Finnair is very pleased with its recent delivery of several hangars full of A350s, and justifiably so. At the time of writing, it’s hit and miss what you’re going to get across the board, but they are continuing to be rolled out across the fleet, complete with a shiny new herringbone Business class.
My recent trip to Helsinki didn’t start out so well. I had a long journey ahead (my final destination was Tokyo) and I had no work to do in-flight so I was thirsty for something effervescent and felt like getting a little… dehydrated . But Finnair customers at Heathrow are sent to the No.1 Lounge, which is where passengers who don’t have lounge privileges go to pay £40 for all the bacon rolls they can eat, and feel like they’re living the dream. It’s free in for Finnair Business passengers, but Champagne is £8 a glass and I don’t like Prosecco, complimentary or otherwise. I know, I know – think about Syria.
Boarding was a tad chaotic. The Business queue at the gate seemed to be longer than Economy, and a 20-minute delay made things uncomfortable. But once we had that out of the way, all was calm. The new Business seat gives you less flat space to co-opt as a table than the older design, but the new look is certainly sleeker. A shame, I thought, that the Marimekko-pattern cushions weren’t out of the overhead lockers and on all the seats before passengers boarded – when you’ve got style and branding that strong, it should be evident immediately.
I found it odd that I was only given decidedly Economy-standard ear-buds for the entertainment (in the same cabin, with the same product two weeks later, flying from Singapore to Helsinki, it was a set of full-on BOSE noise-cancelling headphones – Finnair considers the London service as short haul, so you get don’t quite get all the bells and whistles). But apart from that, everything was A+. Well, as long as you’re okay with the in-flight meal coming tray-served a la bento, rather than as the more elaborate affair you’re used to on other airlines. But then, if that feels thrifty, the glassware feels anything but – Tapio Wirkkala’s 1968 design for Littala, inspired by the form of glaciers, is the sexiest glassware in the sky.
Service was good throughout, if a little slow at times. The food was superb – excellent meatballs. The AVOD had a solid selection of recent movies, and the fairly short flight time meant one feature saw me through most of the journey. There’s fully functioning Wi-Fi, which I ignored, and 11-inch screens for each seat. The technology on the new planes means they are ultra quiet and have a revolutionary new air conditioning system that kept the cabin feeling noticeably more fresh than normal.
While I hadn’t managed to live it up on the fizz before boarding, someone else across the aisle from clearly had. A smartly dressed Finnish businessman became quite insistent I take his unwanted chocolate cake. Then, after laughing uproariously at whatever he was watching for half an hour, he repeatedly told the whole cabin in a stage whisper just how heavy his carry on luggage was, “because it’s full of cod. From England.” Ah the Finns. No giant sized Toblerones for them from Duty Free – just a lot of fish fillets. I do love a bit of unexpected in-flight entertainment. And on Finnair it’s a lot more jovial and less violent than on any of those ghetto American airlines. But then, perhaps each country gets the carrier(s) it deserves. C