Finnair, Business Class – Airbus A 320: Zürich to Helsinki


Date: 28 May 2016
Departure: 10:55
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.
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.
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.


The Cabin

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.


The Crew

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.

The Meal

Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Blueberry juice and still water.
Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal:

  1. 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.
  2. Pork patty in a red wine sauce with potato gratin and vegetables (broccoli, beans and carrot).
  3. Selection from the bread basket, butter.
  4. 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.


Finnair, Business Class – A 320: Milan Malpensa to Helsinki

Nine boarding pass receipts later and I find myself in the contractor lounge at Milan’s Malpensa airport. I arrived earlier in the morning on a Thai Airways flight from Bangkok. You’re probably wondering why on earth I chose Milan to change planes from Thai Airways to Finnair, given that it’s neither a Star Alliance nor a Oneworld hub. Well, the simple fact is, I didn’t choose. I should have been heading for Zürich, but then my plane went tech. The details of that trip you can find in my Thai Airways post.

Date: 13 September 2012
Milan Malpensa
Business Class


I haven’t got a boarding pass. Actually, for that matter I haven’t got a ticket either. All I have is a FIM – a Flight Interruption Manifest. Essentially it is a document permitting the transporting carrier, Finnair in this case, to accept me as a passenger without a ticket due to an involuntary rerouting. The FIM will ensure that Finnair get paid for providing transportation despite the lack of a coupon to prove they did.

The Lounge

I’m sitting in the contractor lounge provided for Finnair passengers. The Thai Airways representative brought me here to ensure they let me into the lounge without a boarding pass or ticket.

It’s a nice enough lounge but it’s a pity there aren’t any windows. It’s turning into a lovely early autumn day outside. Even so, the lack of any natural light does not prevent all the Italian business men here from donning their sunglasses.

About an hour before departure I head downstairs to the gate area. Downstairs I find a place with some good views of landing and departing aircraft. I was unaware of how many freighters Malpensa receives.

Once the gate opens, I approach the counter. I hand over my FIM and in return I am issued a boarding pass for seat 3F, a window seat on the right side of the aircraft. There are 20 seats in Business Class but only eight passengers today.

At the gate next door they’re getting an Air Malta flight ready to depart.


Boarding starts and status members, Business Class passengers and families with kids are requested to board first. I don’t think the flight is going to be full judging by the queue.

The Cabin

I like the Finnair cabin. The bulkhead is covered in this pattern that I assume is intended to look like snow flakes falling. It’s nice, but I think if you live in a country that sees so much snow anyway, you’d probably appreciate some bright and sunny design more.

The seat is the standard RECARO slimline variety. The middle seat is kept empty in Business Class for more personal space and comfort. Once boarding is completed, I move across to 4A. I’m hoping to get at least one picture of the Thai Airways bird that brought me here earlier in the day. When we left Bangkok it was gone midnight and simply too dark for any decent pictures.

Departure is to the north and unfortunately we’re on the outer one of the two parallel runways. This means that even with the zoom I’ll be too far away to take any decent photos of the Thai bird. To reach the runway we pass behind the threshold of the inner runway. This still leaves enough height clearance for approaching aircraft passing overhead for landing.

Having spent the last two weeks flying mainly on heavy widebodies, I’m somewhat taken aback by the force and acceleration of the A320. We rocket into the sky and climb out past the low cost terminal.

We do a sharp right turn to fly along the Alps. In the distance I can make out the airfield of Lugano Agno. The mountains look so nice today, quite as though you could reach out and touch them.

We stay on an easterly track and maintain a rather steep rate of climb for a while until we’re clear of the mountains. Then we bank left again to point the aircraft towards Finland.

The Crew

Oh I know, stereotypes and all that. But what will you do? Today’s crew really consists of four severely blond female flights attendants in their dark blue uniforms. They’re quite a contrast to the colourful Thai Airways crew from the previous flight. But they’re nice enough.

Before we depart the crew come round distributing Finnish, Italian and English newspapers.  Once we’re airborne, service begins with the distribution of the menu and hot towels. They’re not scented.

After that comes a drinks round. I have a Diet Coke and a packet of Pretzels.

The Meal

And then comes the meal. For starters we have a shrimp and potato salad with dill on some kind of rye bread toast. The main course is marinated and tremendously tender beef in a horseradish sauce with broccoli and some root vegetable mash, I mean purée. Dessert is some creamy thing with berries. With the meal the crew also pass round a basket of warm bread. I have a sparkling water to drink with that.

Generally speaking the quality of the meal is good, in fact it’s rather tasty. But the presentation is somewhat lacking. First of all, would it really cost so much more to serve the hot meal in a real dish, rather than that unsightly tin? Secondly, it would be nice to have the plastic lids removed from the dishes before the meal is served. And thirdly, the tray is too big. The meal looks a bit forlorn, quite as though there were a few items missing.  But the meal hits the spot alright.

I’m starting to feel sleepy, but in a good way. Once the meal is removed I lean back, close my eyes and in that warm, oh so comfortable space before sleep overcomes me, the memories of my trip to Vietnam unfold before my eyes. It’s as though I am there again, but of course it is only a dreamtime. I think I will long remember Vietnam.


North of the Alps the weather is rather cloudy. It stays like that all the way to Helsinki. When we land the temperature is a mere 17 degrees Celsius.

We turn off the active runway and do one quick and short taxi to the gate.

We park next to this Icelandair B757-200 with a familiar sounding name…

The airport is busy when I arrive. Basically the development of the facility has not kept pace with the ambitions of its hub carrier Finnair. There are people everywhere. There are not enough places to sit, so in addition to the passengers actually going somewhere, there are also those passengers standing around for a loss of any better place to stand and wait. The fact that arriving and departing passengers are not segregated does not help either.

I exit the terminal building and it strikes me just how cold it is here, I’m definitely wearing the wrong clothes. Still, it feels like autumn already and I like that. So I shan’t complain.


Just one thing remains. I guess those of you who have followed this series from the start are wondering if things did work out all right in the end. No, they did not. When I arrive at the hotel I log in to my KLM account to check if my flights for the next day from Helsinki to Basel via Amsterdam are still there, just as the Thai Airways lady had promised. Of course they are not. A quick call to KLM establishes that Thai Airways did not actually do anything about the booking. As a result, I no-showed on the original Zürich-Amsterdam-Helsinki legs so the return was cancelled.

I ask the friendly KLM agent if she can reinstate the flights or something. But she tells me that the flights I was booked on are completely sold out, even with my Platinum status she cannot even get me on the wait list. So I have no other choice but to buy a new ticket with Lufthansa via Munich. Their flight leaves 15 minutes later than the original booking with KLM and arrives in Basel 30 minutes after the KLM flight. Just in case you’re wondering, a full fare Y class oneway from Helsinki to Basel will cost you in excess of CHF1000. But I am not angry. I guess I should have known better, having worked in ticketing for an airline myself for many years. Still, I give the Thai Airways lady full marks for trying. And I’m certainly not going to let this hiccup at the end ruin what has been a fantastic trip and really good fun.