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Old Jul 14, 12, 2:28 pm   #1
 
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Helsinki
Programs: SK*G, AY Plus, Hertz Gold, Sixt Platinum, Avis Preferred, SPG, Club Carlson Concierge, Diners
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Blue1 Premium: Helsinki to Pula, Croatia

This is my first trip report for a flight, so have mercy

I don't think there are very many trip reports for Blue1 (KF) on this forum. KF is a member of Star Alliance, and a Finnish subsidiary of Scandinavian Airlines. They mostly handle traffic between Helsinki and the Scandinavian capitals, but during the summer, when there is less business travel, they fly to a number of leisure destinations in Europe. One of them is Pula in Croatia.

KF has 2 classes: Economy and Premium. KF markets Premium as "everything you would expect from Business Class except the price". You can be the judge after this report. Economy is basically a LCC concept where coffee, tea and water is free, but everything else is BOB.

This ticket was a "Blue1 Premium Holiday" ticket, which is reasonably priced. I think we paid for HEL-PUY//BLQ-HEL 440 each (booking class B, which is not flexible).

To the trip...

Premium class passengers are entitled to use the SAS/Blue1 Business/Premium/Gold check-in at T1 in Helsinki airport. A Saturday in July, there wasn't any queue at all. The nice lady at the check-in apologized for the gate being very far away as Croatia is outside the Schengen area and apparently the only passport control is in T2. Well, we had plenty of time so no worries there.

One oddity of Premium class on Blue1 is that you are not allowed to use the SAS Business lounge when flying intra-Nordic, but on flights to continental Europe you have access. Your BP is also marked with a nice C for the travel class.

So to the lounge. As Eurobonus Gold (*G) I have been here plenty of times, and would of course had access based on that as well. Not surprising, the lounge was almost empty.

[IMG] IMG_3014 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

The food in lounge was quite poor, as usual, with some sort of spring roll and coleslaw. Nothing to remember, and quite a poor performance. This seems to be typical for SAS lounges.

After some shopping we walked across the entire Helsinki airport to our gate. As AY is the main carrier at HEL, and AY focuses on Asia, there were quite a few planes about to depart to Asia. I believe Shanghai and Hong Kong were at least about to leave, so the lines to the passport control were enormous. Luckily, there is an automatic passport control with no queues, so within a minute or so we were through. A bit more walking, and down the stairs, and there we were at the gate.

[IMG] IMG_3017 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

A bus took us to the plane. I quickly noticed that we couldn't all fit into one bus, so I let most of the passengers squeeze into one bus, and took the second, half-full bus.

Blue1 operates B717s. Each plane is painted uniquely although similarly. Here are some pics of the plane that would take us to Pula today.

[IMG] IMG_3019 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

[IMG] IMG_3018 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

It seems quite a few people were stuck in the passport control as we had to wait for last passengers quite a while. I think 3 passengers never showed up, so we had to wait for their luggage to get offloaded. That again meant missing our slot time, and we were first told to wait an hour for departure! First the cabin crew seemed to think that it was a good time to catch up on gossip, but then they realized they were working and served the 2 rows of Premium class some water. We ended up getting a much improved slot time, so quite soon we were in the sky!

Blue1 has the entire plane in a 2+3 configuration. This is also the case for Premium class, so no blocked middle seats. I was flying with my wife, so we took a 2-seater, 1A and 1C. These were still the old seats, but KF is in the process of replacing the seats with new leather-seats. On the return from Bologna we had the pleasure of trying these seats. I'm sorry to say I didn't think of taking a picture. They are new, ok comfort, but nothing spectacular.

Row 1 has very nice legroom. I'm 174cm, for reference.

[IMG] IMG_3022 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

There was quite a light load in Premium, with a total of maybe 6 out of 10 seats taken. We had the first row for ourselves!


IMG_3035 by niksal, on Flickr

Once airborne, warm towels were handed out. Nice, that you don't get intra-Nordic in Premium! As this was a late afternoon/early evening flight, dinner would be served. Due to the light load in Premium, pre-dinner drink orders were taken. KF carries sparkling wine, a white and red wine, basic spirits, soft drinks and juices. I went for the sparkling wine:


IMG_3028 by niksal, on Flickr

I know there's a hefty discussion on the SAS forum about SK taking away champagne from C. Well, KF has been serving this already for a long time, and I think it is perfectly adequate. I know most of you are of another opinion.

What I could agree with is that it should be served in proper glassware, and not plastic cups.

[IMG] IMG_3029 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

The dinner itself was quite nice actually (although it might not look nice...). The starter I think was some form of raindeer on a nice piece of bread. The risotto and the chicken was also nice.

[IMG] IMG_3031 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

Something I wish would be discussed more on FT are the special meals. My wife needs gluten-free meals, and we had ordered one for her. Notice that the only difference is the starter and the bread! This is a nice change, as usually airlines make something completely crappy as their special meals. So this was definitely a thumbs up.

[IMG] IMG_3030 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

I tried the white wine with my meal. For anyone travelling with KF: Don't take the white wine. It is awful. The red is much better.

You may have noticed that there is no dessert on the tray. Well, to compensate for that KF serves Fazer chocolates from a box. You get to pick what you want (and as many as you want!). I could have appreciated a dessert as well, but chocolates will do.

[IMG] IMG_3033 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

[IMG] IMG_3034 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

With the coffee you can also have a cognac or a Bailey's. I prefer the cognac.

[IMG] IMG_3032 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

Service was excellent throughout the flight. More drinks were offered often, and I could have spent much more time than the 150 minutes in the air. What also surprised me was how quiet row 1 was. In the back the situation is very different. I was even further surprised on the return from Bologna (also a B717, also row 1) when the noise was much louder. Perhaps the sound isolation is somehow different on each plane?

Once we landed at Pula airport, we walked from the tarmac to the terminal. We were almost escorted like a school class on a field trip, which was a bit amusing. There were enormous lines at the passport control, as a Brittish (Scottish?) charter plane had apparently landed just before us. If you ever go here, a tip is to take the queue most to the right, as that queue divides into two when getting closer to the actual control.

Some pictures of interesting-looking planes at Pula Airport for you fanatics...

[IMG] IMG_3038 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

[IMG] IMG_3039 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

[IMG] IMG_3040 by niksal, on Flickr[/IMG]

Luggage was the weak point of this flight. Even if our luggage was tagged with a priority tag due to my *G status, my bag was among the last ones, and my wife's bag was the very last bag.

So what do you think about KF Premium? I think the service is somewhere between Economy and Business, clearly closer to Business. Someone might say it's what Economy was 10 years ago... The Blue1 Premium Holiday pricing is very reasonable so I have no problem paying the money on these longer flights. It also gives 150% points on Eurobonus. I certainly enjoyed this flight very much and I think it was very much worth the money. The return flight from Bologna had 4 packed rows of Premium, and quite many young children as well. Service wasn't as attentive, but still very good.

I hope you enjoyed the report!
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Old Jul 14, 12, 4:30 pm   #2
 
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Thanks for the report and photos. Short, but interesting!
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Old Jul 14, 12, 7:26 pm   #3
 
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Thanks for sharing. I've always wondered about Blue1....looks pretty nice.
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Old Jul 15, 12, 7:10 am   #4
 
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Interesting report and quite unusual route.

Like the pictures of the YAK-42.
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Old Jul 15, 12, 7:31 am   #5
 
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Interesting. I'd seen Blue1 on the *A carrier lists, but that's about where my knowledge ended on the carrier.

Thanks for sharing.
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Old Jul 15, 12, 7:40 am   #6
 
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Thanks for the report, good to hear about airlines I didn't even know existed! Glad to see a special meal that isn't unappealingly bland - and those chocolates looked pretty good too. How was Croatia?
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Old Jul 15, 12, 3:14 pm   #7
 
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Thanks for the comments! I thought it would be interesting to write about a slightly more unusual route and airline (although it's probably the airline I use the most).

Croatia is currently my favorite holiday destination. The coast is very beautiful, maybe the nicest in Europe. I must add, though, that next time I will go to Montenegro as rumors claim it's even better. Prices are maybe 20%-30% cheaper than nearby Italy for instance. Hotels are a bit on the steeper side though, but service is very attentive.

I put on the Club Carlson forum a review of our stay at Park Plaza Histria, if you're interested. But I would recommend Porec instead, where we stayed at the Hotel Palazzo (not affiliated with any points earnings, sadly) which was simply incredible. Saint Tropez for a 70% discount is the best description I can give.
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Old Jul 17, 12, 7:54 am   #8
 
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Quote:
Originally Posted by niksal View Post
Croatia is currently my favorite holiday destination. The coast is very beautiful, maybe the nicest in Europe. I must add, though, that next time I will go to Montenegro as rumors claim it's even better.
I agree the Croatian coast is fantastic. Kotor and Budva in Montenegro are definitely worth visiting.
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Old Jul 17, 12, 9:21 am   #9
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Quote[Something I wish would be discussed more on FT are the special meals. My wife needs gluten-free meals, and we had ordered one for her. Notice that the only difference is the starter and the bread! This is a nice change, as usually airlines make something completely crappy as their special meals. So this was definitely a thumbs up.]Quote

On any flight on a US-based airline or where "Chinese food" would be the usual meal served, I request a Hindu meal (just a preference for food from India, 'tis all). Although I did get one very enjoyable packet of kohlrabi (大头菜) from Shenzhen Airlines, the rest of the glop...I don't stomach it. At the same time, Delta's Hindu meal on a flight from Detroit to Haneda consisted of downtrodden couscous and two pieces of a mandarin orange, so like everything, these can be a miss too.
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