This time I'm flying Finnair during the Christmas holiday period. Usually from Europe to China/Japan I'd go with LX via ZRH or LH via FRA/MUC. However since AY had this really attractive fare (~1700 EUR r/t) from Prague, I thought I'd give them a try and also earn some tier points with BA. The idea of transiting through HEL during snowy times of the year was initially worrisome as I remember flying through the northeast US in February always ends up in long delays. However I later remembered that the Finns should be good at dealing with this and decided I'd stick to my plan. Overall, the flights were very on time and I'd say Finnair is an interesting and reasonable carrier for travel to Asia (more on that below).
So let's start from the beginning. My connecting flight from Prague was uneventful onboard the E190 shown below. For what it is worth, I really think Finnair should add some taped cabin announcements in Chinese/Korean on their Europe-HEL routes. There are so many clueless connecting passengers on these flights because no language help is given. If you are going to be in the business of ferrying Asian passengers via HEL you should probably prepare accordingly.
All airports in the EU/EEA/CH and the USA are considered clean by HEL authorities and therefore connecting passengers do not have to clear security again when making the transfer. This would be different on my way back from PEK as I had to clear security control in HEL before my connecting flight to DUS. I made it to the brand new Finnair lounge in no time.
The lounge does not look all that special from the outside. However it is indeed very nice.
The main sitting area has this very strange purple mood lighting, which I hate with quite a passion.
The food spread - note that they are all individually plated. I was in the Premium part of the lounge due to my BA silver status. I was shocked to learn that any OW status passenger in Y will also be allowed in this Premium section. In this sense it functions like a LH Senator Lounge or a SK Scandinavia Lounge. However, this premium section has so much better food than the regular section for J pax - I still don't really get the rationale behind this.
Since I spent most of my time on the last flight talking, I was quite hungry. I found the food selection to be of great quality.
More shots of the lounge with the ugly purple mood lighting.
News of the day: QR takes delivery of A350.
Departure board of the afternoon. A lot of flights to Asia leaving in the evening.
A boarding announcement was soon made for my flight to Beijing. I left the lounge and saw the two ads outside the gate. I think Finnair has been playing this HEL-Asia game very well thought I don't see much collaboration with oneworld aside from the BA/IB/AA JV and JAL's one single flight to HEL.
The gate area was crowded but not overwhelming. HEL can get crowded if the wide body flight is full but there's never too many of them at a time. Also for those who want to buy Rimowa luggage, there is a store after passport control at HEL that sells Topas at Germany retail price ex-24% VAT (around 460 EUR) - a very good deal given the EUR/USD rate right now.
I was soon onboard. I think all PEK/NRT/PVG/HKG flights now get the refurbished business class cabin, which is very nice - physically the same as those on Swiss and Austrian. I do like the light blue color tone of the cabin.
The cabin soon filled up and there were no empty seats. As I remember from check in that J cabin was mostly empty, I asked the cabin crew who offered me the pre-departure drink why the cabin filled up so suddenly. She told me that the flight was oversold in Y and also there was a group of late arriving connecting passengers to the PVG flight who missed their connections joining our flight to PEK. Business cabin passengers were predominantly Finns and Swedish - only three Asians including myself and I did not hear the CCs speak English to any of the passengers surrounding me.
As I took the beverage a menu card was distributed. Since it was Christmas eve I found this menu very time appropriate if not anything else.
We soon took off from HEL, heading east towards Russia.
One more picture of the same seat.
Dinner service started shortly after take-off. Based on others' trip reports on AY, the service provided on this flight seems to have been enhanced. This was confirmed by the Chinese cabin crew member on my return flight that AY was trying to match BA/LH in J offerings and therefore has revised some of their programs.
The three items platter is a Christmas special and not listed on the printed menu. I thought it was very good.
For the entree I had AY's reindeer special. The meat was all right but the potato had way too much cheese to my liking.
Cheese and dessert were served after dinner. I declined dessert but got an eclair with my tea.
After dinner the CCs walked down the cabin to collect breakfast order cards. I asked to not be woken up for breakfast since I was meeting friends for breakfast upon landing in Beijing.
And when I woke up I did indeed have missed breakfast. I woke up about an hour outside of PEK. I thought AY probably could offer some kind of to-go breakfast like BA does on their JFK-LCY flights since the PEK flight is pretty short.
A few morning shots outside the city. I was very lucky to have such clear skies.
Upon landing we taxied to Terminal 3. We passed by a LOT 788.
Parking by AY's Russian Oneworld partner - S7.
One last shot of the seat before disembarking.
Finnair Silver Wings Lounge
Helsinki - HEL
Beijing - PEK
Overall AY is a very reasonable carrier, especially at the the given J fare, for travel between east Asia and Europe. As their service becomes more refined I think it's probably going to be even better. HEL is a very pleasant airport to transit although the Finnish immigration did not like the idea of my Schengen visa being in an old passport. Since I was leaving and Frankfurt let me in there was not too much trouble - but it did take some convincing on my way back. The EU really should have a uniformed rule on visas in expired passports as the decision right now seems to be dependent upon the specific airport of entry (not even country of entry) and some embassies are unwilling to issue another visa if the applicant has a currently valid visa of the same category.
Upcoming flight report:
ZRH-JNB and two weeks in South Africa. JFK-LCY, LGW-ALG and tourist bonus in Algeria.
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