For this year’s Thailand trip, Finnair once again offered the best combination of travel time and ticket cost. The direct options from Oslo were overall more expensive than having a short stopover in Helsinki, and I really liked the idea of travelling in the Airbus A350 again, even though it had to happen in Economy this time, not Business class.
Check-in in Oslo happened at the Priority desk, due to my Finnair Silver status, but since I ended up behind some ski girl with a bunch of odd-shaped bags, so it took a bit of time. After she was done, I was through in just a few minutes, though. Finnair’s Silver tier gives you priority security too, even at OSL, so I was through that too in a very short amount of time.
A little side note: The day I was travelling was expected to be one of the busiest of the year at Oslo airport, so the airport advised people to arrive earlier than normal. I had completely forgotten about my Silver perks, so I arrived almost three hours before the scheduled departure.
Turned out that was a complete waste of my time, especially I had no lounge access either through Finnair or my newly acquired Priority Pass. Fortunately the new terminal at OSL is as comfortable to wait in as ever.
The first flight
The flight to Helsinki was around 25 minutes delayed, which the captain had no explanation for. He just noted that they arrived at OSL on time, and that the delay happened because of something in the turnaround process. The flight itself was about as plain as they get, with old fabric seats in an equally old Airbus A319. At least they serve a beverage.
The trek from the arrival gate through passport control and to the departure gate was a breeze, especially since I can use the automated gates with my Norwegian passport. Asian passports had to use a pretty long line for the manual gates.
The flight from Helsinki was also somewhat delayed, with boarding starting around the time we were first scheduled to depart. I had luckily logged onto the Finnair web check-in beforehand, as the system had placed me in a middle middle seat in the 3-3-3 configuration. Needless to say, I changed to an aisle seat on the left of the middle section.
The A350 and the seat
The first impression when you step into the A350 is that is an extremely bright an airy aircraft, even in the economy cabin, thanks to its large windows and northern lights-like lighting features. I think this is something I appreciated even more now that the awe of flying business class for the first time was not a factor.
The Finnair seats are fairly standard 18-inch wide economy seats with a pitch of 31 inches. The folding table is a very efficient use of the space, however, which makes it possible to fit both the IFE screen, the magazine pouch and the table without spending any legroom. This makes your personal space feel a little larger than in some older seats.
Be aware that the left middle seats have a little box, presumably for the entertainment system, underneath the seat in front, which reduces the legroom slightly. It might be a better choice to choose the right middle seat, especially if you’re travelling with a carry-on that needs to be stowed under the seat in front.
In the seat I found a pillow, a blanket and a pair of cheap in-ear headphones, not very different from the ones on SAS the other day. The staff announced that there were some seats available in Economy Comfort for a fee of 85 euros, but when a few passengers close to my seat inquired, it turned out that only middle seats were free, so they declined.
There’s wifi onboard Finnair’s A350, which is free for one hour for Business class passengers and Finnair’s Platinum tier members. Access for the full flight otherwise costs 20 euros, which isn’t a horrible price, but still enough for me not to pay.
The flight and meal service
After a little while we were in the air, around half an hour delayed. Once again the captain had no explanation for the delay. Nevertheless, my love for the A350 continued as we rose towards the clouds, as it is noticeably quieter than a lot of other longhaul aircraft I have been on before, at least from my seat in the rear economy cabin.
The IFE screen is almost as big as it can be for this seat pitch, and I really like the home screen displaying the different stages of the flight, including what will be served for dinner and breakfast. The screens have very responsive touch controls, a USB port for charging and in general seem like state of the art at the moment.
Our screen indicated a flight time of around 9 hours and 40 minutes, and a little over an hour into the flight, the first meal service started. The choices were the very generic-sounding “Minced beef with cabbage” and “Chicken with mashed potatoes”. I went for the latter, and seemingly so did the majority of the other passengers.
Dinner was served with your choice of beverages, including beer and red, white and sparkling wine. This is more generous than on SAS, for example, which only offers complementary non-alcoholic beverages in Economy, and only with meals.
The meal itself was relatively ordinary economy fare, with some almost non-recognizable vegetables in the corner and mashed potatoes that looked more like sweet potato than regular potatoes. It was seasoned alright, however, and so tasted fine. The meal was served with cold bread, butter, some tasty salty cheese and crackers, a bag of chips and a Karl Fazer chocolate bar.
It also came with a little bag of Tic-Tacs, which I found to be a nice touch. Along with the meal I had a glass of fairly standard white wine and a Sprite, and the crew also came around with refills for the wine before they cleared away the meal.
After that I was almost ready to go to sleep, but it still took a good few hours before the crew dimmed the lights and the IFE indicated that it was time for rest. During that time they came through the cabin with their duty free trolleys, and I took the time to watch «Incredible Beasts and Where to Find Them» on the IFE. I lasted around one hour before I had had enough.
When rest time finally came, I put on my eye mask and earplugs, but the same guys that inquired about the Economy Comfort upgrade kept talking so loudly I got nowhere near falling asleep.
It almost got to the point that I asked the flight attendant to ask them to keep it down, but I think other passengers subtly hinted at them at some point. In the end I drifted in and out of sleep for what seemed like four or five hours, but I don’t think I slept more than an hour and a half in total.
At that time, the crew had activated the slow sunrise mode of the cabin lights, and after a while they served breakfast along with coffee or tea. As with dinner, passengers were asked to raise their seatback so that the passengers behind them had room to eat.
The breakfast consisted of an omelette with cream cheese, spinach, some tomato salsa and roasted potatoes, yoghurt, orange juice and a strange pastry that didn’t taste much. It was a perfectly decent meal, with which I had the Finnair signature blueberry juice drink. It’s a little too sweet for my taste, but still refreshing.
Service on the flight was prompt and attentive, even though meal services take very long to reach the rear economy cabin. The staff, mostly Finns, performed their jobs well, seemingly always with a smile. They have a little computer on hand which tells them the status tier levels of all the passengers, which caused them to automatically recognize my Silver status with a 10 per cent discount when I purchased something from the duty free selection. A nice touch.
The descent towards Suvarnabhumi was uneventful, and we landed around 07.40 AM local time, 25 minutes after our scheduled arrival time. This was somewhat rectified by a very swift passport control, along with the Priority tag on my luggage causing my bag to wait for me at the conveyor belt.
Finnair delivered a decent business class product for my last trip to Bangkok, so I had fairly high expectations for the economy product as well. I wasn’t disappointed.
The A350 is a very comfortable carriage even for such a long flight, but Finnair could definitely make improvements to their soft product – the food doesn’t exactly earn high marks, for example.
All kinds of travel rates Finnair Economy class Helsinki-Bangkok: 4 out of 5
I liked: The A350 is airy, quiet and comfortable, smart seat construction, alcoholic drinks included with the meal, fairly large IFE screen, friendly service
I disliked: Unexplained delays, average food, fairly long into the flight before cabin lights are dimmed, no regular power outlets