08:00 isn't my favourite time to fly but my return trip from HEL to LHR was something quite out of the ordinary, and totally worth the rude awakening. For quite a while now Finnair has used a mixture of A330-300s, A340-300s and A350-900s on several of its weekly departures to London. While the assumption is that this is for cargo capacity these flights are often overbooked, most likely reflecting the success of Helsinki as a transit hub for flights from Asia.
I have flown on Finnair's A350 several times now and it is an incredible aircraft but this time I was happy to giving the A340 a whirl, especially as their days are numbered at Finnair. I flew business class, on which Finnair has a modern staggered layout also utilised by many other airlines. The seat is notably different to Finnair's A350, which has a reverse herringbone layout.
I got to the airport at about 06:30, not leaving me a huge amount of time to enjoy the lounge. As a status holder for One World I had access to the Finnair Premium Lounge in the non-Schengen part of the terminal. I have visited this lounge many times and it is very impressive. There is a buffet, which at the time I was there was serving your standard hotel type breakfast. There is also a choice of champagne, wines, beers and soft drinks to choose from and they have a very good quality coffee machine.
As a priority passenger I got to the gate (Gate 34) about 5 minutes before boarding. I'm not sure whether it's because of the time but people weren't forming the usual queues to get on the aircraft. As such, I ended up being the first on the plane which was nice! Finnair always make boarding such an easy process with dedicated lanes and enough staff to manage the volume of passengers. Chaos free… Amazing!
On boarding I quickly found my seat, which was 4L. On the right hand side of the aircraft the business class seats are in a single seat configuration whereas on the left side and middle they are staggered.
As this was a shorthaul flight no pre-flight drinks, vanity kits or pillows/blankets were handed out although a pillow was provided to me on request. We were pretty much just lucky enough to be on a longhaul plane!
Here is a video of us taking off from Helsinki:
Here is a video of us landing into London:
We took off from Helsinki-Vantaa airport's northern runway, 22R, taking a route westwards over the Turku archipelago, the Åland Islands and Denmark before crossing into the UK with a spectacular approach over Central London. Unusually we flew very close to hide park before making a further right turn to line up for runway 27L at LHR. Usually the line up happens quite a bit before, so lucky us for a slightly different angle!
The inflight service was the same as you find on other Finnair shorthaul flights and compared to most European airlines, most notably British Airways, the service was friendly and the food very nice! We were served drinks, and despite it being breakfast time I opted for a small bottle of champagne as well as a glass of orange juice. There was only one breakfast option on our flight, which was an omlette served on a bed of spinach with a tomato sauce. It was absolutely yummy and a welcome change to the awful tasting cooked options BA throw at you in Club Europe.
Throughout the flight the crew continued to come through the cabin offering refreshments, which was a really nice touch instead of hiding behind the curtain once the breakfast had been cleared up. Huge thumbs up to Finnair for their kind and attentive service throughtout!
As the flight was operated by a long-haul aircraft, we were treated to the AVOD inflight entertainment system the aircraft was equipped with. Despite the flight length, business class passengers were also offered noise cancelling headphones, which for 2.5 hour flight was a nice treat. The entertainment system is very good on Finnair with a wide selection of titles to choose from and the possibility to view the plane's forward and downward cameras. The only downside is that the TV series could do with being better categorised as it involved quite a lot of scrolling before I got to something I wanted to watch.
Heathrow Terminal 3 is not the nicest experience by any accounts although for this flight it was ok. We landed at the relatively new A380 pier right next to our arrival runway and as priority passengers were allowed to disembark first. Despite a relatively long walk to Passport Control there was no queue for UK/EU passport holders. The luggage arrived pretty quickly too despite me waiting at the wrong belt… Two flights from Helsinki arrived at the same time (BA and Finnair) and being blond I got confused. I was soon out and on the Heathrow Express taking me into Central London.
Finnair are one of my favourite European airlines. Their service levels far exceed those of their competitors with great crew, excellent food and very nice lounges at Helsinki. In addition, it was a real treat to get to fly on the A340-300, albeit for a short trip. The seats are comfortable and the entertainment extensive although I can't really compare it to a long-haul service so I'll reserve some judgement on that.
Finnair Premium Lounge
Helsinki - HEL
London - LHR
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