Wednesday newsletters always feature a luxury hotel and/or flight review.
Today (January 13, 2016): Trip report: Finnair Airbus A330-300 Business Class Helsinki (Finland) to Phuket (Thailand).
On November 27th 2015, I flew on the Finnair red eye flight from Helsinki Vantaa Airport (HEL) in Finland to Phuket International Airport (HKT) in Thailand. The flight was operated by an Airbus A330-300 (registration OH-LTP). This is my second trip report of a Finnair Airbus A330-300, after I previously published my experience during a Business Class flight from Bangkok to Helsinki (although that was a day flight, not a red eye). While Finnair’s Airbus A330s still feature a decent and above average Business Class product with comfortable lie flat seats, it pales in comparison to the Business Class product that is offered on the airline’s newest flagship aircraft, the Airbus A350 (you can read my review of Business Class trip aboard Finnair’s A350 here). Unfortunately, it does not look like the Helsinki-Phuket route (which mainly caters to the leisure market) will be flown by the A350 anytime soon.
Finnair is a funky airline, that does a wonderful job in profiling itself as a trusted, fresh, and design oriented brand. The nordic company, which is part of the Oneworld Alliance and one of the world´s oldest operating airlines (established in 1923), is one of my preferred European airlines to/from Asia, since flying via Helsinki means that you are flying the shorter and faster route between Asia and Europe. Its hub, Helsinki Vantaa Airport, is a very efficient place for a transit (all the gates and services are located under one roof, with a minimal connecting time of only 35 minutes). And flying Finnair is your best choice if you want to vacation in sun-drenched Thailand, since they are the only European airline to have scheduled flights (from November to April) to both Phuket and Krabi, in addition to their daily Bangkok flights.
Finnair features in my top 10 lists of the world’s best airline lounges, and the best Business Class amenity kits in the sky.
- Trip: HEL-HKT
- Airline: Finnair
- Aircraft type: Airbus A330-300
- Aircraft registration number: OH-LTP
- Flight Number: AY37
- Date: November 27th, 2015
- On time departure: yes (7.30 pm)
- On time arrival: yes (10 am)
- Miles: 5165
- Flight time: 9 hours 30 minutes
- Seat: 6A
- Class: business (D)
In this review (more information & photos below my Youtube clip & slideshow):
- Finnair Lounge(s) at Helsinki Aiport
- Business Class cabin
- Business Class seat (+ best & worst seats)
- Other inflight experiences (crew, lavatory, WiFi, bar)
- My verdict (score)
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1. FINNAIR LOUNGE AT HELSINKI AIRPORT
Finnair has three lounges at Helsinki Airport: one in the Schengen area (which I did not visit) and two in the non-Schengen area. The latter two lounges are both located between gates 36 and 37.
The original Finnair non-Schengen lounge is accessible to Finnair Business Class customers and Finnair Plus Platinum, Gold and Silver members (+ one guest with Platinum or Gold cardholder), and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders (+ one guest), when the departure flight is marketed by Finnair (AY code on the ticket). If you are not traveling business class, you can still live large by purchasing a day pass to this lounge for a mere €48. The ultra-white, swanky lounge is very spacious and has a maximum seating capacity of around 300 guests. It has a central seating area as well as an elevated level from where you have a great view on the runway through floor to ceiling windows. Overall, the lounge creates an atmosphere of calm. I visited the lounge in the late afternoon, and several food stations were open to the guests, serving salad, cold snacks (e.g. Baltic herring marinated with tar), Goulash soup, and a hot lunch.
The premium lounge, designed by the Helsinki firm dSign Vertti Kivi & Co, is located adjacent to the original Finnair Lounge, and is available exclusively for Finnair Plus Platinum and Gold members (+ one guest), and Oneworld Emerald and Sapphire cardholders (+ one guest), when the departure flight is marketed by a Oneworld airline. The lounge features a classic Nordic design with dynamic changes in lighting, inspired by the Finnish outdoors. Video projections on the walls and ceiling are in tune with the seasons and time of day. The overall decor is more sophisticated as compared to the next-door Finnair lounge, with carefully selected design furniture such as Tulip and Wombs chairs created by Finnish American architect and industrial designer Eero Saarinen. Food is also better: upgraded food & beverage selection are plated on Marimekko tableware or served in Iittala Ultima Thule glasses, first designed for Finnair in 1968 by Tapio Wirkkala. The Premium lounge also features a children’s play area, Apple computers, a staffed bar and even a unisex sauna for those wanting to experience real Finnish culture before boarding the plane.
Since I am a Oneword Emerald member, I had access to both lounges, and took a lot of photos, which you can find below. From the lounge, it was less than a minute to gate 36 where the Finnair Airbus A330-300 (registration number OH-LTP) was ready for boarding.
2. BUSINESS CLASS CABIN
Finnair’s Airbus A330s come in 3 layout versions, and on this particular occasion, the flight was operated by an aircraft with a low density configuration (which I found rather strange, since the Helsinki to Phuket route mainly caters to the tourists and not to business travelers). The 46 Business Class seats were spread over 2 cabins: a large Business Class cabin with 32 seats (in 8 rows) located behind the cockpit, and a smaller and more intimate Business Class cabin with only 13 seats (in 3 rows) located in front of the Economy Comfort cabin. Both Business Class cabins were divided by the main boarding door, a galley and a lavatory.
The Business Class seats were placed in a staggered configuration, a so-called Sogerma Solstys layout, whereby the foot compartment for each seat is located between and under the seats in front. The same layout can be found on Brussels Airlines’ A330, Austrian Airlines’ B777, SWISS’ Airbus A330/A340, Delta’s B767, and American’s B767. The staggered Business Class cabin configuration on this A330 plane comprised 15 single seats, while the remaining 22 seats came in pairs. All seats enjoyed a lot of privacy, as none of the rows quite lined up, so nobody was directly looking into the seat across the aisle. Most seats also had direct aisle access, except for the paired window seats, where the passenger seated along the window had to climb over his/her neighbour’s legs to get access to the aisle.
The design of the Business Class cabin itself looked fresh, airy and trendy with a predominantly soft blue color scheme and some subtle green touches.
Click here for the seat map of this Finnair’s Airbus A330-300.
3. THE BUSINESS CLASS SEAT
I was seated in seat 6A.
All Business Class seats on Finnair’s revamped Business Class cabin share the same characteristics: 152 cm (60 inches) in pitch, a width of 53 cm (21 inch), and a 180 degree recline. All seats have at least one large work surface on the side (where you can set up your laptop), with some seats featuring this work space on both sides (a so-called ‘throne seat’). Within that work surface, you will find the seat controls to adjust the seat position (from take-off position to fully flat). You can also adjust the seat cushion, since Finnair’s Business Class seats are not made of the customary plastic foam, but instead, the seat cushions have air-filled chambers. With one press on the button you can either soften or firm up the seat cushion according to your liking, as well as activate its integrated massage function. On the side of the seat, there’s also a power port with international adapters, a personal reading lamp (at eye level), and the meal tray (which is hard to get out). In front of the seat, you will find a large entertainment screen (see below), with the foot compartment below.
The seat is comfortable when you are sitting upright, but it’s a somewhat different story in its lie-flat position. Although it’s a 180 degree recline, the seat (and your lower legs) descends into a space carved out for it in the seat(s) in front, below your entertainment screen. This foot compartment is quite small, making it hard to switch position during your sleep while not waking up, as your legs will constantly hit the walls (although the seats that do not have the ‘throne’ feature – like seat 5L, which I was seated in on my trip from Bangkok to Helsinki – have a little more space for the feet, hence making for a more comfortable sleep). In addition, in its lie flat position, the seat is just 45 cm (17 inch) above the floor, making it quite uncomfortable getting in and out to go to the restroom. This is not the most comfortable lie flat seats in the sky, especially when compared to the superb lie flat seats installed on Finnair’s newest Airbus A350 planes.
What are the best Business Class seats on Finnair’s Airbus A330? Click here for a seat map.
- The single best seats for solo travelers are the single seats.
- Single throne seats offer more space (but are less comfortable for sleeping) and can be found in positions 2A, 4A, 6A, and 8A.
- Travel companions should go for the paired, middle seats, which all have direct aisle access. There are also paired window seats in rows 1, 3, 5, 7 and 9, but here the passenger in the window seat will have to jump over his/her neighbour’s feet to get access to aisle.
What are the worst Business Class seats on Finnair’s Airbus A330s? Click here for a seat map.
- I suggest to avoid the window seats in row 1 since the proximity to the galley may be bothersome, and other flyers tend to bump into these seats when they return from the lavatory.
- I also suggest to avoid the window seats in row 7, since they lack a window.
A comfortable green blanket, a lovely green pillow, noise cancelling headphones, and an amenity kit were provided. The latter was developed in partnership with Finnish design institution Marimekko. The kit bag featured the distinctive Marimekko prints and contained essential inflight goodies including an eye shade, toothbrush and toothpaste, and Clarins moisturizer and lip balm. Socks, shaving kit, mouthwash, hairbrush, makeup remover wipe were available upon request.
Finnair features in my top 10 list of the best Business Class amenity kits in the skies.
Before takeoff, I was offered a choice of welcome drinks: orange juice, water, or Champagne. I had the orange juice. A small, hot towel was provided to all Business Class passengers shortlyafter take-off. Menus were handed out, and because of the recent introduction of the A350 aircraft into the airline’s fleet, Finnair offered a Signature Menu (using local and organic foods) on this particular flight, which was created by Helsinki-based Executive Chef de Cuisine of Restaurant Savoy, Kari Aihinen.
Because of an incident with smoke in a lavatory, dinner service only started about 60 minutes after takeoff. Mixed nuts were served as an amuse bouche. Next, the starter and main course were both served at once on a single tray (which was kind of odd). Food was good but the presentation was uninspiring. As a starter, I had the smoked reindeer mousse with lingonberry coulis. It tasted ok (was not a big fan of it though)! As a main course, I choose the roasted chicken breast, sweet potato mash, broccolli, and honey mustard sauce, which tasted good albeit not excellent. Dessert was a Häagen-Dazs vanilla ice cream. All by all, a decent but far from mindblowing gastronomic experience at 40,000 feet! I have to admit that I expected more from the Signature Menu.
90 minutes prior to landing, while flying over the Bay of Bangal, breakfast was served. It consisted of an omelette with smoked salmon, rosti potato with cream cheese, and creamy spinach which. It was ok (but again, nothing special).
In front of the Business Class seat, there was a 15 inches (38 centimetres) entertainment screen which can be skewed and adjusted in brightness. It was controlled via remote control in the seat or by touch. The entertainment program itself was great, with a large collection of movies and TV programs. The cameras installed in the nose and belly of the Airbus also offered some fun moments, especially during landing (with a great view on Phuket Airport’s landing strip).
7. OTHER INFLIGHT EXPERIENCES
# CREW: Finnair’ crew members – with their chic navy blue designer outfits – are amongst the best and most friendly in the industry, and it was no different on this flight.
# LAVATORY: There were 3 lavatories for the 32 Business Class passengers (as compared to 6 lavatories for the 221 Economy Class passengers), and 2 of them come with a window. The Business Class lavatory design was very simple, and lavatories were kept clean during the flight.
# INTERNET: onboard WiFi is currently not offered on Finnair’s fleet of Airbus A330/A340s (while it is avaible for free for Business Class passengers on the airlines’ new flagship Airbus A350 planes).
# BAR: the plane had a small walk-up bar, where Business Class fliers could graze between meals. There was a selection of sandwiches, pastries, yoghurt, ice cream, fruit, and/or a chocolate. Throughout the flight, the bar was kept fully stocked, and when I was there, flight attendants were quick to offer ice for drinks, cutlery for food and ask if there was anything else I required.
8. MY VERDICT
- Seat: 7/10
- Food: 8/10
- Inflight entertainment : 8/10
- Service: 9/10
- Cabin: 8/10
- Overall experience: very good: 8/10
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