Since the Airbus A350 was still on my bucket list I had the opportunity to finally fly on it to Beijing with Finnair. Finnair offers short connections via Helsinki to many Asian cities, most routes are flown with the new Airbus A350, only some flights may be replaced by an older Airbus A330. Their business class seats are two totally different products: Modern reverse herringbone layout on the A350 with a 1-2-1 configuration and direct aisle access for everyone and a much more old fashioned seat layout on the A330 with an alternating 1-2-1 and 2-2-1 configuration. I was lucky enough to catch one of the old Airbuses on my way to Beijing and end up on a window seat with a neighbor blocking my aisle access. Jackpot – but the over all experience was nevertheless very good. And I got my flight on the A350 on my way back to Helsinki.
My flight from Brussels to Helsinki
Flight AY812 – BRU-HEL – 11:40-15:15 – A319 – Seat 1A
My flight should be on time and I still had some time for a quick breakfast at the lounge. Finnair uses The Loft lounge from Brussels Airlines at concourse A. It is quite spacious with a nice view.
There was only some cold breakfast left with all warm food gone before I arrived. So I only found some small bites and a coffee. But that was absolutely fine for me.
Boarding was on time and I was the first to get on board. The flight was exactly what you would expect, except some details you will only find on Finnair. Their food will always come with a nordic touch like blueberry or wild garlic. And they use tableware and other items from a Finnish designer named Marimekko. You can also buy items on board.
My meal for lunch was quite good. And there was enough rounds of drinks. But I tried to relax a bit on this 2 1/2 hr flight.
The Lounge at Helsinki Airport
Arriving at Helsinki Airport the terminal building was full. Since they have most of their international flights to Asia the afternoon was rush-hour at HEL. After passing passport control at the electronic gate I went straight to the lounge. Finnair has two lounges in the non-schengen area: One for business class travelers and another smaller one for customers with a Oneworld Emerald status.
I left my carry-on luggage in one of the lockers and went to the showers. Something very special for Finnair customers would be waiting there for me: The Sauna!
Yes, they really have a sauna at the airport lounge!
There is no advertising for it in the lounge so you only find out when you visit the showers, which most customers don’t do when visiting the lounge. or you may have heard of it before. Sitting in the sauna – and even if it is only for 15-20 minutes is the ultimate thing for me! For a while you really forget, that you are inside a busy airport waiting for your onward flight! And as only few people know about the sauna there was only another guy and me while the lounge was full.
My flight from Helsinki to Beijing
Flight AY51 – HEL-PEK – 18:05-06:55 – A330 – Seat 7A
After two very relaxing hours in the lounge I went to my gate. And a surprise was waiting for me: Instead of a brand new Airbus A350 an old A330 was standing at the gate. Please don’t get me wrong… there is nothing bad about an A330. But this plane would be equipped with Finnair’s old Business Class. It has kind of a strange layout. On the left side there are some rows with two seats, where the person at the window would be stuck in for the duration of its neighbors sleep. And guess which seat I had…
But overall i have to say it was a very good experience onboard. Excellent crew, good service, good food and a very smooth flight.
For Dinner I had pre-ordered a special menu. Finnair offers special gourmet menus for pre-order along with the diet options that most airlines offer. I had ordered a menu with reindeer and pearl barley which was excellent!
I tried to get some sleep after dinner with little success. The seat was a bit too short and narrow for me to sleep. But the A350… well. later.
We arrived very early at Beijing and I had a couple of hours to spend until my flight to Hong Kong. I chose Cathay Dragon for this part of my trip. But let’s talk about my flight back to Helsinki…
My flight back to Helsinki
Flight AY52 – PEK-HEL – 10:55-14:15 – A350 – Seat 7A
Thanks to the Beijing airport staff that I made it just in time for the boarding. I was really late. From the railway station you have a really long way to go to the international Terminal. There were long queues everywhere and Beijing does not offer and priority or fast lanes. So I was allowed to use the crew channel by a friendly security officer.
When I arrived at the gate they were already starting boarding. So I missed the mandatory gate picture of the Airbus. I was just so happy that I still made it.
Their new business class in the Airbus A350 is in a 1-2-1 “reverse herringbone” layout. One of my favorite layouts! You really have your privacy and can also – finally get some sleep. I really liked the seat, it is wide enough and long enough, has a big table sliding out from the side and you have a good view outside with large windows in front of you. The service was friendly, there was enough rounds of drinks. The only thing was, that the food was not as good as on my previous flight out of Helsinki.
Our flight time to Helsinki was relatively short. It was only a little over 8 hrs. I watched two movies and had a short nap and then another snack was waiting before our landing. I finally arrived back to Brussels in the evening with a lovely cute Finnair Embraer.
Over all it was a very good experience with Finnair. I really enjoyed the break in their Sauna at Helsinki Airport. Both flights were on time and had a very friendly crew. And I really liked their cabin on the new Airbus. I wished the flight would have been a bit longer… too bad that the Airbus A330 is such a downgrade.