This may not be the most glamorous exclusivity on this website, but this is the first report on a HEL-KIX flight, in any class of travel. The report of the previous flight was the first one in English on the CDG-HEL route, an even less glamorous exclusivity, and it ended with the call just before boarding this flight.
In my comparison between AF and AY (among other options), I had included a modest 6 EUR supplement each for choosing our seats in this A330. Nine months in advance, there was ample choice.
One of clinching factors was precisely the 2-4-2 configuration of Finnair’s A330, to be compared with the sardine packing 3-4-3 layout of an AF 777, and therefore a duo seat for us, with an aisle seat for my wife who wants to be able to move around, next to a window seat for the window addict that I am, especially when flying over land.
An apple green cushion and a fleece blanket were on each seat; the window was correctly aligned at our row.
Space in the overhead bins was not going to be a problem for us because our carry-on luggage was limited to two small daypacks which would fit under the seats in front of us.
The carpet was clean under the seats and in the aisle too.
Bad news : there was an IFE box at my feet. Good news : the miniaturization of electronics reached this aircraft, which resulted in a slim box Bad news : the programs turned out to be even slimmer than this box.
The IFE has a touch screen, but you had to touch it hard to convince it to react
The remote control was in the armrest, mercifully protected by a cover.
The seat pitch was paradoxically less generous than in the A320 of the CDG-HEL flight.
Removing the magazines recovered only 3 cm additional space for the legs, resulting in still 5 cm less than in the A320.
The plastic wrapping forgotten in the bottom of the seat pocket would not change anything in that matter.
The seat width was not very generous either.
The armrest (photographed here when deplaning) does not fold up any further than that, which is a little bit of nuisance for moving around. It seems to me that it could have been easily designed so that it could be flush with the seat (like in AF’s A32x, for instance.
The ventilation grilles could be closed, unlike other aircraft where ice-cold air sometimes pours on hapless passengers.
My wife always finds it somewhat disparaging that a woman should be one-legged, or conversely that decency mandates that she keeps her legs tightly together.
The safety card, both sides
Standard meals are offered on long haul flights, on the contrary of European flights, so only the right hand side of this BOB menu was applicable.
But not the restriction in small type, for a dozen of destinations which do not include KIX.
Not only it was already night in HEL, but it was raining, which meant that plane spotting would be limited.
The JAL 787 pushed back before us
Our turn to push back, and this is my excuse for the absence of planes spotting while taxiing
Safety demonstration on the IFE screens
The interchange between Expressways E75 and E18, the latter being completely hidden by the wing. In a different season, and therefore in daytime, we would have had a perfect view of Helsinki Malmi Airport, far right of Expressway E75. I hardly saw anything more of Finland because the cloud ceiling was very low.
The IFE screen on the partition ahead of the second Economy cabin displays the moving map.
I don’t quite see the point in providing the time in the time zone of the current location of the plane, but why not.
Winglet in the night
Finnair corporate advertising for its business class
Distribution of a small oshibori
It was already too late for this woman who had already crashed to sleep
The music offering is skeletal : it fits in hardly more than two screens
No kidding, not even one classical music recording? Sibelius must be turning over in his grave.
I did not try these headphones:
They were to be connected there:
The meal was served this way, with lots of smiles (like in all interactions with the passengers)
This was the whole set after unwrapping.
Meatballs with cream sauce : not much of a change from Sweden for me.
The appetizer (蕎麦 soba) was conversely typically Japanese.
The seasoning came from there.
I reached my limits there because Finnish is much more difficult than Japanese, IMO. There was something about lactose on the right, but only after this flight did my friend Google Translate tell me that it meant “without lactose”.
The cup on the right was in fact a highly tasteless variety of processed cheese. Finland’s dairy industry lost an opportunity to score a point there.
My wife often chooses a hot dish different from mine, so that we can exchange them if one is unpalatable to one of us, but acceptable to the other, which was the case this time.
The Marathons are « very black » chocolate lovers : this white chocolate had not chance of winning Finnair a bonus point.
All this was edible, in sufficient quantity, but also very disappointing from the taste point of view (apart from the soba, but that is part of my Japanese culture). In particular, my wife did not like the beef with rice and I found the meatball with mashed potatoes especially tasteless. In short, I was not convinced by the future of some Finnish children in a career in an air catering company.
I drank apple juice (and later coffee) with that.
To the health of my readers !
The last step in the game was to compact the rubbish. To make things more interesting, I added the hot meal plate of my wife, which was a different type and did not stack well with the other one.
That was an easy challenge though, and this was the result:
All these compacted wrappings fit in the seat pocket without messing it.
The seats did not recline a lot, but nevertheless to much if you try to use your laptop behind a reclined seat. It was time to take some rest, anyway.
The situation degraded much later into the flight, and the conversation with a FA in the galley kept circling in my mind :
The cabin is new, but it is an old aircraft. I was against leaving so quickly after the hydraulic piping was repaired; I don’t know if it will hold.
And now, there we were in a continuously swerving and bouncing aircraft in the descent. The engine power kept changing: it was obvious that the pilots had lost the rudder and were struggling to control the trajectory with the differential power of the engines.
The FA whispered to me during the cabin check before landing : In a situation like this, it’s everybody… or nobody But I had no doubt: I would survive to post THE flight report of my career.
There was complete silence in the cabin – a tribute to the amazing Japanese composure when the situation seems hopeless.
And then the edge of a forest appeared: the plane swerved once more and just made it above the tree line, and there appeared (“like in a fairy tale”, my wife whispered) the grass of a clearing, or rather the edge of an airport. But the landing gear hadn’t dropped: the pilots were going for a belly landing! I fumbled to reach my camera – how could I not already have it in hand in such a situation? I laid my hand on my spare camera, switched it on, but in this kind of circumstance, you can push the wrong button and I switched it off by mistake. It was already too late for the picture of the edge of the forest but I was already thinking about the title picture of my Flight Report : the half destroyed aircraft on the ground, shot full frame.
And then, suddenly, the engine rpm returned to normal, and in the dark and silent cabin, I told the story of my nightmare to my wife who concluded:
Still, you must be slightly disappointed to not be able to tell such an adventure… ;-)
Well, I just told it! But exactly three hours of sleep were not many, because we were only there into the flight (my wife went back to sleep).
The unacceptable shortcoming of the moving map program was that it cycled between several presentations of the information, some that I did not like at all, like this one where the position of the plane is completely masked by the time and distance data, without any option to select a specific view.
The program also cycled between three languages (Finnish, English, Japanese), and I suspect that many non-Japanese passengers had a hard time with that latter language.
I was lucky there : the plane did not hide it, but not everybody on board could read ウランバートル (Ulaanbaatar)
Only when this damn information widow disappears could I discover that we were flying not very far fromイルクーツク, you understood Irkutsk, of course.
The fake cockpit instruments presentation is great for vintage aviation geeks, but very irritating when you see a city (in daytime) and can’t localize yourself immediately on the moving map.
The designer of this program must have been proud to have modeled the A330 from all axes, but once you’ve seen it once or twice, it is nothing but a sequence which masks the useful information without providing anything extra.
You probably understood that it did not take much time after departing from ヘルシンキ (Helsinki, of course) for this moving map to disappoint me a lot, much like my wife was very disappointed by the skeletal audio and video offering.
I took advantage of my wife going to the toilet to go to the rear of the aircraft.
The offering in the rear galley was limited to water, fruit juice,
… and a few soft drink cans .
I asked and obtained without any difficulty some coffee.
Food was limited to a basket of sweet and salty cookies, and milk chocolate sweets : the bare minimum for a legacy airline.
Since I was there, I could have a look at the toilets.
Chinese and English are in that order the two most used languages in the world. As a bonus, the Japanese can understand the general meaning of a text written in Chinese (whereas the reverse is not true). Not only is Finnish in the bottom of the ranking of national languages in terms of number of speakers worldwide, but the Finns like all Nordic people are usually fluent in English: Finnair does not even bother translating the signage in the cabin into its official language. How many legacy airlines in the world do the same?
What should be deducted from the fact that the recommendation to throw toilet paper only and flush the toilet after use appears in Chinese only?
No matter which language is used to write it, the toilets of this plane are spotless ; I expected no less of the passengers of a HEL-KIX flight.
Finnair is one of many airlines who believe that baby care is for women only.
This frame on the wall, rear right, contained a laminated checklist in case of emergency.
This was what the FAs would have done had my nightmare been for real.
Side view of the galley, so that FAs are out of the frame on the left.
Back to the dark cabin. Note by the way that Finnair’s FAs do not have the passengers lower the window shades during a night flight, unlike Korean Air FAs who mandate that window shades be lowered during a day flight (I’ll never forgive KE for that obnoxious rule).
Daylight appeared progressively, but at a brisk pace because we were now heading south-east.
The earlier rays of sun lit the lower parts of the wing
… and then the winglet only.
There could have been a fuel dump nozzle here, but few A330s have one, unlike the A340s.
The winglet with the simple Finnair logo
Some snow on the relief in an otherwise shapeless landscape.
When the passenger ahead of me reclined his seat…
… using my laptop was becoming really inconvenient.
Winglet at dawn
The planes I spotted in the Chinese airspace were too far to be identifiable.
The passenger in front straightened his seat back : it suddenly became much easier to continue typing my FR.
We were there into the flight.
You would not expect to be able to spot Beijing !
But did you identify the landmark here, full frame ?
No ? Small wonder : it took me extensive image processing to obtain PEK as seen from 30,000 feet, including a few thousands of feet of air pollution, especially in winter when the Chinese use low quality coal to heat their homes on top of that used in the power stations.
How about here? Any better?
Image processing reveals the Beijing Tongxian air base
The flight continued on charming Chinese countryside
… powered by charming power station burning high sulfur coal.
Light was switched on again in the cabin.
Flying around Tianjin
… but we only knew it from time to time because the stupid airmap program kept superimposing tourist pictures, like here Beijing’s Temple of Heaven, masking the position of the plane. It was all the more frustrating that the pictures were sometimes completely unrelated with the plane’s current location : we had the same pictures on the way back without entering the Chinese airspace at all.
The breakfast was served like this.
The same after unwrapping
I guess there is no need to describe in detail ? The omelet – small sausage – vegetables combination is the workhorse of a long haul Economy breakfast.
This was the detailed description of these 165 grams of food.
Yoghurt and orange juice : I made tremendous progress in Finnish during this flight.
I owe to OH-LWE (thanks !) to know that this was a "Karjalanpiiras," a Finnish rice pastry composed of a rye crust with a filling of rice (more details on Wikipedia here). I was not impressed (maybe the airline variety is not true to the real thing) and my wife abstained.
Skimmed milk with non-dairy fat of unspecified nature.
All this was easy to compact
… wrap up…
… and store cleanly in the sat pocket before the FAs came to collect it.
Meanwhile, we had reached the Korean peninsula, without seeing ICN which was under the cloud cover. Seoul and its airport were to the left of the aircraft, anyway.
The weather cleared up progressively.
I did not know where we were – again this poorly designed airmap – but I liked this scenery
Plumes of power stations : they are less beautiful, but maybe will a specialist of South Korea identify them ?
The cloud cover cleared up completely
More power stations
We left South Korea there
A view of the coast, without any image processing, to appreciate the difference of air clarity compared to the surroundings of PEK.
I enhanced the contrast here to highlight an interesting infrastructure on the coast.
This was Uljin Airport (UJA) which has been built without any serious market research and that no airline has accepted to serve, so that it remained unfinished since 2005,
Arrival on the Japanese coast, on the Sea of Japan side
There would be nothing to see while crossing through Honshū Island: the clouds kept clinging to the mountains.
We were on the wrong side for seeing the Naruto 鳴門 Straits, and possibly its famous whirlpools seen from this flight , this is the strait between Shikoku 四国 and Ōge 大毛 Island, the latter being the real south shore of the Naruto Straits.
Strictly speaking, this part of Naruto City is not the East end of Shikoku Island, but a smaller island separated from Shikoku by a sea channel.
Backlighting of clouds and could shadows
Small Nu Island 沼島, south of Awaji Island 淡路島 which is has the north short of the Naruto Straits
Jinoshima Island 地島 in the foreground
From the trajectory of the aircraft, we would be landing Runway 06L or 06R
Apparition of Runway 06R : touchdown was imminent
An Asiana Airlines A330-300 in backlighting conditions.
A Peach Aviation A320 (the only type of aircraft in the fleet of this LCC : this helps identifying them ;)
Arrival of a Jetstar A320
There she is on the ground
The weather was nice, but the right hand side of the aircraft was the wrong one for plane spotting during taxiing. All I could take was in the freight area this DL A300
A cargo China Airlines747
She was hiding three other freighters ; I did not even determine to which airline the last one belonged.
Malaysia Airlines A330
The road and railway bridge which is the only link to KIX on the ground.
The Japanese are avid users of bicycles for local travel and have been furious to discover too late that no bicycle lane had been included in the design of this bridge, when it would have been so easy to have one. (This sign was in the luggage delivery room, obviously for foreign cyclists who believed they could ride their bicycle directly from the airport).
Only in my nightmares have I ever seen this kind of equipment in action.
Arrival in the vicinity of the gate : an ANA 767 pushes back next to an Eva Air A330 at her gate.
Last turn alongside a Thai Airways777
Deplaning going through the second Business cabin : window seat
And central seats
I could not take a better picture of the aircraft
… but at least, I had the confirmation of her model
The ANA 767 left
The Thai Airways 777. The jetbridges have escaped to the well-known Hong-Kong bank’s advertising.
The terminal is so long that using a people mover is mandatory for reaching the arrivals area. The problem was not this short ride, but the endlessly snaking waiting line. Like in amusement parks, we could see only half of it initially. The only good thing was that it eventually reached a large number of active counters where each transaction was fast. This meant that the lien kept moving continuously, which was psychologically a lot more tolerable than waiting motionless. My wife also had the bad luck of being eventually in a “bad line”, behind a passenger who took more time than others to be processed. The time stamping of my pictures was less severe than my memory: 25 minutes elapsed between this picture and the next one, which means that the waiting time at the immigration, once the people mover ride was deducted, was hardly more than 20 minutes. I felt that it was much longer than that.
Does the communication try to force a decision here? Unlike what is implied in English and much more explicitly stated in Japanese and Chinese, nothing proves so far that Ōsaka will host the Expo 2025 : the decision is scheduled to be taken only in November 2018. As of flying (and posting this report too), Ōsaka was a candidate city only, and I discovered when writing this that Paris was also a candidate (there has been a lot of communication about the Paris’ bid for the 2024 Olympics, but I have seen nothing so far on this Expo).
We waited for a sufficiently long time at immigration, or rather the luggage handlers of KIX have been sufficiently efficient…
… for our luggage to be already there, neatly ordered by airport staff.
While my wife checked the toilets which were clean…
… I expected to be able to share with a passenger who had seen it before me this power port behind a fire extinguisher (I had a multi-socket adapter).
This socket was unfortunately of a type incompatible with Type A and Type B plugs in use in Japan. Much later, I found that this socket was similar, but not identical to the already exotic Panasonic WKS294 plug, unlikely to be found outside Japan. This alien socket had obviously been selected for installation here so that travelers can’t use it. No way to recharge my laptop which was becoming somewhat hungry – only during the flight back from KIX did I discover that there was a power port hidden under our seats.
Arrival landside : there is here an ample choice of data SIM cards,
… but not voice SIM cards, and the flyer for one of the data SIM cards specifies that it is not compatible with telephonic applications. The reason is that a Japanese law enacted in 2006 prohibits the delivery of a voice SIM card to a non-resident foreigner, or a foreigner having less than six months of residency status. A friend told me some years ago that it had been one of the biggest administrative hurdles after landing in Japan. On the other hand, you can rent phones, but both the daily rate and the communications are expensive. (English edition update : I recently discovered two Japanese operators providing a data+voice SIM cards, one significantly more expensive than the other. I do not know the legal technicalities that they use)
Plain electric power is much less sensitive, but nevertheless hard to find. If you have a starving electronic appliance upon arrival landside in KIX, remember what follows. Go upstairs.
Pass along this Starflyer counter decorated with this model of one of their A320s
… and go right all the way to the end, in the direction of this Family Mart convenience store.
Once there, turn left beyond the Jetstar counter: there is at the far end a Post Office counter open every day (from where we sent bulky but not fragile presents to Japanese friends for a few hundred yen)
To the right, there are two ATMs, which like all ATMs of the Japanese Post Office and of 7-Eleven convenience stores are compatible with foreign bank cards (unlike the ATMs of Japanese banks)
And at the bottom of the wall on the right, not only next to the ATMs, there are powered Type B power ports which are waiting for you.
A last glimpse of air transport with tails of China Airlines (Taiwan), T’way Airlines (South Korea) and Juneyao Airlines (China), from left to right.
A nice architecture for the building of the rail station facing the terminal. There was this time very little waiting to obtain our regional train passes (there is a modest 1,000 JPY reduction if you order them on line ahead of time, but you pay for them upon arrival, unlike the national JR Pass which is much more expensive if you did not buy abroad ahead of time)
This was the end of this trip which had taken marginally more time than a direct flight because the connection in HEL was short and the detour negligible.
I now propose you two bonuses, like in the preceding report ; the first one is typically aviation geek, with some plane spotting in Ōsaka.
Bonus : Click here to displayhide
The castle of Fukuoka (whose foundations only remain) was an ideal tourist pretense for some urban plan spotting, but the castle of Ōsaka (whose dungeon was reconstructed in concrete in 1928, and restored after WWII) was good too.
This Ibex Airlines CRJ-700 was much more visible in reality than on the preceding picture
Let’s start with legacy airlines: JAL738
This 777 reminded me that JAL is part of OneWorld
I saw many aircraft of J-Air (a subsidiary of Japan Airlines), like for instance this E-190
Another J-Air E-190 in Universal Studios livery already seen in Fukuoka (see the bonus of the report of the previous flight)
Dash 8-400 of Japan Air Commuter, another JAL subsidiary
Let’s continue with ANA which has understood the interest of being didactic and of writing in HUGE font for customers unable to recognize a logo or a plane model.
The elegant flexion of the wings of a twin of the one above
I saved the best (i.e. unusual, not best image quality) for last : this brand new ATR42-600 is the only aircraft of Amakusa Airlines, a confidential airline based in the homonymous island in the vicinity of Nagasaki. Amakusa has the peculiarity of being the fastest depopulating rural circumscription in Japan, with around 80,000 inhabitants today, but maybe no enough to fill this aircraft in the long term.
Due to the rise of the life expectancy, an ever decreasing birth rate and to a negligible immigration, Japan as a whole started losing population since 2008 : if the current data were extrapolated, there would be only 3,000 Japanese in the year 3000. Will the last Japanese please switch off the lights before leaving Ōsaka?
Panorama from the Umeda Sky Building, just after nightfall
The conclusion of the preceding bonus provides me a transition to the next bonus which is much more “Traditional Japan” oriented: even though generational renewal is not reached, there are still babies in Japan.
Bonus : Click here to displayhide
Our friends Yoshio and Setsuko have our age, that of being grandparents, which they are. It was not pure chance that they suggested that we visit them that Sunday: their latest grandchild was just 100 days old, the age for a traditional ceremony in the Shintō shrines. Setsuko had drawn with her red lipstick the character 大 (“large”) on the baby’s forehead to protect him from evil spirits. (It would have been 小 = "small" for a girl : ancient traditions are seldom feminist).
Mrs. Marathon was holding here the kimono in which the baby would be wrapped : it was an heirloom which had been used for his own father, like christening garments which passed from generation to generation.
The sex of the baby matters there too : the kimono for a boy has blue overtones, versus red for a girl, like here in a department store in Kyōto.
The priest welcomed the families, then called the spirits using an accelerating rhythm on this drum that we have heard many times in Shinto shrines. I found him very friendly, of the benevolent grandfather kind, warning the children this way: “it’s going to be a little bit noisy, don’t be afraid”.
The priest blessed the participants with his wand to which hundreds of streamers of paper cut in zigzag are attached, making a rustling noise, then in long psalmody read the wishes for the children. I did not catch much of it, only that the hope that the baby would have good teeth, and that the small girl seated here on the lap of her father would enter university.
The ceremony lasted around a quarter of an hour and then the families left the inside of the shrine where the general public can enter only in such circumstances : it was for us a unique opportunity to participate to what we had only seen from a distance so far.
Back home, the table was covered with delicious dishes which had been prepared by all present (including the author of this report !)
Well, maybe not delicious for all, because unlike half of the Japanese population, everybody in this family likes nattō 納豆, and half of the maki contained nattō. Nattō is to Japan what surströmming is to Sweden : a staple of fermented food (soybean, here) which can be challenging to a newbie. I am still a long way towards making either one of my favorite dishes.
There was a special set that day on the table. The bream (a luxury dish in ancient times) in the foreground was normal size, but all the dishes behind were miniature. There was a small white stone in the dish lower right.
This hundred day celebration is called the Okuizome お食い初め, literally the "first meal” of the baby. The tradition is to offer the baby some of each of these items of food (that he does not eat; they are only briefly put on his lips), and also the white stone so that he get good teeth. (The baby did not seem the least motivated by the idea of eating, but he did not cry either.)
You must be kin or friend to participate to an okoizume, but on the other hand anybody can enjoy the Shichi-go-san 七五三 (literally "seven – five – three"), i.e. the celebration of girls aged 7 and 3 and of boys aged 5,who are taken in full traditional attire to the local Shintō shrine for a similar ceremony, possibly together with an okoizume blessing, and also for taking pictures of all participants at great lengths.
There was even a small platform here for Shichi-go-san (written in white characters of a red background) pictures taking.
The women also often wear a kimono : a boon for amateurs of “traditional Japanese pictures”. Shichi-go-san is supposed to be on 15th November, but the families often celebrate it the next week-end, until to the end of November.
The second half of November is also the time momiji 紅葉 (fall colors) in Kansai, and there again, this was an ideal opportunity for young women to wear their kimono (or rent one, because a beautiful kimono costs a small fortune : expect to pay between 3,000 to 6,000 EUR). It was crowded at the Eikan-dō 永観堂 (one of the most famous temples in Kyōto for momiji viewing). Note between these two women a man also wearing a kimono, with much more subdued colors than the ones worn by women.
… much like at the Nanzen-ji (南禅寺, written in old characters behind these two women)
Why do you think we chose this time of the year for going to Japan this year ?
Thanks for reading me!
Helsinki - HEL
Osaka - KIX
The evaluation of this CDG-HEL-KIX trip is mixed, but nevertheless definitely positive. Let’s consider the long haul flight first.
The seats are somewhat narrow and the seat pitch is not generous, but the 2-4-3 diagram provides seat duos to couples at a very limited cost. It doesn’t look like much, but a 3-4-3 diagram is a guarantee that one of the two passengers is disadvantaged, or that they are separated by another traveler in the middle seat (the middle seat neutralization gamble is uncommon and succeeds at best every other flight). The IFE is technically obsolete and its program is ridiculously limited. I was annoyed by the non-interactive moving map program, and my wife by the few audio and videos channels – and on the way back by the ergonomic limitations of the game due to the poor sensitivity of the touch screen.
Finnair’s long haul catering meets the specs, which means it does not exceed the minimum requirements. The only criterion where Finnair was significantly above average is that of the FAs who were consistently in the top range in terms of pleasant and credible smiles, and who all spoke good English.
Finnair and HEL cannot live off their domestic market or on regional connections: the impressive row of manual and automatic passport checking gates at the Schengen / Non Schengen border shows that the focus is on facilitating transits. There is much walking though : you can’t loaf around or spend time shopping in the terminals between flights (or else very quickly, if you know precisely what you want to buy and where). There was a dearth of power ports in the vicinity of the boarding gate, but I saw in the return flight that there was at seat power.
The line at the immigration in KIX seemed excessive, but it moved quickly. Once the actual time spent was checked, it was acceptable and better, the luggage handlers had been fast. Useable power sockets are hard to find in KIX (or maybe I do not know this airport well yet). The railway link is efficient, which is no surprise in one of the most rail friendly countries in the world.
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