Finnair, Business Class – Airbus A 321: Helsinki to Zürich


Date: 02 June 2016
Departure: 16:30
Arrival: 18:20
Flight time: 2 hours and fifty minutes
Seat: 2D, aisle on the right side of the aircraft



The bus drops us off somewhere in the bowels of Helsinki airport’s terminal building. Immigration takes place on the ground floor and once more, the scanners for biometric passports work swiftly and efficiently.

From immigration I go one floor up, only to find myself – I think – landside again. But the security checkpoint is right next to the exit from immigration and there are no queues. So within a matter of five minutes after entering the terminal building, I am already airside again and on my way to the lounge.


I am already holding my boarding pass for the flight to Zürich.

The Finnair Business Class Lounge

Location: One level above the public airside area. The stairs are located near gate 22.
Type of Lounge:
Finnair Schengen lounge.
Toilets but no showers. Other than that, I must say the lounge does remind me a lot of an IKEA showroom…
Catering: As in the non-Schengen lounge, the food options are not bad and here is a good selection of hot and cold dishes.
Free wifi is available throughout the terminal. No password required.


The lounge is still quite empty when I arrive. Just after reception I make a right turn to get myself a seat near the window, figuring this is where I will have the best apron views. The only problem though, is that this is the side of the terminal that was facing the sun all day, so despite the air conditioning, this part of the lounge is starting to feel decidedly like a Finish sauna. Alas, by the time I give up and decide to look for a new, cooler place to sit, the lounge has filled up completely.



Priority boarding is ignored to speed up the boarding process.

Boarding for the flight starts with a delay of about fifty minutes. Apparently, our aircraft was struck by lightning and before we continue for Zürich, the aircraft’s avionics will need to be checked.

The Cabin

Configuration: 2 + 2. Classic set up for a European Business Class, with the middle seat on a row of three kept empty.
Seat: On the Airbus A321, there is a row 1 on both the port and starboard side of the aircraft, contrary to the A320 which has no row 1 on the starboard side. Other than that, the seat is identical to that Finnair has on the Airbus A320. Seat pitch is good though, and even on row 2 I have enough space to stretch out and I can even open my MacBook Air without any problems.

According to the Finnair inflight magazine, their Airbus A321 has a seating capacity of between 196 and 209. As the passengers board the aircraft, the cabin crew announce that the flight will be nearly full. And indeed, there are four rows of Business Class on this aircraft, which makes a total of 16 seats, 12 of which are occupied.
Pitch: 31 inches.
Width: 18 inches.
Facilities: No power outlets.
Audio and Video: There are video screens which descend from out of the overhead bins. On this flight though, the screens are only used for the safety on board demonstration video.

The Crew

The crew on this flight are truly excellent. The service in the Business Class section is done by the purser, a middle-aged lady with a very charming and endearing personality and a good sense of humour.


The Meal

Towel before the meal: Scented hot towel.
Pre-meal drink:
Diet Coke, served with ice and a slice of lemon.
Delivery: Tray service.
Type of meal:
Early supper.

  1. Starter – sea buckthorn marinated Baltic herring and dill potatoes.
  2. Main course – beef meatballs and turkey chorizo, gratin potatoes, red wine sauce and vegetables.
  3. Dessert – chocolate brownie and strawberry coulis.
  4. Selection from the breadbasket.
  5. Tea or coffee.

The first part of the service goes well, right up until the glasses for the aperitif are removed. But then the turbulence kicks in and even the crew are obliged to remain seated. By the time the aircraft has climbed to a calmer level and the service resumes, we are only forty minutes out of Zürich. But still, the cabin crew do an excellent job and get everybody served without rushing.



At 18h20 Swiss local time, the pilot in command decides to check out the A321’s capabilities as a fighter jet. We start our approach into Zürich and what starts out as a shallow descent gradually turns into a nosedive. But still, like this we manage a straight in approach and land eventually only a few minutes behind schedule.

The aircraft comes to a stop on its parking stand at the A concourse at 18h50. By 19h05 I am already standing on the platform of the airport’s railway station waiting to catch the train home.


Finnair, Business Class – Airbus A 350-900: Helsinki to Beijing


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



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.

The Finnair Business Class 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.
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.
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.



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


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.

The 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.

The Crew

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.


The Meal

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


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.

Amuse Bouche

Salad with whitefish roe, fennel, apple and peas.

The First Course

Roast beef and tartar sauce, spinach and nutmeg served with a side salad.


The Main Course

Pressed beef neck, celeriac purée, herb butter and spring vegetables.


The Cheese

Peltolan Blue, Viinitarhuri with rhubarb jam and crackers, I have a glass of Sauterne with that.

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.
American or continental breakfast.
Tray service.
Type of meal:

  1. Scrambled eggs, bacon, chicken sausage, roesti, baked beans.
  2. Apple and cherry yoghurt.
  3. Fresh fruit – apple, pineapple, orange.
  4. Selection form the bread basket with butter, strawberry jam and cream cheese.
  5. Tea or coffee.
  6. 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.



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.


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.



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.