Welcome to Helsinki Vantaa, the international gateway into Finland!
I left my LHR-HEL flight after its arrival and having time to kill, I opted to have a look at some of the parked up aircraft and a browse of the non-Schengen pier as I made my way to the passport check point so I could enter the Schengen Area for my domestic flight to Oulu, the next stop on this trip.
Some of the noticeable traffic in this part of the airport included a Japan Airlines Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner wearing the "ONEWORLD" Alliance livery and some various wide body Finnair Airbus jets, including this Airbus A330-300!
Despite everything going on after the last 24 months, most of the Airport's shops had reopened for everyone to invest some last minute spending before leaving the country. I even found a Christmas hut that was put up, whilst this might seem out of place for a British native, Christmas is a huge selling point for Finnish tourism as the Lapland region in the North is regarded as the "Home of Father Christmas".
Finally making my way to the passport control, I had a short wait (probably less than 10 minutes) to be seen to by a customs officer. I got asked a few questions about why I was visiting Finland, and I got stamped in and was on my way, into the Schengen/Domestic zone.
After looking around and not finding many aircraft parked up, as well as seeing the old check in area at Helsinki, which is now being turned into an airside area as Finnair has a new check in hub landside in the renovated area, I opted to go find a restaurant to enjoy a quick bite to eat. My reasoning for this was that the Finnair flight to OUL only offered a limited range from the in-flight service, so I thought I'd load here just in case it took me ages to get somewhere in Oulu city.
Sure enough, it didn't take long to find somewhere that was conveniently located, the Upper Floor Open restaurant.
My lunch was a Forrest Fruits cake with a white coffee and a Finnish beer known as KARHU, my flight would turn out to be leaving from the gate bellow the restaurant, so I could keep an eye on the boarding procedure and not be too far away, whilst also enjoying the amazing views of aircraft coming in and out of the Airport!
Once my flight arrived into Helsinki (it came in from Venice, Italy) parking up on Gate 29 right bellow the restaurant I was enjoying my lunch at, talk about convenient!
I wrapped up my lunch and paid the bill off whilst the passengers coming in from Venice exited the Airbus A319. The aircraft that was to operate the route would be Airbus A319 OH-LVK. Delivered new to Finnair in March 2004, it has flown for the airline ever since its introduction. Finnair acquired a fleet of Airbus A320 family (mainly A320/A319) in the late 1990's to mid 2000's to replace the aging McDonnell-Douglas DC-9 & MD-80 fleets they'd operated from 1971 to 2006. This is the third generation of short/medium jet airliner they've used as the airline also operated the French ancestor of the Airbus A320- the Sud Aviation Carravelle from 1960-1984.
Boarding commenced and as with most airlines with status levels, Finnair asked for Group 1 & anyone needing assistance, then Group 2 & Group 3 eventually got called. There were still a lot of passengers behind me that must have had a Group 4/5 boarding number as it was quite quiet getting on with my Priority group. There was a small wait at the door, but it didn't take long to get through and onto the A319.
I went toward the back of the cabin to find my Seat 17A. Something worth noting- on domestic flights, Finnair doesn't offer a business class product. British Airways did the same thing until 2017 when Alex Cruz took the helm. There is clearly a lot of demand on the Helsinki-Oulu route as its the busiest domestic route in Finland, I'm surprised they don't offer business class as it would improve the product for connecting passengers coming off long haul or European flights to keep some consistency, also I think plenty of business travellers or frequent flyers would contribute to a business class product here.
My seat gave me a great view of the surrounding scenery as well as a great view of the wing and its operations throughout the flight, similar to the seat I had on my earlier Airbus A321 flight. The 2004 built plane had the new seats like the A321- but unlike its bigger cousin, this aircraft still had operational IFE Screens show casing a moving map. This has been dying out on various aircraft and airlines in Europe- so I am glad to see some in action to this day.
The legroom sufficed for me personally, anyone who is over 6ft tall might have a complaint about the space. No inflight magazines were offered, but a QR code could link you to the Finnair search page in flight where you could find e-magazines and information for free. You would need to pay a fee for streaming social media and the general web.
It didn't take long for boarding to finish, the flight was quite full, but some empty seats remained. Once boarding was done and dusted officially we pushed back and taxied off to the runway for our departure. We didn't have a long taxi, despite going from the furthest runway from the Terminal, departing off Runway 22R.
The weather on this entire flight was pretty good. We had some heavy cloud cover in patches, but the overall weather was nice. A reflection of the heat wave that gripped Finland that week I showed up.
Our flight was effectively a straight run North towards the Artic Circle. Although not shown on the screen shot, we would eventually come into Oulu over the sea and coastline. The crew commenced the service and I took them up on a complimentary blueberry juice and paid the extra €2.50 (£2.10/$2.55) for a Green Tea. The airline does offer some snack items on its buy on board, but I opted to stick with a few drinks.
I opted to use the toilet, going to the facility at the back of the aircraft. I think there was two toilets at the rear of the plane and one at the front, which would be standard configuration if the plane was offering a business cabin, rather than all economy. It was quite clean, which I was pleased to see, some toilets I've been in have looked pretty gnarly at times.
Before we knew it, it was time for us to get ready for arrival into Oulu, Finland. Like a mentioned earlier, the crew came in from the sea and coast line, which provided some nice video footage as well as a few photos.
We made a swift arrival into Oulu Airport, basically the only operating aircraft at that time. A number of small general aviation aircraft were all parked up on an apron, which we passed by. After leaving the runway we taxied over to the Airport Terminal facility, and quickly parked up on stand.
Once the jet bridge was attached, the passengers started to exit the aircraft. I held back and opted to leave near the end, which I usually do if I'm seated near the back of the aircraft. It gave me a chance to grab some final photos of the Airbus A319 cabin, just in case I don't fly one again after this flight.
I left the aircraft and had a quick look about the tiny facility that is Oulu Airport, despite being the second busiest airport in Finland, it mainly lives off domestic flights to Helsinki with Finnair and Norwegian Air Shuttle. The departure board for the rest of that day and the following day reflected that.
Before I left to get a bus into the city centre (and find my hotel) I grabbed these photos around Oulu Airport, just to give you a look into the place. I'll provide some more information on the place in my next Flight Report!
Finnair- Good domestic flight product based on this experience, I think they could look into a business class product for this route. The inflight service was ideal for a 55 minute flight, with a nice touch from the complimentary juice & water offering.
Helsinki Airport- I had no issues on connecting flights here, the restaurant was really nice (though pricey) and it is easy to find your way around the Terminal facility airside. Nice to see the airport is mostly up and running and the sight of ongoing work is a sign of a positive future.