Finnair is the largest airline and flag carrier of Finland and is the world’s sixth oldest airline in continuous operation. In recent years Finnair has modernised significantly, marketing its Helsinki hub as the ‘shortcut to Asia’ and rejuvenating its long-haul fleet with the Airbus A350. Having never previously flown on Airbus’ latest flagship intercontinental aircraft, Finnair’s intra-European flight between Helsinki and London provided the perfect opportunity.
Finnair Flight 1331 Helsinki-London Heathrow
Travel Class: Economy
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900XWB, OH-LWF
Seat: 42L (Extra Legroom)
Helsinki Airport has marketed itself as an efficient hub for connecting passengers and, in recent years, has embarked on an ambitious expansion programme. The airport is modern, spacious and has a range of shops, eateries and quiet resting areas – all of which combine to create a superior passenger experience to many of the busier hubs across Europe. In fact, the airport has won many awards for this – including Skytrax’s ‘Best Airport in Northern Europe’ title.
Finnair Flight 1331 to London Heathrow departed from one of Helsinki Airport’s newest gates – in the extra-Schengen portion of the airport. Beyond this gate, further expansion work was still in progress. The waiting area here is extremely well designed in typical Nordic style and had a modern atmosphere.
OH-LWF, a three year old Airbus A350-900, was waiting to transport me back to the UK. This would be my first flight on the A350, and I was looking forward with anticipation to viewing Finnair’s stylish hard product.
Boarding was done in an efficient manner and Business Class upgrades were offered at the gate for approximately £230 each. Despite Finnair’s fantastic business class, I decided to sample the Economy product instead – which already represents a significant upgrade on an intra-European flight.
Finnair’s Airbus A350s are configured in a two-class arrangement, with Business Class occupying the first third of the cabin. Finnair also offers an Economy Plus option in the forward section of the Economy class cabin, with extra legroom.
I selected seat 42L – arguably the best economy class seat on the aircraft – which had extra legroom due to the absence of a seat in front of it. Finnair’s seat selection fees are not nearly as high as other airlines so selecting this seat is highly recommended.
Finnair’s cabin finishes are unique and create a fantastic atmosphere, in my view. The diverse mood-lighting and the furnishings add to a calm ambience in the cabin and the larger windows onboard the Airbus A350 mean the cabin is filled with natural light.
Each seat has an 11″ in-flight entertainment screen, complete with the option to connect to Wi-Fi.
This aircraft of course also features the signature Airbus A350 illuminated signs, which I love. This simple feature really adds to the modernity of the aircraft.
Row 42 is the first row to feature 9 seats across the cabin after the emergency exit. 42A and 42L, however, offer massive amounts of legroom and represent great choices when choosing your seat.
The only drawback to this seat is that the IFE screen is located within the armrest, reducing the width of seats in this row. This did mean that the seat felt rather narrow, ironic given the A350’s branding as ‘Extra Widebody’.
The seats themselves were comfortable, with flexible adjustable headrests and sufficient recline for a long-haul flight. However, the armrests were flimsy and felt much more like they belonged in a short-haul cabin – rather than onboard a flagship aircraft.
The IFE system was quick and responsive and had a useful overview of the in-flight service schedule. Being a short flight, time was limited to actually make use of many of the movies and TV shows it offered. Wi-Fi is also available on the Nordic SkyPortal, which I accessed via my iPhone. Finnair also offers what is arguably the best aspect of the Airbus A350: the tail camera. This is such a great feature and allows passengers who don’t have a window seat to view the scenery.
The flight departed on-time from Helsinki and the quiet sound of the engines upon takeoff struck me immediately. The cabin noise onboard the A350 is negligible, as the aircraft is truly quiet.
The crew onboard this flight were efficient and professional, but lacked any particular warmth. The service was perfectly performed and the staff provided a pleasurable flight – but the cabin crew onboard this particular Finnair flight were not overtly personable. Finnair’s signature blueberry juice is divine, but I’ll save that for my review of their Airbus A321 product.
The Airbus A350 can reach higher altitudes than many other conventional aircraft and we continued to climb until reaching 43,000 feet.
The Economy cabin on this flight to London was fairly empty, with the forward portion of the cabin being particularly sparsely occupied. Many passengers onboard were indeed connecting to Asia, whilst some Finnish passengers were connecting onwards with British Airways or American to the US from London. This connection between two oneworld hubs is clearly important for feed at either end of the route.
After approximately three hours and a thoroughly pleasant flight with Finnair, we began our descent into London Heathrow. The approach into Heathrow offered some fantastic views of Britain’s capital and showcased many of London’s most iconic landmarks.
All in all, the Airbus A350 is a fantastic aircraft and Finnair offers a solid economy class product. This is certainly the best way to travel between the UK and Finland, and beyond – utilising Finnair’s network in Asia. Finnair also flies to Manchester frequently and Edinburgh on a less frequent basis. To conclude, I would recommend Finnair and transferring through Helsinki to anybody and would certainly use Finnair again in the future.
Raj’s review of Finnair’s BUSINESS CLASS will be coming up soon!
This flight was fully funded by myself and Finnair were not involved in the writing of this report.