Date: 28 May 2016
Flight time: 2 hours and fifty minutes
Seat: Initially 2D, aisle on the right side of the aircraft. Then 7F, window
Originally, I should have made this trip last year, in the week between Christmas and New Year. But by the time December rolled on, I had done so much travelling that I really did not fancy the idea of getting on a plane again, and so the trip was postponed. In hindsight, it probably would have been better had I taken the trip last December, given that I had an accident with my bike on boxing day and ended up cracking a few ribs, breaking my right shoulder and tearing a few ligaments…
But I digress. It is Saturday morning, just before eight o’clock. I have the ticket, money, passport and a pain au chocolat. I am good to go. I take the escalators down to platform eleven, from where my train will depart. Much to my surprise, this service to Zürich Main Station is operated by a German ICE high-speed train.
***Major train geek alert advisory***
ICE stands for ‘Inter City Express’. The trains have been in service with the Deutsche Bahn since 1985 and also operate to neighbouring countries, including Switzerland. From a purely aesthetic point of view, the round shapes and contours of the ICE’s exterior are no match for the elegantly sleek, lean and mean French TGV trains. And even as far as speed goes, the TGV’s world record remains uncontested at 574km/h.
As far as the passenger experience is concerned though, the German ICE definitely has the advantage. The finish of the passenger cabin is elegant. The carriages are spacious and have a wide, airy feel to them. There are a number of different seating options in every carriage. There are individual compartments with seating for up to six passengers as well as open space seating.
Pitch on the ICE is good, and the seat recline is adequate and comfortable. In addition, every seat has a small fold away table and a reading lamp. There is also ample space to store large items of luggage. Keep in mind though, that the transportation of bicycles is not permitted on the ICE train.
At Zürich Main Station the connecting train to the airport is waiting – rather conveniently – on the other side of the same platform.
Location: Check-in 2, row 3.
Facilities: Airport check-in, web check-in.
Counters: There are three dedicated Finnair counters – one for Economy Class passengers, one for baggage drop-off and one for passengers with priority.
I arrive at the airport at 09h20, ninety minutes before departure. In the mornings Zürich Airport is usually quite busy, with the majority of long-haul flights arriving and departing during the first half of the day.
The check-in agent issues my boarding pass for the flight to Helsinki as well as for the onward connection.
Finnair Business Class passengers have access to the priority lane at security.
The Aspire Business Class Lounge
Location: One floor up from the public area of the airside centre.
Type of Lounge: Aspire contractor lounge.
Facilities: Close to none. For seating options you can choose between small bistro tables with wooden chairs or leather sofas. There is a small coffee table next to every sofa, but they really are very small.
Catering: Catering is rather limited at this time of day. To eat there are Cornflakes, croissants and yoghurt. The drinks selection is fairly good though, and despite the fact that it is not even ten yet, there are already a few pisspots milling about the champagne cooler who have decided to make an early start on the booze.
Internet: The access code is issued for you at reception.
The good thing about this lounge, is that it provides excellent views of the apron and runway 16 beyond, which is the main departing runway for the heavy long-haul flights.
A call for priority boarding is made, but not really enforced.
The flight is departing from gate A63. From what I can tell, the flight is not going to be that full this morning, after all it is the weekend.
Configuration: 2 + 2, the middle seat is kept empty in Business Class.
Seat: On the Airbus A320, Finnair has a total of 165 seats installed. On today’s flight there are seven rows in Business Class, which makes for a total of 26 seats. On the starboard side of the aircraft row 2 is the bulkhead row. 15 of the 26 seats are occupied. Originally I am on 2D, the aisle seat. But then once boarding is completed, I move back to 7F, a window seat, and have the whole row to myself.
Pitch: 31 inches throughout the cabin.
Width: 18 inches.
Audio and Video: Moving map and Charlie Chaplin short movies.
There are four cabin crew. Three middle aged ladies and a gentleman – the purser – of the same age, if I had to guess. Once the doors are closed, the cabin crew pass through the cabin offering newspapers: there is a choice of English (Financial Times), German (Tages Anzeiger) and Finnish language paper.
The purser and one of the ladies are working the Business Class cabin and they are very attentive. Throughout the flight they make sure that all passengers have everything they need, topping up drinks etc.
At the end of the meal service, the purser passes through the cabin with coffee. As he reaches my row he notices that I have not finished my meal yet. So he tells me not to hurry and that he will be back with more coffee when I am ready. The crew also pay attention to make sure that the Economy Class passengers do not use the forward Business Class loo.
Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink: Blueberry juice and still water.
Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal: Lunch.
- Smoked fish and smoked fish salad with an organic rye crisp which has not managed to remain quite so crisp after having travelled all the way from Helsinki to Zürich.
- Pork patty in a red wine sauce with potato gratin and vegetables (broccoli, beans and carrot).
- Selection from the bread basket, butter.
- Chocolate brownie with artificial whipped cream.
Finnair is one of the few airlines I know that still distributes printed menus on European flights, which is a nice touch, I think. The first course is very tasty and the smoked fish has a nice smoky flavour. The main course is hearty and filling, the gratin in particular is rich and creamy. The brownie is so so. First of all, it is very greasy, presumably that is the only way to prevent it from drying up on the plane. And the artificial whipped cream is just weird.
Once the meal is over, the crew quickly remove the tray to allow passengers to stretch out and relax. One hour left to go to Helsinki.
At some point, Estonia’s capital city Tallinn comes into view, just as the captain announces that we have started our descent into Helsinki. Our route takes us on a routing due east of the city initially, before eventually we do a left turn on the downwind.
We touch down pretty much on time behind Japan Airlines’ Dreamliner. We taxi to our stand in the Schengen part of the apron. I take one last picture of my chariot once I disembark and then head for the non-Schengen area, from where my next flight will be leaving.