Review of Finnair business class A330 London to Helsinki and A350 Helsinki to Seoul
I’m a sucker for an airline that gives me slippers. Well done Finnair on joining the slipper list – sporty grey felt numbers twice as long as my feet but comfy none the less (and robust enough to wear to the loo even with my squeamishness for icky plane toilets – also note that these toilets are not icky).
This was my first time flying Finnair, which was the result of a Finnair sale which featured well priced flights to Seoul (which had been on my travel list for a while – more on that in another post) with a redemption window which included our wedding. So we decided to use it as a (rather extravagant) ‘mini-moon’ before a more opulent affair later in the year (which will feature Q-Suites…eeek!)
We departed from Heathrow Terminal 3 for a 2 day stopover in Helsinki before our onward flight to Seoul.
Luckily my (new) husband is One World Emerald (I’m Sapphire but gunning for Emerald next year) which gives us access to the One World First Class lounges rather than the Business lounges that come with the ticket. We always make full use of this benefit – reviews of each lounge below.
Cathay Pacific First Class lounge – Heathrow Terminal 3
This is my favourite lounge to date. It’s small and intimate, sleek and classy, not too busy, great service and food. The lounge adjoins the Business lounge so you share the toilet and shower facilities which are in the hall between both lounges – no big deal, they’re beautifully designed and clean with lovely Aesop toiletries.
We were there at breakfast time and the lounge offers both a la carte and buffet selections. The buffet selection features pastries, drinks, and cereals. You can take these and eat them anywhere in the lounge, or sit in the more intimate dining area and indulge in the a la carte menu.
I strongly recommend getting the a la carte food (it’s why you go in a First Class lounge afterall). We went for the dan dan noodles, which are allegedly spicy noodles but are really more of a mild, creamy, peanuty affair which was so delicious we had two bowls each. I also went rogue and asked for a couple of fried eggs on the side, which they happily produced for me. The menu also features a standard full English, which I didn’t sample so can’t comment on.
Service was friendly and efficient (with no judgmental looks when I ate 2 bowls of noodles and 2 eggs at 8am), food hot and delicious and the lounge ambience extremely pleasing.
We only sat in the dining area, but more informal seating is available with great views out across the airport. This will definitely be my lounge of choice in Terminal 3
The Finnair lounge – Helsinki Vantaa Terminal 1
Once again it was the First class lounge, rather than business lounge, which I didn’t visit.
This lounge literally opened a week or two before our visit (mid-June 2019) so it still had that new lounge smell. The feel is bright and open with a slightly cosier, section in darker hues towards the back with a range of sofas, booths and individual suites.
The rest of the lounge is split into a variety of areas, the toilets, showers and a sauna (!) are towards the front as you come in. The front of the lounge has a beautifully designed round bar at the front- you can sit at the bar or on high tables and bar stools behind the bar complete with sockets for laptop users. There’s some further quieter seating tucked behind the bar.
Along one wall run a number of semi private booths, with a comfy chair and cushion, side table with storage, side lamp and connectivity (Wi-LAN, power socket, HDMI and USB).
The centre of the lounge features the dining area where there is a limited selection of a la carte options (usually three choices of hot meal) with other hot food as well as cold starters, salads, soup and bread towards the back of the lounge. You can also get fruit, drinks and desserts here (get the carrot cake – it’s superb). Between the bar and dining area are a number of rather smart, smaller armchairs and side tables, also with power sockets.
At a certain point in the evening they dim the lights slightly in the lounge, which gives it a nice cosy restaurant type of vibe.
The selection is good, from larger warm meals from the buffet area to the more delicately crafted starters of BBQ beef with sriracha mayo, mustard herring and salmon with wasabi. There are also great gin cocktails with local Finnish gins made at the bar.
Staff are polite and friendly and service in the dining areas is prompt and attentive. There are some nice small details like the coat rack and hooks by the dining area, lockers to leave luggage…and the big details like a sauna!
The business lounge has also only just opened – I can’t comment on the food or amenities but given it’s brand new it ought to be top of your list if you’re looking for a One World lounge in Helsinki Vantaa.
The Asiana lounge – Seoul Incheon Terminal 1
In Seoul a number of One World lounges were out of action due to refurbs (or inaccessible to us in the case of the Korean Air lounge which is in Terminal 2). Top choice would have been the out of action Cathay lounge but instead we were given access to the Asiana lounge, which was rather nicer than expected. It was vast and quite busy, but there were still places to sit. We didn’t spend a huge amount of time here and I had already had breakfast so can’t comment on the food.
The toilets were clean and pleasant and showers are available.
Make sure you get a beer – they have Max on draft that you fill from the bottom of the glass. It results in about half a pint of head but it looks very cool while it’s filling!
Route: London Heathrow (LHR) to Helsinki (HEL)
Date: 6 June 2019
Aircraft type: Airbus A330-302
Aircraft registration number: OH-LTP
Flight number: AY1332
Flight time: 2 hours 24 minutes
Route: Helsinki (HEL) to Seoul (ICN)
Date: 8 June 2019
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-900
Aircraft registration number: OH-LWI
Flight number: AY41
Flight time: 8 hours 13 minutes
Route: Seoul (ICN) to Helsinki (HEL)
Date: 15 June 2019
Aircraft type: Airbus A350-900
Aircraft registration number: OH-LWI
Flight number: AY42
Flight time: 8 hours 34 minutes
Route: Helsinki (HEL) to London Heathrow (LHR)
Date: 15 June 2019
Aircraft type: Airbus A320-232
Aircraft registration number: G-EUUJ
Flight number: BA799
Flight time: 2 hours
Boarding and pre-flight
Boarding was super straightforward for both flights with passengers boarding in their assigned groups according to their boarding cards. As with other One World carriers, business class passengers board in Group 2 where they don’t have One World Emerald status, which would put them in Group 1.
Once on board the staff were friendly and offered pre-flight drinks of champagne, juice or their special onboard cocktail, Golden Sky / Blue Sky which is champagne with either cloudberry or blueberry liqueur.
One thing I did notice on two different legs with Finnair was that the staff had not replenished the hand soap in any of the toilets at the time of boarding, so both times that I went to the loo before take off there was no soap to wash my hands with. This was rectified quickly but not immediately- no one went to fetch me hand soap once I pointed out that there wasn’t any.
The Plane – A330 London Heathrow to Helsinki Vantaa
Apparently there was a technical fault with the A350 we should have been on out of London so this slightly smaller plane was subbed in. The plane was a bit tired at nearly 10 years old and the configuration for a business flight wasn’t great, but I got a lie flat seat on flight from London to Helsinki, so who’s complaining?
What’s the layout of the Finnair A330 business class cabin?
For those interested in the finer details, as ever Seat Guru has you covered, but if you end up on a Finnair A330 (they only have a handful of them but they do fly various of Finnair’s routes) then here’s what you need to know about choosing a seat. The cabin is 1 – 2 – 2 (not sure I’ve seen that before), meaning there are some great seats and some terrible seats. The single seats also alternate between proximity to the window versus the aisle similar to the single seats on an Emirates A380, so take care when choosing for the best experience. The pertinent details:
- All central seats are configured together and are all the same, so if you’re travelling in a pair then that’s the safe option- you can just argue over who gets the private seat with the side table shielding you from the aisle. In the odd numbered rows the best seat is H and in the even numbered rows, seat D.
- The odd numbers in the single row, seat L, are those with the best privacy, but they’re beaten into second choice if you’re a solo traveller by the even numbered A seats, which are single seats with arm rests both sides, giving you extra space, privacy from the aisle, and direct aisle access.
- Worst seat in the house goes to odd numbered A seats which share an armrest with their neighbour (odd numbered C seats) and have no aisle access. So these double seats should also be bottom of the list for couples as you have more space in the central D and H seats.
Where should I sit in Finnair’s A330 business class cabin?
So in order of preference for a single traveller you should pick: 2A, 4A, 6A, 2L, 4L, 6L and if you can’t get a single seat then 1H, 2D, 3H, 4D, 5H, 6D, 7H.
There are galleys and toilets both ends of the cabin, so you may prefer to avoid the front and rear rows to minimise noise, although I found the Finnair staff extremely respectful and never really heard noise coming from the galley on any of my flights despite always being in the first 2 rows.
Seat feel and functions
The seats were a bit tired looking but still comfortable and functional. There’s a control panel which allows you to move the seat into all the standard positions a lie flat seat will manoeuvre into. There’s also a massage function, which I don’t recall trying. As is standard with most business class seats I’ve sat in you have the option to make manual adjustments or move into certain pre-set positions of lie flat, recline and upright (for take off and landing).
One of the stranger features which I’d personally never seen before is the airbag integrated into the seat belt. It’s a big chunky leather thing which didn’t really make the seat less comfortable but I did notice it when trying to reach for my bag on the floor and when sleeping given it’s fairly heavy and bulky. I’ve done no research into airbags on planes so can’t tell you whether or not they’re safer but Finnair has them!
Other seat features
The seat features good connectivity with a universal socket (why aren’t these everywhere?), USB, headphone jack and what appeared to be LAN connection – not sure how that worked or whether it was free! You can also store small items in this area during the flight which is handy if you want to use the sockets to charge electricals. The socket position also means it’s easy to still use any items while you have them plugged in.
How much storage space is there in a Finnair A330 business class seat?
There isn’t a tonne of space like Emirates A380 seats, but there was enough for me, especially for a shorter flight. There’s a fair amount of storage in the footwell when you’re not reclined too far, a separate space for shoes (which I really liked because they tend to end up all over the place or trapped under your reclined seat on long flights), the magazine / newspaper storage slot and a little cubby hole (see above) for small items during the flight. There’s a bit more storage on the A350.
The Plane – A350 Helsinki Vantaa to Seoul Incheon
These are Finnair’s newer planes that are only a year or two old. I love the A350, it’s super quiet, can deal with long range flights but is small enough to board and deplane quickly versus something like the A380. The smaller size of the business cabin can also make it easier to get the attention of staff quickly when you need something.
The cabins have a light an airy feel due to the lack of central overhead bins (although the A330 was generally a bit darker as it was an older plane). The interior generally uses a lot of whites, greys and blues to keep it feeling light and fresh, which I personally prefer to some of the more ornate interiors on the Middle Eastern carriers or the rather dark and serious interior on British Airways. These muted shades are highlighted by the patterned Marimekko cushions, blankets and amenity kits, which add a nice scandi touch. Another nice quirk is the aurora borealis light show they have on in the cabin when you land – it was a nice touch although not exactly awe-inspiring.
What is the layout of the Finnair A350 business class cabin?
Finnair has a standard reverse herringbone layout so all seats are created equal. There are two configurations for the A350 – one with a single business class cabin and one with 2 cabins split by the galley where the rear cabin is slightly smaller, a bit like Club World on the 787-9.
Where shall I sit in the Finnair A350 business class cabins?
If you’re travelling along you probably want a window seat in either row A or L. If you’re together then the central seats are D and H, although don’t panic if you can’t make that happen, once you sit back in your seat in a reverse herringbone layout you can’t really see each other anyway!
Stay towards the middle to minimise galley noise (although as above, Finnair staff were especially quiet while working so despite being towards the front I was never disturbed).
Seat feel and functions
Like the A330 these seats feature the weird airbags which make the seatbelt quite bulky and heavy. I didn’t find it a huge issue although I’d rather be without it when trying to sleep.
The seat is controlled by a small panel (see below) which is very similar to the A330 with manual adjustment options or the 3 main pre-set positions.
One of the cons of this seat for me was the inability to slide the table back and forth as you can in Club World so it’s harder (but not impossible) to get out of your seat with the table out and set with food and it means you have to move the seat to do it. However the tables can be used folded in half for drinks, giving you more space to get in and out. I don’t think it was possible to get out of the A330 seat at all with the table out as it came from the aisle side arm rest.
Other seat features
Like the A330 there’s a lot of connectivity going on with USB, universal socket, headphone jack and
There’s also the standard reading light and entertainment controller.
How much storage space is there in Finnair A350 Business Class seats?
There isn’t a huge amount of storage that can be used throughout the flight as most of it is restricted during take off and landing. If you have a small enough bag (like a handbag or small day pack) you can fit it in the recess under the padded footwell which forms the end of the flat bed.
The only other storage in the seat area is a tiny triangular box in the arm rest which I couldn’t even get a tiny evening bag in. It would only really fit hand held electricals (but not even an iPad). There’s additional space for a bottle of water and your magazines and menus under the central console / table.
There’s also a hook for your headphones which I found pretty handy when taking them off to pop to the loo – on most other flights I just come back and sit on them, especially in the dark, so this was a nice touch.
On both the A330 and A350 there’s no central overhead bins so there isn’t loads of space, but this never presented a problem on any leg and both cabins were full. The bins themselves are pretty generous so you can stack quite a lot in. I always find them a bit difficult to reach in this type of business cabin where they’ve tried to keep it feeling light and airy…but then I’m 5’2” so this is unlikely to be an issue for many people and I did manage to shut it myself…just.
Amenities (A330 and A350)
The amenity kit in a cute Marimekko bag was simple but covered all the bases:
- eye mask (which I didn’t use as I found the quality of the fabric inferior to my BA White Company mask which I had brought with me, I also favour the mask supplied on Emirates. If you don’t like scratchy fabric then bring your own)
- Toothbrush and paste (also didn’t use – standard crap airline toothbrush)
- L:A Brucket No. 198 ‘Flying essentials’ both containing 2 small tubes (6ml) of No. 199 lip care with almond and chocolate and No. 186 facial cream light with camomile and lavender. I didn’t use these products but had used this brand while in Helsinki and their products are very nice with a good smell. The lip care seems a bit oily and can only be applied with a finger, something I’m less keen on when flying since I’ve been touching all kinds of icky things, but overall the products seem pretty decent.
Of note are the lack of socks or pen. I always bring my own pen but I find it an odd oversight on a flight where you need to fill out landing and customs cards. I’m not so bothered by the socks, they’re always rubbish, and you get slippers anyway which kind of replaces the socks.
Entertainment (A330 and A350)
Both the A330 and A350 seemed to have the same selection of English language films -I suspect the Korean films were available only on the Seoul route but I didn’t confirm this. The selection was decent but not extensive, far inferior to Emirates business class where you can fill your entire taxi and take off simply trying to decide what to watch but on a par with British Airways (which I didn’t review favourably). There were a few newer films, such as The Favourite, some decent older films (True Story) as well as TV shows and music, which I didn’t really explore. It kept me busy for a couple of 8 hour flights but if you fly with them regularly you’re going to run out of things to watch fairly quickly.
The entertainment system is controlled either using the touch screen or the handheld controller which ejects from a panel next to the seat. The screen is pretty accessible from the seat, even when reclined, so I tended to just use the screen and didn’t really try the hand controller except when pressing the call bell. The touch screen was receptive and easy to use and the screen itself is a good size, the only issue being that it doesn’t tilt down for when the seat is reclined, so the picture is extremely unclear when reclined a long way or in bed mode, meaning you can’t really enjoy a film in bed! I’m sure I could do this on the A350 on the outbound journey but couldn’t seem to do it on the inbound journey – it’s possible I was just being slow!
One thing I did particularly like compared to British Airways was the fact that because the seating is angled inwards away from the aisles, unlatching the screen from its stowage was allowed during take off and landing as it didn’t impede access to the aisle. This also meant you could easily get out of your seat without repeatedly stowing it like in Club World.
Last but not least, Finnair provides extremely comfortable over-ear noise cancelling headphones. I found I could wear these for the entire flight without discomfort and the sound was clear and good quality.
Food and Drinks (A330 and A350)
What food will I be served in Finnair Business Class?
On the flight from London to Helsinki the service involved a hot main meal with starter, side salad, bread and dessert. I figured ‘when in Rome’ and went for the meatballs with mashed potato which seemed a safe bet as far as airline food went, and I was right! The meatballs were delicious and the potato creamy and I loved the little touches of the Marimekko napkin and Iittala glassware.
For the flight from Helsinki to Seoul we were served dinner and breakfast. For dinner I started with a rillette of pork and fennel with a side salad and bread. The main course was chicken with potatoes and cabbage. The rillette and bread was especially tasty and I loved the miniature individual portion of olive oil and balsamic.
Before landing I was served a hot breakfast of asparagus soufflé, rosti and veal sausages. I wasn’t a massive fan of the breakfast – I find they’re seldom tasty on planes and this was no exception (although I did eat it). The fruit plate and yoghurt was nice and I at least walked off the plane full, which was a good thing as I had a long train ride to Busan once we landed.
On the flight back, having already eaten in the lounge the staff kindly delayed service of my main for a couple of hours until I was hungry. Unfortunately it was an extremely underwhelming beef bulgogi with rice, which I neglected to even take a photo of! Before landing I had a ‘light snack’ of cannelloni…not so light, with green beans and a small fruit platter. It was decent but not great.
Can I dine on demand on Finnair Business Class?
There are some limited options available throughout the flight – the usual crisps, cup noodles and fruit, but not ‘proper’ food like you get on some carriers like Malaysia Airlines. The staff are also extremely thoughtful and accommodating and did correctly guess due to the time that I’d already eaten in the lounge before boarding and asked whether I wanted my main meal a little later, which I did. They were very happy to keep it for me so I eat it nearly 2 hours later than it was served.
One of the nice options on Finnair is that you can pre-order ‘refreshments for special occasions’ on their website which includes Ferrero Roche’s ‘Golden Gallery’, €16 of Ferrero Roche you’ve never seen before, and a selection of champagnes. This is all reasonably priced – we ordered the Dom Perignon 2009 (it was our honeymoon!) which was an extremely reasonable €114. The service is available on international flights over 2 hours.
What drinks are available in Finnair Business Class?
There are pictures below of the usual selection of wine, soft drinks, spirits and beer. To note are the Finnish (blueberry) beer and also their Golden Sky and Blue Sky cocktails featuring champagne and either blueberry or cloudberry juice.
It’s worth trying one for the full Finnair experience. As I’ve noted above, you also have the option of buying better champagnes than those available on the menu.
A selection of wine was on offer on every route, but I didn’t sample any – photos of the lists below.
How much is a Finnair Business Class Flight?
We purchased our tickets in a Finnair sale on a bit of a whim. Return flights from London Heathrow to Seoul via Helsinki, with a 2 night layover in Helsinki came in at £1,845 per person. Finnair allows you to add a stopover of up to five days on any round trip between Asia and Europe which effectively gives you two holidays in one.
This compares to around £3,000 for a direct flight with British Airways or Korean Air (or a bit over £2,000 for Asiana). KLM also appears to have reasonably priced flights (just under £2,000) with a stop over in Amsterdam.
Finnair gets so many things right. The seats are comfy, with the configuration good on the whole (if you avoid a few seating blackspots).
Service was excellent with staff attentive but not overbearing and on every leg of our flight they came by to greet my husband as a One World Emerald and to take his drink and food orders first.
The cabin feel was light, airy and clean – even on the rather old Airbus A330 – with the nice touches of the Northern Lights show on the cabin ceiling, the Finnish cocktails on offer and the cute little Marimekko soft furnishing and Iittala glassware.
The facility to purchase well priced champagne and chocolates on board is great if you’re on a special trip.
The entertainment could be improved as the selection wasn’t great, especially on such a long flight, and the inability to tilt the screen when in reclined or flat seat positions means you can’t really watch a film in bed. These weren’t really big enough downsides to impact my journey or impression of Finnair and so I’d definitely fly with them again, especially if there were business tickets on sale.