China Airlines, Business Class – Airbus A 350-900: Taipei to Sydney

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TRANSFER IN TPE

My flight to Sydney will be departing from the D concourse, which is either new or newly renovated, because it doesn’t look quite as drab as the arrivals concourse my flight from Singapore ended at. Taipei has two Terminals and technically, the D concourse belongs to Terminal 2, which is not the China Airlines terminal. There is a China Airlines lounge on the D concourse, but from what I understand, their main lounge is over in Terminal 1. But that seems like just too much of a schlepp right now.

If you’re transferring between international flights in Taipei, you will not need to go through either immigration or customs, but you will have to undergo security screening.

LOUNGE / AIRSIDE

The entrance to the lounge is right opposite from gate D4, which rather conveniently happens to be the departure gate for my flight to Sydney.

The lounge looks new and well maintained. Like the rest of the D concourse, it’s basically one long and narrow room. It has all the basic facilities, including computer work stations, toilets, showers and a dining area with a noodle bar. The lounge is located in the basement, so there are no windows.

It’s not a bad place to wait for your connecting flight. But my layover is nearly five hours and for that both the terminal and the lounge are not really very pleasant.

BOARDING

Boarding starts with a slight delay due to ‘ground operation’ issues – whatever that means. Never mind, it’s only a minor delay and all I plan to do on the flight is sleep. There is a separate air bridge to the L1 door for Business Class passengers. Economy Class passengers use the L2 door.

CABIN

China Airlines has a herring bone seating configuration on its A 350-900, which provides direct aisle access for every passenger and a lot of privacy. On China Airlines, the seats are staggered, so that once you’re seated, you can’t actually see your neighbour on the other side of the aisle unless you lean forward.

The colours China Airlines has gone with in the cabin are very dark. And admittedly, that does make the cabin look elegant and stylish. But with the dimmed lighting during boarding for one, and the fact that I have seriously deteriorating eye sight for another, the upshot is that it’s rather difficult for me to actually see anything much as I stow away my things and settle in for the flight. It also strikes me that the colours they’ve gone with for the carpets, upholstery and the shell of the seat do not reflect the livery or the logo of the airline.

Storage space on the seat is somewhat limited though. There is a small compartment in the armrest adjacent to the aisle, but that already contains the amenity kit and a bottle of still water. Then there are two small compartments by the window for storage, but one of these contains the slippers and the earphones. And then there’s another compartment by the side of the seat, but this is not very large either and couldn’t hold more than a kindle, and certainly not a laptop.

But there is more than ample storage space in the overhead bins, even if there are only bins on the sides of the cabin but not in the middle.

CREW

The crew on this flight is much better than the previous one. They’re welcoming and go out of their way to make sure passengers are comfortable. They also make a point, I think, of interacting with the passengers and chatting with them about little things. And it seems quite natural.

SERVICE

While we’re still on the ground, a welcome drink with a packet of nibbles is served. To drink, there is a choice of still water, orange juice, champagne and smoked plum juice. Of course, it goes without saying that I try the plum juice, because it sounds interesting.

Having tried it, I’m guessing it’s probably an acquired taste. More than anything, it’s just very sweet.

While we’re still on the ground, I quickly nip into the loo and change into my shorts to be ready to sleep once we’re airborne.

THE MEAL

The flight’s scheduled departure time is 23h55 and the flight time is announced at eight hours and forty minutes. Even at this time of night, the crew are planning on doing a full meal service after take-off and a breakfast service later on. But I tell one of the flight attendants that I will not be having anything, despite having pre-ordered my dinner, and will be going straight to sleep. And indeed, the last thing I remember is the crew handing out the wine list. And then I’m off to the land of nod for nearly seven hours.

When I awaken, I’m feeling rather hungry. The maître de spots me and says ‘oh, you finally woke up’ with a laugh. She also asks me if she can bring me something to eat ahead of the breakfast service. I may perhaps agree to that a little over eagerly, because she laughs again and a short while later returns with plate of fruit, cheese and crackers.

About thirty minutes later, the cabin gradually starts to dawn and the crew start preparing the cabin for the breakfast service. The breakfast is served on one tray. It includes:

A croissant with butter

There are no refills though, and no jam either.

Müsli

A small ramekin of müsli with fruit and nuts.

Fruit

A bowl of fruit salad.

Hot breakfast

A hot dish with frittata, tomato, bacon and polenta.

The meal is tasty and hits the spot nicely. It’s quite a large meal for a second service, especially considering that the flight is not that long.

AMENITIES

The vanity kit comes in a nice hard shell case I may actually be able to use. What’s more, this one also includes a small bottle of Moroccan mint oil, which I can use to keep my beard from drying out the skin on my face. And there’s also an A 350 Sticker! So full brownie points to China Airlines for that!

The slippers are of the same fluffy variety as those on the previous flight. Other than that, China Airlines does not provide pyjamas or bedding for the seat. 

ARRIVAL

Much to my surprise, the weather’s really shitty in Sydney. It’s overcast with a chance of rain and visibility is limited. I know for a fact that we flew past the Sydney CBD with the opera house and the bridge on the approach, but I very much doubt the passengers on the port side were able to see anything much.

We come to a stop on the last stand on our pier and from there it’s a long schlepp to immigration and customs. China Airlines provides its passengers in Business Class with express immigration vouchers, which give passengers access to the fast track. However, if you have a biometric passport, you probably needn’t bother, as the e-gates are much faster and more efficient than the fast track.

I’m taking public transport into town. I exit through customs and do a sharp right turn. Then I continue to the end of the arrivals concourse where the entrance to the railway station is marked out. To purchase your ticket, you can either queue at the counter or at a vending machine, or you can just badge in and out with your credit card.

The T8 line will take you right into the heart of Sydney, with stops at the central railway station and Circular Quay. I’m staying in Darling Harbour tonight. Normally, I think I’d probably take the train to Town Hall and then walk to Darling Harbour from there. But with the rain, I decide to get off at Central Station and then take the 501 bus instead, which more or less drops me off right in front of my hotel.

CONCLUSION

I rather enjoyed my China Airline experience. I think their product is solid and makes for a pleasurable journey. The crews were good and especially the crew on this second flight were very pleasant. Of course, it also helps that the A 350 is a pretty mean machine. It’s quiet in the cabin and the interior design of China Airlines’ aircraft is very glitzy – even if the seat could do with a bit more storage space. As I already mentioned above though, next time I transfer through Taipei I think I would try to get a shorter connection, because the airport really isn’t very pleasant for a longer layover.

Thai Airways, Business Class – Airbus A 350-900: Milan Malpensa to Bangkok

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INTRODUCTION
Today I am travelling from Milan’s Malpensa airport to Bangkok. The flight is operated by an Airbus A 350-900. I must say, I’m quite taken by the A 350 – it’s width gives it a very spacious feel and it just comes across as being a lot more solid, or less flimsy, than the Boeing 787, which I always find has the look and feel of a narrow-body.

CHECK-IN
I check out of the Sheraton at around 09h45 and make my way to Terminal 1. Thai Airways checks in on row 16, which they share with Qatar Airways. Check-in opens three hours prior to departure. There are two Business Class counters, both of which have thick and rather grubby looking carpets laid out before them.

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Both counters are attending to passengers when I arrive, but I figure it won’t be long before it’s my turn. Or maybe not. The lady working the check-in counter on the left is obviously related to Little Miss Chatterbox. Oh hell…’veramente, senza occhiali…niente…bla bla bla…ieri sera, nel treno aveva ritardo…bla bla bla…’.

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Eventually, the lady on the other counter takes pity on me and figures I probably do actually want to take the flight, considering that I’ve bothered to make the schlep out to the airport this morning. So she issues my boarding passes to Bangkok and my final destination, tags my hand luggage and sends me on my way.

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Oh yeah, in case you’re wondering – no online check-in is available for Thai Airways ex Milan.

AIRSIDE/LOUNGE
There is a dedicated fast track for First and Business Class passengers. But the lines for passport control can get rather long when the airport is busy.

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Thai Airways uses the Pergolesi lounge in Malpensa, which is a contractor lounge operated by the Milan airport authority if I’m not mistaken. The lounge is located behind passport control. To be honest, it’s really not much to write home about, so you may want to skip this one. First of all, and I know others may have different priorities for a lounge, there are no windows – it’s basically just one big, gloomy room. The food and drinks selection is limited to things like fruit salad, sandwiches, focaccia and cake.

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Wifi is complimentary, but be warned that electricity plugs are in short supply in the lounge.

BOARDING
Boarding starts at 12h35, thirty minutes before departure. First, passengers with children are invited on board, followed by Business Class passengers. The airbridge is attached to the L2 door, which means that Business Class passengers turn left as they step aboard, while Economy Class passengers take a right.

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CABIN
The Business Class cabin is located between the L1 and L2 doors. I’m seated on 14B, which is an aisle seat on the port side.

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Thai Airways operates the A 350 in a two-class configuration with 289 seats in Economy Class and 32 seats in Business Class. The seat is fully lie-flat and horizontal; it has a width of 20 inches and a pitch of 44 inches in the seated position. In the lying position, the seat has a length of 73.5 inches.

The Business Class cabin is laid out in a 1 + 2 + 1 configuration, so that every passenger has direct access to the aisle.

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When I made the booking for this trip, only aisle seats were available – which are the B and J seats on even numbered rows and the D and G seats on uneven numbered rows. Before the flight, I was concerned that I might feel a bit exposed, especially with the seat extended into a bed. But turned out not to be an issue. First of all, the seats are staggered, with the seat on the other side of the aisle slightly further back to give you a bit more privacy. Secondly, the shell of the seat curves around the side of the seat, so that when you extend the seat into a bed, you’re partly shielded from the aisle.

CREW & SERIVCE
A pillow, a blanket, a thin mattress, the amenity kit, earphones and the menus are already at my seat when I arrive. Soon after, I am brought a lightly scented hot towel and my choice of drink.

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AMENITIES
The amenity kit is by FURLA and comes with the usual complement of items for which I have no use, except perhaps for the ear plugs and eye shades. In addition, and I think Thai Airways deserve some serious brownie points for this, they also provide slippers in Business Class.

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THE MEAL
The meal service begins with a drinks round. I have a Coke Zero, which is served with a bowl of mixed nuts.

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Thai Airways offers Western and Thai menus. For both menus there are two options for the main dish. Although strangely enough though, there are no vegetarian options. I decide to go with the Thai menu.

The first course is smoked salmon in a yuzu ponsu dressing, with avocado and crème fraîche. The starter is identical for both menus and is really very tasty, with the avocado blending nicely with the salty smoked salmon.

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The main course consists of a range of dishes:

  • a green pork curry
  • steamed rice with pak choi
  • a clear soup with shitake mushrooms and a cucumber filled with minced pork
  • a small bowl with a spicy chili sauce

These dishes are also very good. The curry is flavourful and spicy and actually tastes like authentic Thai food.

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After the hot meal comes the cheese course, which is served with grapes, dried fruit and crackers.

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And then finally, for dessert, I have the taro in coconut milk, which is just weird and rather bland.

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A few hours after the first meal service, I start to feel peckish again. So I order the noodle soup from the menu. Now this dish has some serious umpf – God it’s spicy! The noodles are served with boiled egg, crispy onion flakes and bits of minced pork.

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SECOND SERVICE
The second service starts just over two hours out of Bangkok. A flight attendant brings me a hot towel and takes my order for a coffee and orange juice.

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Shortly after, the tray is delivered. I’m quite surprised by how extensive this second service is. The tray contains

  • a bowl of fruit,
  • a yoghurt with müsli,
  • a bowl with bread and pastries and
  • the hot meal – which consists of a large portion of scrambled eggs, a pork sausage, bacon and cherry tomatoes.

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ARRIVAL
We land at 05h10 local time. I don’t think I’ve ever seen Bangkok airport looking so deserted and quiet. Eventually, our aircraft comes to a standstill on a remote stand. But unfortunately it’s still too dark for me to be able to take any decent pictures.

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The bus spits us out at international arrivals, which is located more or less in the middle of the D concourse. From here I head two floors up to security and then from there to the Thai Airways Business Class lounge. I now have slightly more than one hour to make my connection. The transfer in Bangkok is fairly painless, but it’s not very well signposted.

VERDICT
Thai Airways provided a solid product on this flight. The seat was comfortable, the crew were friendly and attentive and the food was actually very good. All in all though, I don’t think that my flight in Thai Airways Business Class on this flight was anything outstanding. I wouldn’t go out of my way to fly with them again but I certainly wouldn’t avoid them either. I just don’t think they can keep up with the likes of Cathay Pacific or Qatar Airways, both of which, in my view, clearly have a superior product in terms of hardware and software.

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Airbus A 350: Doha to Frankfurt

qatar_airways_logoDate: 17. February 2017.
Departure: 08:00.
Arrival: 12:10.
Flight time: 6 hours 10 minutes.
Seat: 4A.

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INTRODUCTION
I have just enough time to upload and post my review of the Melbourne to Doha leg, and then it is already time to head to the departure gate for my flight to Frankfurt. I suppose you could say I am literally on my last leg…!

BOARDING FROM AN AWKWARD GATE
The flight is departing from gate B8, which is the end gate on the B pier. As such, the position of the gate in relation to how the aircraft is actually parked is awkward and does not allow for any reasonable photos. Add to that the fact that the windows on the B pier have these opaque dots on them and it becomes near impossible to take any decent pictures of your awaiting chariot.

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CABIN & SEAT
The Airbus A 350 features Qatar Airways’ new Business Class configuration in a 1 + 2 + 1 layout that gives every passenger direct access to the aisle. The additional width of the A 350 really comes into its own in this cabin layout, giving a spacious and airy feel to the cabin.

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The only thing I do not like about this aircraft is the fact that it has those electronically controlled window blinds. And while these are obviously a lot of fun to play with if, like me, you spend way too much time around engineers than is really good for you, they have the disadvantage of being remote controllable by the crew.

No sooner has the fasten seatbelt sign turned off after take-off the blinds come down and can no longer be opened individually until about ninety minutes out of Frankfurt.

YET ANOTHER EXCELLENT CREW
The crew on this flight are a chirpy bunch. Their service is efficient but unrushed and they are obviously determined not to waste any time so passengers can maximise the amount of rest they can get before we reach our destination. This is yet another thing that Qatar Airways does really well in my opinion. One of the things I really cannot stand on Singapore Airlines or SWISS is that for some reason their main meal service always seems to take for ever. On a flight across the Atlantic you are usually already half way there by the time they finally finish and clear everything up.

THE VANITY KIT IS BACK TO ITS OLD TRICKS
The vanity kit is another one of the senselessly oversized tube of aftershave balm variety. Come to think of it, it would be interesting to know what is in the ladies’ vanity kit and if that has any more sensible contents.

YOU REALLY WILL NOT GO HUNGRY ON QATAR AIRWAYS
I know it has not been that long since my breakfast on the inbound from Melbourne, but I am feeling peckish nonetheless. I blame it on the jet lag.

I start with a tasty strawberry and banana smoothie with is rich and creamy.

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Next I have the Bircher Müsli with berries and nuts, which is served nicely decorated with a sprig of mint that gives it a refreshing twist.

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And then for the main course I have the Indian dish, in this case something called Aloo paneer tikki with jeera potatoes, green pea upma, makhani sauce and sambhar. And what an excellent dish it is too, even though I am really not quite sure what it is I am eating. Luckily, Qatar Airways always seem to have at least one Indian dish on their menu, usually the vegetarian option.

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For dessert I have a combination of lychee éclair and a coffee and chocolate mousse cake, which is also very good.

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Once the meal is over, I figure I may as well make another trip to Noddy land to pass the time before the next feeding.

THE SECOND SERVICE
Ninety minutes out of Frankfurt the cabin crew pass through the cabin asking passengers if there is anything they would like to eat before we arrive in Frankfurt. There is a section with light options on the menu for passengers to choose from. I decide to go with the shredded beef salad with Thai noodles. The dish is good and tastes authentic, but I am kind of disappointed because I had been hoping for something with a bit of ‘umpf’ in it, which this dish does not have.

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ARRIVAL
Twenty-three hours after departing from Melbourne I arrive back in Frankfurt. We approach the airport from the East and land on the new runway that lies north of the apron. As I step off the plane I finally get a chance to take a proper look at her and take a few pictures. This is a really very cool plane!

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CONCLUSION
This flight brings to a close my journey to the land of Oz with the fabulous Qatar Airways. Their performance on the four flights I took has been truly stellar. What’s more, they are consistent in the service level they provide, even in comparison to my experience on previous trips with them. In comparison to the other Middle Eastern carriers I have tried, I think Qatar Airways definitely takes the biscuit. They are certainly more professional than Oman Air and their service feels a lot more sophisticated than Emirates. I also think their cabins are a lot classier than Emirates, which tends to be a bit flashy, bordering on gaudy. Of course Qatar Airways also has the advantage that with Hamad airport, they have a very spacious and nicely designed hub.

I shall be flying with Etihad for the first time in two months, and I am curious to see how they will compare to Qatar Airways, but I think it is safe to say that Qatar Airways is a hard act to follow.

Qatar Airways, Business Class – Airbus A 350: Doha to Adelaide

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Date: 09. February 2017.
Departure: 21:15.
Arrival: 17:40.
Flight time: 12 hours 30 minutes.
Seat: 3K, starboard window seat.

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INTRODUCTION
I have just enough time to post the report of my flight from Frankfurt to Doha before it is time for me to leave the comfort of the al-Mourjan lounge and head for gate C5 from where the flight to Adelaide will be boarding.

Since my last visit to Doha airport they have changed the security regime. Where previously you used to go through a centralised security checkpoint, which tended to get slightly hectic and chaotic during peak periods, you now only have to go through security before you enter the respective gate for your flight, which makes the whole process far more efficient and much less of a hassle for passengers.

LOUNGE
Location:
Just off the central plaza that links concourses A, B and C.
Name of Lounge:
Al-Mourjan.
Type of Lounge:
Qatar Airways Business Class lounge.
Access:
There is a long escalator that leads up to the lounge.
Toilets & Showers:
Both are available in the lounge and there is an attendant who obviously keeps the place spotlessly clean.
Food & Beverages: There is a huge selection of hot and cold dishes. In fact the food offerings are more comparable to what many airlines provide in their First Class lounges. One floor up from the central lounge area there is also a restaurant with buffet and à la carte dining.
Connectivity:
Complimentary wifi is provided by Doha airport.
Newspapers & Magazines:
There is a large selection of magazines and newspapers in English and Arabic.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate lane for security for Business Class passengers. Business Class passengers are invited to board the aircraft first and there is a separate airbridge attached to the L1 door.

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CABIN & SEAT
The seat on the Airbus A 350 is very similar to that on the Boeing B 787 on my previous flight. There are however, a few differences. First of all, due to the fact that there are no overhead bins for the middle row of seats, the cabin has a very spacious and cavernous feel, which is very pleasant actually. There is a shoe compartment large enough to store a pair of shoes properly (I wear a size 46 and managed to stow my shoes easily). And finally, the inflight entertainment system is slightly updated. Is has a larger selection of films and can be operated either via the handset or using the touch screen.

The Business Class cabin is also larger on this aircraft. There is one toilet behind the forward galley on the left and two toilets by the L2/R2 doors.

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SERVICE & CREW
The service sequence is identical to that on the previous flight – welcome drink, menu, vanity kit. However, because of the longer flight time of twelve hours and fifty minutes, a few additions have been made to the service:

  • Slippers are provided and they are rather comfortable.
  • Pyjamas are also provided.
  • There is a turndown service to convert the seat into a bed.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Lemon and mint juice.
Pre-meal drink:
Coke Zero, served with a ramekin of warm nuts.
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Choice: There are three choices for the first and main course and dessert.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Late dinner.
Amuse bouche:
Salmon tartar with mango salsa.
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First course: Spicy lentil soup.
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Second course: Arabic mezze with hummus, moutabel and tabouleh, served with Arabic bread.

Main course: Red snapper with a saffron cream sauce and asparagus. Served with crushed new potatoes and spring onions and a confit of cherry tomatoes.
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Dessert: Ice cream.
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Cheese: There is no cheese course on the menu but it is available on request.
Hot towel after the meal:
Rose scented hot towel.

THE SECOND SERVICE
Pre-meal drink:
Strawberry and banana smoothie.
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Choice: The breakfast menu can be put together individually and includes a wide selection of hot and cold dishes.
Delivery:
À la carte service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Main course:
Scrambled eggs with chives, served on toast with ruccola and grilled tomatoes.
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Bread: A selection of breads, served with butter and marmalade.
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ARRIVAL
We land in Adelaide after a flight time of twelve hours and thirty minutes. The approach brings us in right over the city and offers some great views of the hills in Adelaide’s hinterland.

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Once we land I have ninety minutes to make my domestic connection and then I’ll be done. For today.

SO WHAT’S THE VERDICT…?
This flight and the previous one from Frankfurt to Doha have firmly established Qatar Airways as one of my favourite airlines, together with the legendary Cathay Pacific. As I already mentioned in a previous post on Qatar Airways, it never seizes to amaze me just how reliable and consistent their crews are in their service delivery. And they are all so nice about it.

But it is not just the crews that make flying with Qatar Airways such a brilliant experience. The quality and quantity of the food is really something else and puts many of the First Class products I have had the pleasure of sampling to shame.

And then there is also the aircraft. This was my second flight on the Airbus A 350 and I must say, she’s really something else. The feeling of space and comfort that the cabin provides makes even a twelve hours journey pleasurable. The only problem you have with this aircraft is that it is so quiet in the cabin that you can hear the dude snoring five rows further back!

Finnair, Business Class – Airbus A 350: Helsinki to Beijing

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Date: 28 May 2016.
Departure: 18:00.
Arrival: 06:50.
Flight time: 7 hours and fifty minutes.
Seat: 1A, window seat on the right side of the aircraft.

***My apologies for posting so late. Censorship in China is fairly strict.***

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INTRODUCTION
I just arrived in Helsinki on a Finnair flight from Zürich. It is now 14h30, which means I have another three hours before my flight to Beijing starts boarding. I am rather excited about this next flight, because it will be my first trip on the mighty Airbus A350.

The non-Schengen gates at Helsinki airport are designated 32 to 40. The terminal is fairly straightforward in its design. But it is not so easy to navigate through the facility, what with all the passengers pushing and shoving. Over the last few years, Finnair has worked hard to establish Helsinki as a hub between Europe and the Far East. So far the plan seems to be working, judging by the number of passengers in the terminal. However, if this goes on like this, I think very soon the terminal will not be large enough to handle all the traffic.

Immigration is fairly easy, and there are many self-service kiosks for passengers with biometric passports. There is no further security check if you are transferring from a Schengen to a non-Schengen flight.

LOUNGE
Location:
Finnair has one lounge in the Schengen area and another in the non-Schengen area. The one in the non-Schengen area is located near gate 37.
Type of Lounge:
Dedicated Finnair and oneworld partners lounge.
Facilities:
Toilets, showers and a Finish sauna, three workstations with iMacs, newspaper stand.
Catering: Catering in the lounge is good. There is a hot dish (beef Stroganoff with rice) and a selection of salads and sweets.
Internet:
Wifi is available throughout the terminal, no password required. Just turn on the wifi and open your browser.

The lounge is rather nice. Call it a stereotype but it has what I would call a very cool Nordic design. All in all, the lounge is not actually that big and at times it can become just a little bit crowded. Fortunately, I reach the place just before the afternoon rush really kicks in.

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BOARDING
Priority Boarding:
There is a separate queue for passengers with priority, who are also invited to board the aircraft first.

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There are two guys ahead of me in the queue for boarding. The older one of the two is obviously completely smashed, totally wasted. Seriously, he can barely keep upright. The gate agent takes one look at him and simply says to him: ‘Right that’s it, you’re way too drunk. You’re not getting on’. The younger one tries to tell her his friend is okay – meanwhile the person in question is swaying precariously as he tries to maintain his balance. He also keeps blinking, making me wonder just how many gate agents he can actually see talking to him at the same time right now. Obviously he had not bargained on gate lady, because she is obviously not taking any shit from him. ‘No, it is not okay. Not getting on. Step aside for the other passengers’. And with that she confiscates his boarding pass and hands him his passport.

CABIN
Configuration:
1 + 2 + 1
Seat: On the Airbus A350, Finnair has a total of 46 seats installed. There are eight rows located between the L1 and L2 doors and another three rows in a mini cabin after the L2 door galley. The seat is fully flat when turned into a bed. The configuration of the seat is in a reverse herringbone and very similar to Cathay Pacific’s seat. The advantage of this configuration obviously being that every passenger has direct aisle access. I am sitting on 1A, which is the bulkhead seat in the forward cabin. Seatguru has this marked as a yellow seat, warning that some passengers may find the proximity to the forward toilets bothersome. Personally, I do not think this is an issue because it really is not as though the toilets are particularly close. Storage space is good – next to the right armrest there is a compartment that is large enough to hold an 11’ MacBook Air and a Kindle.
Pitch: 81 inches.
Width: 21 inches.
Facilities: Every seat has its own power outlet and USB port. Wifi connectivity should be available throughout the aircraft. The wifi code is displayed on the video screen. However, the wifi does not work once during the flight.
Audio and Video: AVOD.

SERVICE
The crew on this flight are a lot more reserved than on the previous flight. But they are very professional and efficient.

As on the previous flight, there is a wide selection of newspapers available on board.

A pillow, earphones, slippers and a vanity kit have already been placed at every seat before the passengers board the aircraft. The earphones are noise cancelling BOSE phones and they are excellent. The slippers are nice and fluffy. Blankets are distributed after the meal service has been completed.

The vanity kit contains an eyeshade, toothbrush and Colgate toothpaste, earplugs and Clarins cosmetics.

There is also a compendium with the menu, wine list as well as an embarkation card for the People’s Republic.

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THE MEAL
Welcome drink on the ground:
Blueberry juice.
Towel before the meal: Hot scented towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Diet Coke.
Choice:
Three choices for the main course.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Dinner.
Meal:

  • Amuse bouche – salad with whitefish roe, fennel, apple and peas.
  • Salad of lettuce and ruccola.
  • First course – roast beef and tartar sauce, spinach and nutmeg.
  • Main course – pressed beef neck, celeriac purée, herb butter and spring vegetables.
  • Cheese – Peltolan Blue, Viinitarhuri with rhubarb jam and crackers, I have a glass of Sauterne with that.
  • Selection from the breadbasket.
  • Coffee and a chocolate.

 

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The meal is very well timed. The amuse bouche is served separately with the apéritif. However, the salad, first course and the main are served together on one tray. Afterwards, the tray is removed and the cheese and the dessert are served separately again. Interestingly, they have a choice of vanilla or licorice ice cream. By this time though, I am already full. So I just settle for a cup of coffee.

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Once the meal is cleared away, the crew pass through the cabin distributing bottles of still water and collecting orders for the breakfast service.

The service may perhaps seem a little lacking in style by serving all the dishes at the same time on one tray. Personally though, I must say I rather like it like this because it makes the whole meal service a lot faster, which leaves the passengers with more time to relax.

THE SECOND SERVICE
Hot towel before the meal:
Scented hot towel.
Choice:
American or continental breakfast.
Delivery:
Tray service.
Type of meal:
Breakfast.
Meal:

  • Scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken sausage, roesti, baked beans.
  • Apple and cherry yoghurt.
  • Fresh fruit – apple, pineapple, orange.
  • Selection form the bread basket with butter, strawberry jam and cream cheese.
  • Tea or coffee.
  • Orange juice.

Ninety minutes before arrival in Beijing the second service begins. I am quite surprised that this is again a full meal. Once more, the service is efficient and the crew make various rounds with coffee and the breadbasket.

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ARRIVAL
It is a bright, sunny day here in Beijing today. For a change the sky is fairly clear, providing some good views of the city as we approach.

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Finnair uses the impressive Terminal 3 in Beijing. Our flight arrives at the E concourse. If, like me, you are catching a domestic connection, you will first need to go through immigration. From there take the automated people mover to the main concourse, which is also where transfer check-in is located. From the main concourse take another train back to the D concourse, which is reserved for domestic flights. The security check takes place there.

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SO WHAT ABOUT THE AIRBUS A350?
At the end of the day, I would probably have to agree with my friend, the wiry R., that the Airbus A350 is just another airplane. Okay, so they do not use bleed air to heat the cabin, which is apparently so much better for you. But to be honest, I hardly notice the difference as a passenger. But I would definitely fly Finnair’s Airbus A350 again. The Business Class cabin configuration is great and the seat they have installed feels cosy and private.