Focus on Finnair

I’ve been angling for ages to find an excuse to fly Finnair. Some say it’s bland and sterile. Some say it’s the epitome of Scandinavian icy cleanliness and efficiency.

Either way it ranks as one of the top Skytrax 4 Star airlines, one of the best in Oneworld, usually just behind Qatar, (and way ahead of BA), and has a top 2018 Passenger Choice rating on TripAdvisor, which, because of the number of reviews tends to be a good guideline. It’s the only Scandinavian airline with a 4Star rating too.

The airline is now flying mostly A350-900’s of which it has 11, with 8 more due by 2022, along with A333’s long haul, with a concerted effort to make Helsinki a hub for travel to Asia its focus.

With full fare return business class flights offered at £1870 per person outbound to Hong Kong and back from Tokyo, flying from Heathrow via Helsinki the time to try it had come – even if it is 9 months away. As a comparison, BA (the only direct flight available from each city) were charging £3300 for the same on an A380/787-9.

As usual this required my somewhat relentless investigation of every piece of information I can find on Finnair.

There are some surprising discoveries. It’s busiest route is Helsinki-Heathrow! Which explains why the first leg of our journey out to Hong Kong is on an A359, as is the second. The return trip is on an A333 and A321.

It’s second busiest route is to Sweden’s capital, Stockholm. Follow that with Paris, Copenhagen and Oslo.

So despite its focus, it’s main routes are all neighbouring European states.

Finnair is the 6th oldest continuously operating airline in the world.

It moves over 12 million passengers a year – just 7% of them in Business class but they represent almost 30% of its revenue.

The airline is heavily associated with the Marimekko brand, a Finnish art/design house renowned for its patterned pottery and accessories – a simple coffee mug goes for €35! Several of its aircraft have been painted in their designs.

As a business the entire long haul Asian operation is designed to schedule with arriving aircraft form the top European feeder routes.

The airport is designed that at best it takes just 35 minutes to get from your inbound gate to your connecting flight. They do allow around 1 hour 30 for most flights, and they often won’t leave if a business passenger is delayed on an incoming flight for up to 30 minutes. Not often you hear that these days.

Despite the “sterile” interiors as some see it, the seats across the board, especially in business, are considered exceptionally comfortable, crew are highly rated, and expected to have at least one oriental language as well as English and Finnish.

That then brings us to what has been described as their “non-livery”. The airline is all about simplicity. Download their award winning app – it’s so simple, so clean and so neat, it’s almost beyond minimalist. Great for booking a flight but pretty uninformative about anything else, for example which business lounge you have access to. For that you have to go to their website.

The aircraft and livery are the same, simple and uncomplicated.

Finnair though has at least one good excuse to maintain such a low level of complexity in terms of colour. It’s national flag is a blue cross on a white background after all!

There have been a few versions of livery over the years, but this is the simplest – and that’s what the airlines ethos is all about.

All they want is to deliver the best without extraneous embellishment. It’s about sensation, what you feel, what you experience, efficiency, ease of use, comfort – but without the glitz and ostentation of Emirates, or the excess of Etihad’s First Class, and China Airlines on board Tea Lounge.

This clinical but efficient approach appeals to me, but I’m very used to Virgin Atlantic – its a hard act to follow, yet I’m looking forward to seeing how Finnair operates the A359, and what it really feels like to experience their way of doing things.