (although not many British editions), several plasma screens showing satellite channels, and one complimentary internet terminal.

Boarding The flight was called for boarding at 0415, and we were on board by 0455. Drinks were offered before departure, and we were airborne at 0525. Business class was almost full, with economy also busy.

The seat Finnair’s new business-class seating was introduced earlier this year and features an angled lie-flat bed with an 11 degree-from-horizontal recline. The Delhi-Helsinki route is plied by an MD-11 Tri-jet, with business class configured 2-2-2. I was sitting in seat 2C, with direct aisle access, and found the seat comfortable and well-equipped. The reclining function, lumbar support and leg-rest tilt all function electronically, and there is a privacy screen between adjacent seats, as well as a directional reading lamp.

Below the lamp there is storage space for wallets, books, etc and there is a pouch to store your laptop (in-seat power provided) on the back of the seat in front. Next to this there is a jacket hook, and a compartment for your water bottle. On the MD-11 personal DVD players are given out on request (other aircraft in the fleet have in-seat TV screens), along with a case of around 26 DVDs including films, comedy shows and music compilations. The seat has two tables – one main one and a smaller supplementary table which pulls out from the front of the seat. This is theoretically to put the DVD player on, although this proved impossible as the power lead did not stretch far enough. This could prove a problem if passengers wanted to eat and watch TV at the same time, but otherwise the DVD player stretched fine to the main table – noise-reduction headsets are provided.

The flight Drinks were offered as soon as the seat-belt sign was switched off, and menus were distributed shortly after. There was a choice of western or Indian food, and I chose a starter of marinated chicken and grilled prawns with cucumber in yoghurt, followed by grilled salmon and duchesse potatoes, which was served around 0615. I had planned to do some work after the meal but was so tired that sleeping seemed the most productive decision. The seat was comfortable even for a six-foot passenger, and the low angle of recline meant I did not feel like I was constantly going to slip down the seat. I awoke to the sound of breakfast being served around one and a half hours before touchdown and had time to freshen up (amenities in the business-class washrooms include toothbrushes and shaving sets) before we began our descent.

The arrival We touched down at a snow-covered Helsinki airport at 0830 and were quickly inside the terminal building. The delay in leaving Delhi meant I had missed my connecting 0800 flight to London, but staff were on hand to make the necessary changes to my ticket, and ensure that my baggage was still through-checked onto the amended connecting flight. I decided to spend the day sightseeing in the Finnish capital, which is only 20 minutes from the airport, and then catch the 1600 flight home (I was offered the 1405 flight).

The connection Helsinki airport is compact and easy to navigate – I arrived at 1500, was through security in a couple of minutes, and waited for the flight in the Finnair business lounge located by Gate 33, close to Gate 31E where my flight was departing. The flight itself was on time, with food in business class featuring a Tastes of the Archipelago menu, including Toast Skagen (a seafood-on-toast starter emanating from the northern port city of Skagen). We touched down at Heathrow at 1700, and passed relatively quickly through baggage reclaim and customs.

The verdict The new Finnair business-class seating is well equipped, and very comfortable for an angled lie-flat offering. The carrier has seized the opportunity to serve a growing Indian market, and at six and a half hours the flight represents the quickest route between the EU and the Indian capital. The downside is that any delays leaving Delhi can lead to missed connections, which a direct flight would avoid.

Price Travelocity quoted £370 economy and £1,807 business class for a midweek return fare in early February.

Contact, +44 (0)870 241 4411

Mark Caswell

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