I had a very precise objective for the last holidays: not to spend them in Strasbourg. It may be a beautiful city, when all the students go back to their original regions to see their family, Strasbourg becomes totally boring. In addition, with all the Asian travels I've done in the past two years, I started to love traveling and discovering other countries and cultures.
I first thought about London, but I finally didn't chose this destination, because I will certainly study Aeronautics there for one year. I also thought about Greece. I always dreamed to see the world famous Skiathos airport, called The European SXM. But I finally chosee something better.
The last idea of my short list was finally the best one: Helsinki. To tell the truth, the main goal of this short travel was to take Finnair's A350, given the fact that I still regret my last QR flight when the schedulded A350 was changed in a much more usual Boeing 777 (DOH-FRA). As a great part of my holiday is allocated to work, my stay in Finland will be very short. Outbound flight on Oct 25th, return flight three days later. The A350 flight will then be the return flight, from Helsinki to Brussels. This flight was not originally to be operated by an A350. Indeed, the HEL-PVG should have been operated by the A350 since Oct 21st, as Finnair should have already received their second A350, Whiskey Bravo (Oneworld livery), at that time. Thanks to this delay, the European A350 tour continues to make some European Avgeeks happy.
I did not hesitate longer, and 262€ later, the FRA-HEL-BRU routing is booked.
About a week before departure, I received this awesome mail from Finnair:
It was a 89€ upgrade offer. A golden occasion to fly the A350 aboard Finnair's Business Class. I did not hesitate and as soon as I received this e-mail, I got my 89€ upgrade to Business Class. This will then be my very first Business Class flight. There is no best way to have a first Business Class flight!
Here is the very simple routing:
FRA-HEL, Airbus A319, Finnair, Economy, October 25th 2015, AY822. Soon
HEL-BRU, Airbus A350-900, Finnair, Business, October 21st 2015, AY811. Right here
I wanted to start with the most important. The FRA-HEL flight is boringly classical on a very usual A319, even if it will be the first FR on this route.
On-line check in is possible 36 hours prior depature. I choose the 8L seat which offer a gorgeous wing view, as Dantorp showed in one of its famous Youtube videos.
But first, here is a short Tourism Bonus. Even if the main goal of this stay was to take the A350 flight, it also gave me the opportunity to spend two days in Helinski. Helinski is a cold (-4°C during my stay, down to -25°C in winter) city but it is one of the most beautiful cities I visited so far. If I had 3 more days, I would probably have gone to the North to see the famous Aurora Borealis, in Rovianemi. There is a hotel there from which it is possible to see them. If you want to see it, the best chances are in September and October. But it is still a very aleatory phenomenon. In Rovianemi, the hotel proposes to wake you up in the case it happens.
Helsinki is a very pleasant city, with a reasonable size (only 600 000 inhabitants) and the cold temperatures did not prevent me from visiting a great part of it, even if two days is much too short.
The very beautiful orthodox Uspenski cathedral, built in 1868 with a very nice Byzantine and Slavic style. It is the most important Greek Orhodox church in Europe.
Another cathedrale. This one is Tuomiokirkko, a Lutherian cathedral, built on the Senate square by Carl Ludvig Engel. By day:
The same Tuomiokirkko cathedral, seen from Torni tower. It is a 14-floor tower built in 1928. It is free to access from 2pm from the Torni hotel, even for those who don't have a room in the hotel. The view is certainly the best view of Helsinki you can have. Vincent-TLS showed the same view in his HEL-BCN FR, the first Business Class FR about Finnair's A350: http://flight-report.com/fr/report-11895.html
Linnunlaulu, a beautiful promenade around Töölo bay, especially with those beautiful yellow and orange autumnal colors!
The Finnair Skywheel, which tastes a little like the end of my short stay in Finland:
How to go to HEL ?
Going to the airport is quite easy from the city. You can either take the train from the central Railway station to Lentoasema (the airport railways station), it costs 5€ and is 24/7, or the Finnair city bus which starts at 5 am and costs 6€30. It also departs from the Railway Station and serves both terminals in HEL. The Bus takes 25 to 30 minutes to reach HEL. The train is a little longer.
It is precisely 5:30 am and -4°C when I arrive at HEL airport, terminal 2.
I arrive directly in front of this big FIDS:
The flight is scheduled on time. As I checked in on line and as I only have carry on pieces of luggage, I go directly to the safety filters. There is no priority queue for Business Class passengers as announced on the boarding pass.
The filters are passed very rapidly, in only three minutes. The airport is not very bright, and not more modern.
It is hard not to see the lounge entry:
The welcoming is not very warm. No smile. I hardly heard a Good morning. It is 6 pm and there is no one inside. The lounge is not very large, and I don't really like its decoration and its design. I think it is like the terminal, not very birght, not enough sapcious and not really modern. It is a little narrow, and it will become narrower when it will be crowded an hour later.
There is much choice for breakfast. The offer is not wider than the one reported by Vincent-TLS. If you don't like eggs, cheese of ham at breakfast, this lounge is not for you. An alternative is also hardly proposed by some cereals.
The vegetables offer is not wider:
Here are the beverages, alcohols and soft drinks. An Orange juice will be enough for me this morning:
Here is my breakfast then:
At least, the wifi is totally free here, even if it is slow sometimes:
I verify that my flight is still schedulded with an A350, given my previous misadventure, even if I have no doubts. But one of the websites still shows an E190 for this flight…
Since my entry in this lounge, it has become much more crowded:
Near a private square, there is a screen that displays today's flights. Mine is still scheduled on time.
The Sun is raising up and I can now see some of the birds that slept in HEL. This lounge offers a nice view on the runways, allowing us to see some Long Haul flights arriving from Asia, such as an A330 and an A340, as well as a KLM 737-700 in front of us:
But the reflection on the glass doesn't help me to take photos:
There are some enjoyable relaxing areas in the lounge:
There are also some private areas with Macs to geek.
The toilets are small and narrow. At least they are clean.
5min before boarding, I'm heading to Gate 22. It takes 9min to reach the gate, as announced by the screen in the lounge. I have to walk to the end of the terminal:
A few meters further, the terminal has become much brighter and more friendly. The dark gray has now changed into a much more welcoming brown:
Here is the A350 that will bring me to BRU:
Oops, here it is. There is no suspense about its registration: it's OH-LWA.
If some of you still have doubts about whether it is an A350 or not:
Even if its size is of course much less impressive than the A380, it is still an event to fly a brand new airplane like the A350 espacially on such Short Haul routes. And thanks to this European tour, Finnair did a big advertising accross Europe. Finnair and Pekka Vauramo (its CEO) are very ambitious with their hub strategy between Europe and Asia. Indeed, they will replace their 7 A340 with not less than 19 A350s. It will help us open new routes in Asia and connect them to the whole Europe.
No priority queue for boarding nether. It's a Schengen flight and there is only one bridge. That's probably the explanation.
The welcoming is very warm by a very nice crew. Here is the gorgeous wing view, from seat 8L in the first and biggest Business Class cabin (there is a second Business Class cabin behind this one).
I will give more details about the seat later. The legroom is very enjoyable:
My two windows are very large, much larger than in the A330 for instance. They are probably less large than the 787 windows, and above all their opacity is not ajustable. But, as Marathon said in his comment on the French version of this FR, it's only a gadget, and the disadvantage of the adjustable opacity is that the crew can control it and darken for the entire flight (what is very usual on some airlines). They also don't have the electrical command that can be found on QR's A350 (see Denzee's FR: http://flight-report.com/fr/report-9107.html). On AY, it is the much more classical system we all know:
To finish the comparison with QR, QR's Business Class is at another level with their very elegant Wood decoration. On Finnair, it is much more sober, but it is still a very nice cabin.
Here is the connectivity. A 110V electric current is available:
As well as an USB plug, the seat control and the screen remote control. But it's not the most comfortable place for the seat control, as it is very close (probably too close) to the body.
The safety card, the magazine, the catalog are stowed is this location:
A record has been broken, the boarding is done in less than 10 minutes. Only one quarter of the Business Class seats are occupied, despite the 89€ upgrade offer. 5 min before the scheduled departure time, the defrost starts, what gives me enough time to present the IFE and its camera views:
It has a very enjoyable resolution and is very reactive. But its content is not available on this short-haul flight. By the way, 2h40 is certainly to short to start and finish some movies. Especially the Wolf of Wall Street (2 hours 59 min…).
Here are the two camera views, with a very good resolution. They are also proposed on the A380. Very enjoyable, especially for those who don't have a window seat:
Side arrangements, and the armrest:
The shelf is not really large and looks like an Economy cabin shelf. It is far smaller that what can be found in QR's A350s for example:
At 7:40 am, the defrost has be done and we are now able to push back:
The Rolls Royce Trent XWB start up with a nice kerosen smell. There is not any comparison possible with the Boeing 777-300ER GE90-115B or the 777-200LR -110B. We take off after a 5min taxi.
By the way, let me propose you a sound comparison between the 777 and the A350 engines, with exactly the same engine view. Both videos have been recorded with the same camera (Nikon D3100):
We climb toward FL410 in a very relaxing silence. Again, nothing comparable with the A380. But it is still far quieter than all the Boeing airplanes I've flown. I didn't fly the 787 yet, but it the A350 seems quieter than the 787, the feelings are almost unanimous on FR.
The wing is absolutely beautiful. The wingflex can't be compared with the 787, the 777 or even the A330, but it does not make it less beautiful:
The reading light:
The modern display shows that the seatbelts can now be unfastened:
With no central luggage compartments, the cabin looks very spacious. The blue mood lighting:
About the IFE now. It very reactive and has a very good resolution. The movies choice is very wide, as well as the series:
But there is temporarily no music nor games. I just can't get rid of the camera views:
About the crew, it is probably the Business Class effect. But it was the best crew I've ever had in flight, and when I read all the J FRs, I rarely find a crew that exceptional. As I was taking many photos, they probably guessed that I was doing a Flight Report, or more probably, it was due to the low cabin filling. But still, they were adorable, smiling, joking and in an excellent mood. One of them explained me how he loves photography when he saw my D3100, and added that he would like to add a bigger lens. That's why he was running through this cabin he said. He also told me about the delivery delays about the A350. Finnair was due to receive four A350s before the end of the year, but they will get three, in the better case. It also explains teh delay about the HEL-PVG route.
The adorable Cabin Responsible was flying for the first time in the A350 and told me how she was excited.
A very shot oshibori has been distributed:
I have enough time to explore the Geovision before the my second breakfast. It shows airspeed, and altitude like in the Cockpit in a very realstic way. It also proposes wing views and cockpit views. It is very modern, precise and detailed. Isn't it, Doge ?
Even better, very precised details are given about the origin and destination cities, with their history, transport information, practical information and tourism information as well. For Helsinki, the unmissable Tuomiokirkko cathedral:
All is going well:
Very discrete moon over the horizon:
Here is the breakfast, brought by hand, no trolley. But no menu neither. It is my second breakfast, but it's ok for me:
An Orange juice is brought later by my good friend, as well as the bread and a French Croissant:
Metal cultery, with the Finnair autograph:
Even if the presentation is not the best possible, especially given the shelf size, it was delicious. The… salmon omelette - quite usual in Finland - was excellent, as well as the vegetables.
After asking me if it was my very first time aboard an A350, my steward friend proposed me to toast to this occasion. He brought this bottle of champagne (Nicolas Feuillate).
I tried to make some original photographs, sometimes without success:
Better with the windows:
The mood-lighting did not change
Here are the toilets. Very clean, and modern. The water temperature adjustment is very similair to what can be found on the A380.
The mood-lighting has now turned blue and green. It has a taste of Aurora Borealis, that is a huge touristical attracction in Finland.
Let's talek about the seat now. In sitting position:
It is a very nice seat. Sober, but nice. I found it comfortable is this sitting position.
The mode can be changed into the bed position within about 30 seconds by maintaining the corresponding button pushed. My steward friend kindly lended me a pillow from the above compartment in order to try this mode:
My verdict: Even if this seat, which is the same on Vietnam Airlines 787-9 and A350 (see Travip report: http://flight-report.com/fr/report-12137.html), is comfortable for a Short-Haul or Medium-Haul flight, I think it could become tough or even uncomfortable for long night flights to Asia, espacially in bed mode and if you're tall. It's ok for me. But the legroom, which was awesome in sitting mode, is now tight for my feet (see below).
Your Flight-reporter, phorographed by the famous steward:
The view from the bed:
The safety card:
The vomitbag, with the Finnair autograph:
The Cabin Responsible proposes me to keep an on-board shopping catalog for the day I will come back to Finland, what I accept with pleasure.
We start our descent to Brussels 40minutes before the scheduled arrival time. I must not forget to photograph the gorgeous winglet, and the engine before sinking in the Belgian clouds:.
Here is the approach and landing video:
Shortly after a hard touchdown and an energetic braking, we arrive to our remote stand near our little neighbour, an A319. We are 5 min late.
The crew warmly told me It was really nice to meet you while leaving the airplane. One of them asked: Will you come back. I naturally answered Of course, I wanna see the Aurora Borealis one day. My friend then pointed the mood-lighting and said You already saw it in flight!!.
Remote stand means paxbus and an excellent opportunity to take outside photos of this beautiful bird before getting in the Cobus 2700. Last view of the Trent XWB engines:
And I not alone to take photos of the A350. Many passengers want to immortalize the event:
See you soon, I hope, A350:
Finnair Finnair Domestic Lounge
Helsinki - HEL
Brussels - BRU
To conclude, it was a very good Short-Haul/Medium-Haul flight on a very relaxing and quiet airplane (thanks to the less dry air also). But some points could be easily improved, this cabin has a great potential.
ABOUT THE AIRLINE:
Cabin comfort: It was my very first Business Class flight in my young Flight-Reporter life. So I could have been less rigourous, especially about the seat, given my lack of experience inside a J cabin. But I read many Flight Reports about Business Classes in general and then tried to be more objective. It's a very nice cabin, but the seat could be a little tough, and depending on how tall the passenger is, the legroom could be a little tight in the bed mode. In addition, the shelf size is similar to an Economy Class shelf.
Cabin crew: It was a TOP Cabin crew. I just can't put less than 10.
Catering: It is not a Long-Haul meal, so the quantity is not huge and could have been better. But it was still a very good breakfast, even if the shefl size limits theplateau size.
IFE: Very nice IFE, modern and reactive. Very wide movies and series choice, but not a single game or a single music track available on this flight. No hearphones also for this flight.
Punctuality: 5 min late at departure and arrival.
Quality and Comfort: I let 5, because it was my first lounge experience. It is also the maximum I could give.
Entertainment: The wifi was a little slow, but totally free. Some newspapers, including French newspapers were available.
Staff: This staff were not welcoming at all, and didn't give me the desire to come back.
Catering: Not much choice. My selection was good enough, but it could have been much better.
Nothing to add. Clean airport, but not really bright and I would even say antiquated.
Not better than Orly, for example.
Thanks a lot for reading me, Gilles.
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