Since the mid-2010s, Finnair, the flag carrier of Finland, has introduced wide-body services to London Heathrow courtesy of the Airbus A330-300 and Airbus A350-900. The airline introduced the A350 in October 2015 as part of their training flights and to promote them being the launch customer in Europe of the A350-project.The Airbus A330 has been operated by Finnair since 2009 and replaced the ageing McDonnell-Douglas MD-11. The airline has eight examples in service carrying the OH-LT* pattern.
The service later opened the doors to the airline operating a dedicated service from mid-2016. The 08:00am departure out of Helsinki Vantaa and the 10:20am return service out of London Heathrow saw the introduction of the Airbus A350 on a daily basis sometimes swapping to an Airbus A330-300 or (prior to January 2017) the Airbus A340-300. In late 2018, British Airways (a fellow OneWorld alliance partner) announced they would be reducing their Helsinki services from two daily flights to one, and shortly there after, Finnair launched their second daily wide-body service on the Finnair AY1337/1338 evening flight. The early morning flight would be an Airbus A350-900 service, but the A350 would alternate with the Airbus A330-300 on the evening rotation.
The remote stands are served by bus gates at Helsinki, though mainly for Norwegian Air Shuttle and domestic NorRa flights
Early May 2019, I decided to make my annual run to Helsinki. I am a long time Finnair Plus holder and I like to keep my Finnair Plus Silver (OneWorld Ruby) status. I need to make twenty flights with the ONEWORLD Alliance airlines (mainly I fly BA, AA, IB and AY) and a return trip to Helsinki from London in Economy Class is 2,200 miles with two qualifying flights towards my status.
Me and my friend flew out on an Airbus A350-900 in economy, but as it was my friends first time flying Finnair, we upgraded for £170 each to fly Business Class on our return journey. I had flown the Airbus A330 prior to New York in economy and I had tried Business on the LHR-HEL route with the Airbus A350 only 18 months earlier, so this was something I highly recommended when my friend asked about it.
The Airbus A330 business class seat. The right side has one seat at the window, two in the middle and alternating single and double at the left side window.
The day came that we were to fly to London back from Helsinki. We got to check in to use the dedicated Priority Lane which is reserved for OneWorld Ruby, Sapphire and Emerald members and Business Class flyers. Then we went to the dedicated Priority Security which was a rather quick and easy experience. By far one of the fastest security clearances I’ve had to make in a major international airport.
Check in area for Finnair, the priority lanes are to the right of this image, a sign pointing out on the timetable board.
We made our way to the Finnair Schengen Area Lounge. If you are not flying Business Class with a OneWorld airline, you can still visit if you hold Sapphire or Emerald tier membership. Finnair has a lounge in the “Non-Schengen” area but its under renovation. So we came to the first one which had been worked on first during 2018.
(Above and Bellow) Entrance to the Schengen Finnair Lounge at Helsinki Vantaa
Entering the lounge we were met by a model tail fin adorning the Finnair “F” logo which has featured for decades on their planes alongside some design adjustments. My friend went to get himself lunch and a drink from the bar and self service food area, when he came back- I went to use the Lounge Shower. Its something I like to use before a flight. Especially after a long day in Helsinki!
There are four shower rooms at Helsinki’s Schengen Finnair lounge. When its complete, the non-Schengen Lounge will have both showers and a sauna.
On the bus to the remote stand, passing the Finnair short haulers on their gates at Terminal 2.
After a shower and lunch break, our gate was announced and we went straight to the gate, which happened to be a bus gate. Resulting a in a bus drive around Helsinki Vantaa to get to our Airbus A330-300, which we found on Flight Radar to be OH-LTR.
OH-LTR on stand at Helsinki Vantaa. This air frame was delivered on December 17th 2009.
We were seated in Seats 9L and 10L at the back of the cabin and behind the Business Class galley. It was also right by Engine 2, which gave a good engine view and we were up close to the main source of sound from this aircraft. I was quite happy with that!
Seat 9L from a passenger’s perspective in the take-off/landing position.
The plane loaded up, and turned out to be quite a quiet flight. Only about 55% capacity (though the return flight is normally full) and we taxied off stand on time, though we had to wait before we went to the runway for take off, the temperature had dropped in Helsinki whilst me and my friend were in the airport and the airport was being dusted by light snow. This meant a de-icing was required. It was done with in about 20 minutes and then we were off to London Heathrow!
There is plenty of room to stretch out and the seat (like most long haul business class products) turns into a bed like configuration.
Finnair offers a complimentary meal on board for business class passengers. The options are beef or cod for this flight, unless you pre-order a special dietary meal. There is a complimentary bar service where you can order drinks which range from Finnair’s iconic blueberry juice, hot drinks (coffee and tea) alcohol (cognac, vodka, beer) and soft drinks which include Cola, lemonade and water. Before the meal, a small pack of pretzels are offered to passengers. I opted to go with the Cod meal alongside a glass of champagne, it was accompanied by a chocolate cake and salad with the usual bread roll.
Grubs Up! European in-flight business class meal courtesy of Finnair.
The aircraft lavatory has a unique feature in the business class, it has a little window! I thought it was a nice little novelty.
Room with a view! Window in an aircraft toilet. Not sure what to make of them personally.
We came into London after a great flight, we did a few short hold circuits before landing on the South Runway at London Heathrow and taxied up to Terminal 3, the main terminal facility used at LHR by OneWorld carriers. We parked in between a British Airways Boeing 747-400 and Virgin Atlantic Airbus A330-300. At LHR Terminal 3, next to a ONEWORLD clad British Airways Boeing 747-436.
On the way out I visited the flight deck to get a shot of the “office” on the Airbus A330, I also got a brief glimpse of the crew rest area, which was opened for some reason.
Airbus A330 flight deck (above) is essentially the same design used in all Airbus products since the introduction of the Airbus A320 in 1988 to reduce training (or retraining) costs to airlines.
The crew rest compartment (bellow) is an essential area for crews on extended flights to rest for a few hours, Airbus A330 normally hold 3 pilots (Capt, F/O & relief) and they rotate their breaks through flights.
Final thoughts? I would certainly recommend Finnair business class to anyone travelling them long haul or short haul. Both their Airbus long-haul aircraft have brilliant seating, despite the difference between the A330 & A350. The service is on par with similar experiences I’ve had with fellow OneWorld airlines British Airways and LATAM Chile. The entertainment is a good mixture of US, Nordic and Asian entertainment, who are the main markets served by Finnair’s long haul network, the fact its available on this 3 hour service makes the flight more enjoyable!
When ever I fly to Helsinki (or back) I would always use the two wide-body services as they offer a better product than their competitors (mainly BA and Norwegian) and the airline’s Airbus A320-family operated flights in both classes.