I’ve only ever flown economy class in my life, except for one instance of premium economy for work many years ago. Therefore I decided to go a little crazy on a recent trip to Thailand, especially since I was gonna travel all alone.
I found the best combination of fare and travel time with Finnair, after also considering a few of the gulf carriers and Thai Airways directly from my hometown of Oslo.
After Finnair’s reduction in their point requirements for status last year, this return trip would also qualify me for Finnair Silver/Oneworld Ruby.
Business class checkin in Oslo was extremely swift, as there were no other passengers in line at the time. The same goes for security, which most of the time is very efficient at OSL, but especially in fast track.
I made my way to the Finnair contracted lounge, which is the OSL Lounge. The lounge consists of two parts – one that you can pay your way into (300 NOK) and one reserved for business class passengers (or status holders with contracting airlines, I suppose).
Needless to say, the business class part was clearly superior, both when it comes to interior design, food /drink options and availability of seating.
When I arrived, I even had the whole business class lounge to myself.
The Finnair flight to Helsinki (Embraer 190) didn’t last more than a little over an hour, but in business class we were still served a hot meal with drinks.
I had some of the pretty decent Finnair signature Nicolas Feuillatte champagne served in their lovely Iittala glasses, and the meat ball dish was also relatively tasty.
Note that the seating on business class on these short Finnair flights is the same as in economy (2-2), only the service is different.
In Helsinki I headed straight to the Finnair non-Schengen lounge, which happened to be just across from my departing gate. The stopover time is around two hours, so I had time for some more wine and snacks in the lounge.
As most flights from Helsinki Vantaa to Asia seem to depart around the same time in the afternoon, the lounge was extremely busy, and I had a bit of trouble finding a seat.
The lounge has sort of a slight “posh cafeteria” feel, but the wifi was fast enough and there’s a staffed bar offering both wine, beer and spirits. If you are hungry, they serve some warm food in addition to salad and snacks.
I boarded Finnair’s A350 along with the first group, and found my seat in the rear part of the business class cabin, 11L. If you can, choose a seat in the forward part of the cabin, as you won’t be disturbed by economy class passengers on the way to their seats further back.
Finnair’s business class is arranged in a 1-2-1 reverse herringbone layout with a total of 12 rows and 46 seats. This means all seats have aisle access, which is a big plus.
All seats are of course lie-flat seats that extend to a length of 200 centimeters, but as I have never travelled in another business class cabin I cannot accurately estimate the space in and around the seat.
To me it was adequate, but be aware that the foot compartment is pretty narrow, which can make it difficult to turn over when you are in the lie-flat position.
The seat doesn’t offer a lot of privacy, but having a single seat next to the aisle to yourself is nevertheless pretty great. For those travelling together, the middle seats are preferrable, and if you are stuck in a middle seat as a single traveller, there’s at least a retractable screen divider separating the two seats.
In my seat I found a pair of slippers, a pillow and duvet, an amenity kit and a pair of Bose noise cancelling headphones, in addition to the food and drinks menus.
The amenity kit was a pretty standard Marimekko cotton bag, but it was very practical and has been in use a lot since the flight. Inside I found a relatively cheap-looking Finnair-branded sleeping mask, earplugs, toothbrush and toothpaste and a moisturizer and lip balm from Clarins.
As I got comfortable in my seat, I was given a choice between blueberry juice, water and champagne for the pre-takeoff drink, along with some nuts. I chose more of the NF champagne, which was still lovely, and after around 30-40 minutes we were airborne.
The A350 is noticeably quieter than some older longhaul aircraft, which makes for a lot more comfortable ride.
I also enjoyed the extra large windows immensely, but the storage options in the seat could have been better. The little compartment next to your seat won’t fit your laptop, for example.
Not long after takeoff the first meal service started. I chose to have the potato soup for my starter, which was served fairly swiftly after.
Finnair’s meal service standard is not exactly luxurious, to say the least. They serve most things pre-made on little trays, without the fine china some other airlines use. To me it had more of a high-class premium economy feel. That said, the soup was both creamy and tasty, and definitely a decent start to the meal.
For the main course the in-flight options were roasted arctic char, osso bucco or a vegetarian pasta dish. I had, however, taken the opportunity to pre-order a meal online. I had chosen the reindeer with potato gratin and a red wine sauce: The «Chef’s gourmet» option in Finnair’s online interface.
At first the air host told me they had no record of such a request, and that no reindeer was available. I asked him to check again, and a few minutes later he came back and told me everything was in order.
Along with the reindeer I had a pretty heavy french red wine. Unfortunately I didn’t take a photo of the wine list, so I cannot name the brand. Rookie mistake.
The reindeer was slightly overcooked to me, as I prefer my steaks medium at the most, and the presentation was also sub-par, as you can see. It tasted alright, though.
After having way too much food in the lounge and on the first flight of the day, I politely declined the cheese plate and went straight to the dessert. I chose the Finnish organic blueberry ice cream, which was fine. If you prefer your ice cream super sweet, this was not for you.
After the meal, I extended my seat to its full lie-flat length and stretched my legs. Finnair’s A350 normally offer wifi, which is complementary for business class passengers. Unfortunately this flight had some sort of «server issue», so no wifi was offered, which was a bit of a letdown.
The in-flight entertainment contains a decent selection of movies and tv shows, all served on a 15-inch screen which swivels out from the back of the seat in front of you. Although a fairly big screen, I found the image quality and content to be pretty average, looking slightly compressed and not very sharp. At least the Bose headphones are impressive when it comes to noise cancelling.
Finnair does not offer any mattress or bedsheets on their A350 service, so you are left with the bare seat, pillow and duvet.
As it still was early evening in my time of origin, I had big trouble falling asleep, even with earplugs and the face mask on.
The seat felt pretty hard, and since you basically don’t have much to separate your head from the aisle, you can sense the ongoing traffic going back and forth. I think I slept two or three hours at the most.
My experience of the service onboard was quite similar to the food. To the point and with a bit of a reserved smile, but never over-the-top or lavish in any way. They do not call you by name, for example. It felt very Scandinavian, and in service terms that’s perhaps not a top mark.
Around 90 minutes prior to arrival, I was awoken by staff to have breakfast. It consisted of a hot dish with sausages in a tomato sauce, some mushy scrambled eggs, roasted potatoes and broccoli, a croissant, some yoghurt and fruit. I chose orange juice and coffee with breakfast.
I’m sure you can imagine this was no culinary experience to brag about. It felt very industrial, and was not a great way to end this flight. To top it off, the coffee they serve is extremely bitter. This is definitely an area to improve, Finnair.
We landed at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi on time, and after disembarking we were handed fast track vouchers to immigration, which was a nice surprise.
All in all I would say that the Finnair A350 hard product is good, but that the soft product can be improved upon quite a lot. A little more personality to the service would have gone a long way, and I definitely think the food could have been a lot better.
Next time I’m splurging for business class to Asia, I will probably try one of the gulf carriers.
All Kinds of Travel rates Finnair A350 business class: 3 out of 5
I liked: Full lie-flat seat, 1-2-1-config, decent champagne, wifi onboard, big IFE screen, possibility to pre-order meals
I disliked: Pretty hard seat for sleeping, no mattress topper, narrow foot compartment, average food, horrible coffee, IFE content felt heavily compressed, impersonal service, wifi didn’t work on my flight