Tried & Tested

Flight review: Finnair A350-900 business class

8 Jun 2018 by Jeremy Tredinnick
Finnair A350 business class cabin

BACKGROUND

The airline began operating this route in late 2015 with the then new A350-900. Finnair has two configurations for this aircraft, one with 32 business seats and another with 46… the latter is used on this flight.

CHECK-IN

I was sent an email two days before my flight (AY100; 0025 departure) with all relevant information about baggage allowances, etc – you also have the opportunity to purchase wifi for the flight in advance through the airline’s website (business class passengers get one hour’s free wifi, and after that 1hr costs €7.95/US$9; 3hrs €11.95/US$14; whole flight €19.95/US$23). An SMS was sent the day before the flight showing I was checked in and my seat allocated, so only bag drop was necessary. I checked in at Hong Kong’s Central In-Town Check-in (no queues), caught the 25-minute Airport Express to HKIA, and was through security in minutes.

LOUNGE

Business class passengers have access to either the Qantas Lounge (North Hall), or the Plaza Premium Lounge (near Gate 40). I opted for the Qantas Lounge, which is located immediately after you pass through the North Hall immigration before you descend any escalators. Just turn right and follow the corridor to the entrance.

The lounge is a long, segmented open area that looks down on the concourse beside gates 15 and 16. It’s split into six or seven distinct areas with seating ranging from easy chairs in grey, black, blue and burgundy, to marble-topped long tables and leather benches. Many seats face low tables with inbuilt power points and USB ports, so there’s no shortage of charging options. A mix of attractive tiling on the floor and walls in some sections, and parquet flooring with grey marble in others, creates a clean, modern feel.

The toilets and showers are on the right soon after the entrance; on the left is a range of magazines and international newspapers; there are two large LCD screens showing flight information, a few massive TVs (showing tennis, rugby and news when I visited), and at the very end is a kids’ play area. A well-staffed long bar and a well-tended F&B area complete the amenities – the choice of six hot dishes and six salads, as well as bread, fruit and desserts, was excellent.

The highlight, however, was the service provided by the staff, who worked their way through what was a fairly busy lounge checking that everyone was happy, collecting empty glasses and plates quickly, and even taking drinks orders. Impressive.

BOARDING

I headed for gate 24 at 2345, a five-minute walk away. Boarding was about to start, but the priority boarding queue was quite long and it took ten minutes till I was finally on board. My jacket was taken and I was offered champagne, juice or water.

Menus and a breakfast instruction card were in a folder on the seat, along with a fairly standard amenity bag (L’Occitane lip balm and shea butter cream were standout additions) and slippers. The pilot announced that our journey time would only be nine and a half hours on this particular flight. The plane drew back from the gate at 0020, and we took off at 0040.

Finnair A350 business class cabin

THE SEAT

There are 46 business seats split between two cabins, arranged in a reverse herringbone 1-2-1 configuration, so everyone has direct aisle access. I was in seat 3H, a central seat. There are no overhead baggage lockers above the centre seats, and this, combined with the off-white and light grey décor of the cabin and Finnair’s Zodiac Cirrus III seats, made the business cabins feel very roomy indeed. At the same time, the angled design and curving seat-backs provided a good deal of privacy.

The seat itself was wide, with soft-touch armrests and plenty of legroom. A footwell lets you put your feet up and becomes part of the bed when you recline the seat fully flat. There’s a good-sized shelf and a recessed area with a hook to hang the excellent noise-cancelling Bose headphones, but only one small triangular storage bin with a lid. The table slid out easily from under the shelf and mine was sturdy and held my laptop steady – though it was quite high and I needed to raise my seat some way for comfortable typing.

Finnair A350 business class cabin

A two-strength reading light is positioned at shoulder height, as are a USB port and international power socket. Here were also the TV control (though the 16-inch monitor, which swings out at the touch of a button, is touchscreen as well) and the seat control panel, which was simply and easy to use, with three preset buttons for take-off, inclined and sleeping positions. However, my lumbar support buttons didn’t seem to work…

WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE

Rows 1, 8, 9 and 10 are all close to either toilets or a galley, so these should be avoided (to be fair, the staff were very quiet in the galleys). Individual travellers may prefer window seats as the centre seats angle towards each other, but privacy is good even there.

THE FLIGHT

Just before take-off my dinner and breakfast orders were taken, and drinks were served as soon as the plane was cruising. Dinner followed, with a choice of two starters and four mains – some created by famous Hong Kong-based Finnish chef Jaakko Sorsa, executive chef of Restaurant FINDS. I tried his roasted beef and potato salad with mushrooms, and Atlantic cod with garlic and parsley cream sauce, potato wedges and vegetables, with cheese and petit fours for dessert. The flavours were excellent, and I was happy that the portions were well judged to be relatively light, given this is a night flight and most passengers plan to sleep immediately after the meal. I didn’t try the wine or any of the interesting-sounding Finnish cocktails, but the three reds and whites on the wine list looked very interesting – including French, Spanish, Portuguese and Australian vintages.

Finnair 100th anniversary in-flight menu with Finds restaurant in Hong Kong

I watched one of the dozens of movies available on the IFE whilst I ate, then worked briefly before preparing to sleep. The bed is fully flat and I was able to get comfortable with the cushion and duvet provided. I slept well for five hours – the A350 is a quiet aircraft and the more normal air pressure really helps.

About 90 minutes before arrival a muted pinging sound woke passengers gently. My spinach omelette breakfast was served after I’d freshened up in the bathroom, and I then tried to get onto the wifi – I’d been unable to connect before sleeping. This time it worked easily, and bandwidth speed was as good as I’ve had on board a plane.

ARRIVAL

We began our descent at 0445 and touched down at 0510 – 35 minutes early. It was a fair walk to immigration but there were no queues, the priority baggage arrived on the carousel very swiftly and I was out and on the 30-minute train ride into central Helsinki by 6am.

VERDICT

A great plane for long-haul, Finnair adds a highly functional, well-built seat product and good service to offer a highly competitive intercontinental option.

  • BEST FOR… A good night’s sleep to leave you refreshed at your destination.
  • DEPARTURE 0025
  • FLIGHT TIME 10 hours 20 minutes
  • SEAT WIDTH 21in/53cm
  • SEAT RECLINE 180 degrees
  • BED LENGTH 79-81in/201-206cm
  • PRICE Internet rates for a return business class flight from Hong Kong to Helsinki in mid-July start from HK$36,602 (US$4,664) including taxes and surcharges.
  • CONTACT finnair.com
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