I chose Finnair for the trip from New York, NY to Bangkok, Thailand to take advantage of a low business-class airfare (just under $3,000 round trip) that translated into more than half of the number of American Airlines Elite Qualifying Dollars (EQDs) needed to retain my American Airlines Executive Platinum status in 2019.
In 2018 the EQD “spend” requirement for achieving or retaining Executive Platinum status was $12,000. (For 2019, American raised it to $15,000.) When flying a Oneworld partner and crediting the flight to an American Airlines frequent flyer account, American calculates EQD spend as a percentage of distance traveled. The percentage varies based on the airline and the fare basis of the ticket. A Finnair business-class ticket earns EQDs equal to 40% of the distance traveled.
Flight Number: Finnair Flight (AY)141
Origin: Helsinki, Finland
Destination: Bangkok, Thailand
Great Circle Distance: 4,916 miles
American Airlines EQD: 7,226 (round trip)
Scheduled Departure: 17:30
Scheduled Arrival: 07:15+1
Scheduled Flight Time: 9 hrs. and 45 mins.
Following the A330-300 business class flight from New York to Helsinki, I was eager to see the seat and service on the A350-900, Finnair’s flagship widebody and the latest addition to the fleet.
Flight 141 departed from Gate 55, which is a short walk from the non-schengen Finnair business-class lounge. At HEL, security is performed as passengers enter the gate area. I’m one who often arrives at the airport with little time to spare, so I like that process. Agents probably won’t close the aircraft door when a passenger is at the gate going through security. The drawback to performing security at the gate is no expedited security lane like TSAPre.
Boarding began at 17:00. The jet bridge designated for business class was backed up so I used the economy jet bridge to board at the second door. Vivica introduced herself at the boarding door and said she would be serving passengers in the aft business-class cabin. Pushback from the gate was at 17:45.
We taxied to Runway 22R (Two Two Right). Having confirmed with Vivica that I could use the swing-out video screen during takeoff and landing I took a few photos of the takeoff roll and initial climbout as we departed at 17:57.
I think taxi and takeoff is the best part of flying. Taxiing is an opportunity to check out airport operations and other aircraft and airlines from around the world as they land, takeoff, and move about. Then, when it is our turn, the captain pushes the thrust levers forward demanding maximum effort from the dual powerplants slung under the wings. Engines respond with a thundering roar that is palpable in the pit of the stomach. Adrenaline flows as the aircraft accelerates down the runway bouncing and rocking as it strains to transform from a lumbering bus into a sleek and graceful airship. After liftoff the captain completes the transformation and greatly reduces noise and vibration by stowing the gear and cleaning up the slats and flaps. Soon we are soaring smoothly above the clouds in the realm where modern jetliners thrive.
Here are photos courtesy of the A350 external cameras on the tail and under the fuselage.
Having landscape cameras on planes is great. Does anyone know why U. S. carriers refuse to install them? My best guess is it is related to potentially increased legal liability in the event of a crash.
Business Cabin And Seat
Finnair has two versions of the A350-900. This version has 46 lie-flat seats in two cabins. Seats are arranged 1-2-1 in a reverse herringbone fashion. The forward cabin has 32 seats in 8 rows. The aft business cabin has 14 seats in four rows (the first row has only two seats). All business-class seats have direct access to an aisle.
My seat was 11A, a window seat on the port side in the aft business cabin. Small cabins generally have less noise and commotion and seem more private.
The gray monochromatic color scheme was a little cold and antiseptic for my tastes. Finnair tried to spice things up with its colorful pillows, blankets and amenity kits.
SeatGuru states that the seats are 21 inches wide and have 78 -81 inches of pitch. These seats look and feel very much like the reverse herringbone seats on American Airlines and Cathay Pacific 777s that I’ve flown numerous times before.
Seat controls, video remote, power outlets and headphone connection are grouped together within easy reach at shoulder level.
The only secure storage is a small deep pocket next to the aisle and a holder for bottled water located under the console near the ottoman.
Finnair supplied slippers, noise-cancelling headsets, blanket, pillow and an amenity kit. The amenity kit contained Marimekko Lumene body moisturizer and eye gel, a dental kit, eye mask and ear plugs. Socks, shaving kit, mouthwash, hair brush and makeup remover were available on request.
Unlike the Finnair A330, the A350 does not have adjustable ventilation nozzles at each seat.
Service, Meals and Menus
During the climb, the purser came by to introduce herself, express Finnair’s appreciation for my Oneworld Emerald status, and state that I should not hesitate to let her or the other attendants know if I needed anything during the flight. It seemed like she was being sincere.
The service plan for the flight was displayed on the in-flight entertainment system.
Swedish chef Tommy Myllymaki created the business class menu featuring Nordic specialties:
Champagne and wine:
At 18:34 the meal service started with an amuse bouche of fish roe with creamy onion sauce. I paired it with Glenfiddich 18 year old single malt scotch. That was followed by a smoked salmon appetizer, tossed salad and warm bread.
My rainbow trout entree was delivered at 19:25.
A cheese course was next followed by ice cream and petit fours.
Five hours into the flight I visited the galley and helped myself to a snack.
Two hours before arrival, the flight attendants served breakfast. Breakfast was a delightful change of pace from the standard American and continental breakfasts that are usually served on planes.
All dishes, wine and spirits were very good, and the flight attendants provided service that was courteous and professional.
In-flight Entertainment (IFE) and Internet
IFE consisted of the usual assortment of movies, TV shows, audio recordings and games plus Flight Path 3D flight following.
Finnair also streams movies and TV over personal devices from a portal called Nordic Sky. The portal also provides access to newspapers and magazines, destination information and bookings, the internet, shopping, flight following, and Finnair customer service. You can even order snacks and drinks that will be delivered to your seat. The Finnair website has the details.
Business-class passengers receive one hour of free internet. The cost for internet service for the whole flight was just less than 20 Euros. The internet speed was good when I tried out the free hour.
There are four bathrooms in business class. That is a good ratio of just over one bathroom for every 10 seats. The lavatories are located by the galleys at the front of the plane and between the business-class cabins.
There was plenty of time after breakfast to stow personal items and prepare for landing. The approach was from the north.
We touched down at 07:17 and taxied to the G Concourse where our assigned gate was occupied. Deplanning didn’t start until 07:42. The purser handed out passes to the Premium Lane through Thai immigration as business-class passengers exited through the forward door.
This flight and the one from New York to Helsinki were my first flights on Finnair. Business class on Finnair widebody aircraft is all lie-flat seats with direct aisle access. That is an outstanding hard product, especially the captain’s chair seat on the A330. I’d rate the food and beverages as above average for business class, and the on-board service was commendable as well. Given the low price for this trip and the large number of EQDs it produced for my American Airlines account, this trip was a terrific value. I’ll likely want to fly Finnair again in 2019.