This long awaited trip to Hong Kong offered an opportunity to try something new. Finnair Business Class was offered at a considerable discount over all the direct flights, and we were also constrained by having to use the same airline back from Tokyo. That really left either a long indirect journey on Cathay Pacific, Finnair or British Airways. They were the only ones making sense back to London, that also made sense to Hong Kong.
Business Class on Finnair was £100 less than BA wanted for Premium Economy on a direct flight.
Priority check in at Finnair was quick and efficient, Terminal 3 at Heathrow isn’t too bad given it’s age and that it hasn’t got many years left.
Finnair try to get you to use No.1 Lounge but on the 1040 flight Cathay Pacific’s business lounge is dead quiet, and the food is far nicer. As it happened the check in desk recommended it! Forget the BA or AA lounges at T3, always too busy.
The boarding process was great, I have a sixth sense now, knowing where to be to get on first, and unlike 787-9’s which have to board from door 2 because the sensors get damaged by the air bridge if they use door 1, we went in from the nose, Seat 2A and 3A window.
Finnair is very simple, Scandinavian efficient, white and pale grey. It verges on bland but the Zodiac seats are excellent, comfortable, superbly ergonomic (unlike Virgin Atlantic 789’s Upper Class), and the massive 16″ LCD touch screen is lightening fast with superb picture quality.
Even the in-seat chargers and headphone sockets are all where you need them. Two windows per seat (except 1A gets one).
On the second leg, because we missed our connecting flight we ended up in the aisle seats. Even if you don’t know the person next to you, you have to lean so far forward to see them it’s almost rude!
Finnair have no overhead bins in the centre which allows for a massive open space and feels very roomy. There’s more than enough space in the side bins for everyone.
So, the next 3.5 hours were spent on the ground at Heathrow. A $5 relay in Door 2 refused to communicate with the onboard computer and flagged an issue.
There are, as yet no Heathrow based A350 operators with experience to call on so it was up to Menzies Aviation to do their best. I was close enough to hear the conversations over speakers in the open cockpit to hear Helsinki issuing diagnostic instructions. In the end they were told to reboot it. Yes they turned the whole A350 off like it was a Windows 10 computer and turned it back on again!
That did it, after some tests it was passed as fit and we finally left. Not before I managed to wangle a cockpit visit and a chat with the Captain, a training Captain and the First Officer, all of whom were really grateful for understanding their predicament.
To Finnair’s credit, the cabin crew on this flight who were just as inconvenienced not getting home, they were truly professional and outstanding. I doubt you’d get that level of professional calm from BA. Indeed I have to be honest and say they were the pinnacle of cabin crew professionalism that I’ve experienced anywhere in the world, over hundreds of flights.
Food was very good for what should have been a 3hr flight. To make up time and try and get some people to their correct connection, they flew the A359 more or less flat-out! Ground speed nudged 600mph at 43,003ft! It was stunning up that high, almost like being in space. We reached Helsinki in 2hrs 5 minutes against the wind!
Too late for us, we had to go and get rebooked – I’d called ahead from London and by the time we got there we had two seats and fresh boarding passes in less than 20 seconds!
Being an avgeek, I kept to myself the feeling that the 2355 flight to Hong Kong, last of the day from a deathly quiet Helsinki (at the time we arrived late afternoon), would suit the A359 we came in on from London, OH-LWF.
I wandered from the business lounge up to gate 54, at around 2000hrs which even at 1700 was signed and allocated for the 2355 to Hong Kong.
And there she was, OH-LWF. At boarding time, 2315 the flight board announced “delayed, new information at 2355”. At 2355 it was delayed to 0030, then to 0055.
Finally we boarded. This time the new Captain was quite up front and the problem was another relay, this time on the nose gear doors.
By now I’d been up 27 hours without sleep and eaten in the Helsinki lounge. I couldn’t be bothered with another meal; at 0130 dinner seemed too weird! Flat bed, pull over the blanket/duvet thing and I was out like a light.
I didn’t see Russia. I awoke around Urumqi in China 6 hours later, watched Vice on the movies list while eating breakfast. One of those flights where if you adjust your watch to destination time, you eat breakfast at 1430hrs.
Storms at Hong Kong took an hour of flying in circles and we finally arrived. The second all-Asian crew had been just as pleasant and efficient as the first, showing a remarkable standard of professionalism and training from Finnair.
Yes the seats are basic business class but comfortable, the food is above average and the service some of the best in the world.
You might not get super thick branded blankets and trinkets, but you’re paying way less and the Marimekko design amenities and cushion are more than adequate.
My first A359 was Delta’s last year and it was alright. But this, despite the annoying delays beyond Finnair’s control, was a really positive experience. We felt looked after, so did people in economy because I asked them.
Would I fly Finnair again if the price difference mattered more than the time factor? Without hesitation.
Just to make us feel less bad, the BA A380 had been on the ground and hadn’t disembarked its passengers for two hours. Why? Because the skycaps who get the luggage off and operate the unionised routes for the old legacy carriers, refuse to work in the rain. And it wasn’t just rain, it was a tropical downpour. So we were off, through immigration (on the busiest weekend of the year) in seconds despite huge numbers of people, the luggage was already on the carousel! Through customs and to a waiting limo! De-planned and out of the airport in 22 minutes. Ahead of the direct flight BA!