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Old May 17, 17, 10:54 am   #1
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To Finlonia with Finnair in Business Class (w/pics)

To Finlonia with Finnair in Business Class (w/pics)

Index to Genius1 Trip Reports

Back at the very end of January I took advantage of a good (and now much-exploited) BA fare to Tallinn via Helsinki on Finnair. The fare is still available as of May 2017 although with limited availability, and often requiring one to book via a travel agent in order to price correctly (as I did on this occasion through Amex Travel). I wasn’t able to enjoy the lowest fare for this trip due to restrictions on my availability, but was able to find a decent price earning 200 BA tier points for just one night away over a weekend. I had been able to select an itinerary that had no stopover in Tallinn, which made the most efficient use of my time as Helsinki is better served for short overnight connections, having a Hilton hotel right next to the terminal.

LHR-HEL

I arrived at Heathrow Terminal 3 mid-morning with plenty of time until my afternoon departure to Helsinki, purposely timed to allow ample opportunity to enjoy the newly refurbished Cathay Pacific lounge. I had arrived in between AY check-in times with the result that only the service desk was open in the check-in area, but as I had used the pretty good AY app to get a mobile BP and with hand baggage only, I proceeded upstairs and straight through Fast Track security with only a handful of people ahead of me.



The refurbished Cathay Pacific lounges, in the style of The Pier at HKG, are in my view the most stylish at Heathrow and one of the best airline lounge concepts currently out there. The interior design is exactly to my taste, with well coordinated mid-tone woods and green finishes contrasting with brass touches. The attention to detail is outstanding, with even the lift car up to the lounge (located on the level above the gate area) having been refurbished in complementing materials.



I was welcomed at reception and proceeded up the slightly sloping corridor, past the entrance to the First Class lounge on the right, with washrooms off to the left and showers straight ahead. Last month I had the pleasure of spending some time in the First Class lounge; look out for that report coming soon as part of a wider review of AA’s Flagship Business Class service.






Just look at that attention to detail!

As I was oneworld Sapphire at the time of travelling, I settled in the Business Class portion of the lounge, a beautiful rectangular space broken into four main areas, the whole space having something of a swish city apartment living room feel. When the lounge was refurbished it was expanded to take the upper level of the former SQ lounge. I chose one of the new solus chairs by the window initially to enjoy the view with a cappuccino and The Economist; I find these chairs to be a little claustrophobic, and I don’t fancy the new fabric’s chances of withstanding the rigours of airline lounge life for long.











Just behind the solus chairs is a small study area with a few iMacs and a phone room, with the area then opening out into two principal seating areas with multiple armchair and sofa types arranged in small groups, smart houseplants, a newspaper and magazine rack and of course the quite impressive manned bar.

















This area also features a small self-service coffee station, neatly integrated into the side of the bar. Almost all of the side tables feature power and USB sockets in a smartly designed drawer.















I popped out of the lounge briefly to take a look at the BA lounge, purely out of curiosity as I hadn’t visited for a few years, all of my flights having been from T5. The agent had to manually enter my class of travel and status details into the computer at reception as it appears BA’s systems aren’t up to automatically accepting a oneworld partner’s mobile BP details. Nothing much had changed, although more of the old Gatwick lounge furniture appears to have made the trip around the M25 to join the ramshackle mixture of original Galleries furniture and new Galleries Evolution pieces. The only saving grace of this lounge (compared to the T5 lounges) is that the washrooms are slightly less plastic. The lounge was heaving, so I made a hasty retreat back to the CX lounge for lunch.

The friendly staff welcomed me back (and had even offered to store my luggage for me whilst I was out) as I made a beeline for the dining area. This is probably my least favourite part of the lounge, as it lacks natural light or a view (in obvious contrast to the rest of the lounge) and features slightly restrictive fixed seating cubicles, vaguely reminiscent of an old fashioned work canteen. I was in the lounge mainly between CX departure times, and the staff were understandably using the moment of quiet to clean and unpack some new crockery, hence the boxes visible in the second image below.













Thankfully the catering available at the noodle bar (and the buffet area next door) is far from canteen-like. My stir-fried vegetable[s] with garlic, steamed vegetable dumplings and Hong Kong style wonton noodles in soup were all pretty good accompanied by a glass of Möet, although the steamed vegetables could’ve been hotter (temperature-wise).















The adjacent buffet area had a decent selection of Western alternatives, all very nicely presented.

















The washrooms, shared with the First Class lounge, carry on the high quality design through copious use of marble. Amenities by Aesop complete the experience.





Boarding was already in progress as I reached Gate 9, just a minute's walk from the CX lounge. Whilst there was priority boarding in place for the BP and passport check, once inside the gateroom there was no discernible attempt at separating classes or status. This gate shares part of its departures route with the arrivals route from the adjacent Gate 11, and as a flight had just arrived onto that gate there was a ten minute wait to continue boarding as the flight disembarked.

OH-LXM was my ride to Helsinki this afternoon, an A320 delivered to Finnair in 2004 a few months after its first flight the previous year. AY offer a standard European product on their narrowbody fleet; 3-3 seating throughout the aircraft, with the middle seat unoccupied in J. Whilst there is no middle table as on BA, AY do offer increased pitch in the forward rows (I guess at 34”), and my bulkhead seat 2F (in a 4 row cabin today) offered a decent if not spectacular amount of space, enhanced by the lack of anybody else in the entirety of Row 2.



A small cushion and blanket were pre-placed on each middle seat, although there only appeared to be one cushion and blanket between two seats which could’ve been interesting had I had a seatmate. As much as I joke about BA’s love of mood lighting when advertising their onboard product, I missed it on this flight as the cabin lighting was pretty harsh, accentuating what is a rather drab and bland interior.





The smartly dressed professional crew commenced service on the ground by hanging jackets and wheeling out a small trolley with newspapers and magazines. A flight time of 2h25 was announced as we commenced pushback and taxied out to Runway 27R, past the now closed T1 where demolition of Pier 4 had almost completed, exposing an interesting cross-section through the building showing just how many buildings T1 is made up of.



Hot towels were passed around after takeoff, although as I was in the washroom at the time I missed them. The washrooms are pretty basic, with no special Business Class amenities.



Service commenced with a bar service from the trolley accompanied by a bag of pretzels.



Just the one choice (which I guess makes it not a choice) was available for dinner; some form of beef stew, presented on a tray alongside a small fish starter and cheesecake dessert. Warm bread was offered from a basket, but there was no plate on which to place it; AY and BA clearly have plenty in common! I enjoyed this dinner; the presentation was good (or as good as a hearty stew can be presented), and the flavours worked well together.









The meal service concluded with tea and coffee, which would’ve been nicely complemented by a chocolate. Whilst the crew were professional, I would’ve liked slightly more attention placed on prompter clearing of empties and drinks refills, although when my tray was cleared the crew member noticed a historical coffee stain and swiftly cleaned it away without prompting which was appreciated.



Arriving into a cold, dark Finnish capital, it was a fairly long walk through shops and duty free to immigration (where there was no queue), and a fresh 5 minute walk along covered outdoor walkways through the slush to the Hilton for the night.

Hilton Helsinki Airport

I was welcomed at reception with an acknowledgment of my HHonors Gold status, which has since lapsed as IHG (specifically InterContinental properties) are my usual chain hotels of choice. The agent acknowledged my pillow request, and informed me I’d been upgraded from a standard room to an Executive, which sounds nice but offers minimal extra benefits in terms of the room itself; a higher floor (although there is no view to speak of), complimentary mineral water and a bathrobe and slippers seem to be the only in-room extras, although I do value the water and slippers.







My room on the top (5th) floor was of a decent size and cleanly decorated in typical Scandinavian style - not quite my taste, but inoffensive and a perfectly adequate base for a short overnight stay. I wasn’t a huge fan of the bedside tables integrated into the cabinets, however, particularly as one of the bedside lights didn’t work.

















The bathroom was spacious, and featured an oversize basin, bath and separate walk-in shower, and the usual Hilton Peter Thomas Roth amenities. A thoughtful design touch in the bathroom was the inclusion of dimmer lighting, which was great for use as a night light.













The Executive lounge just down the corridor from my room is quite possibly the most pointless hotel lounge I’ve ever seen; a tiny room with a few bottles of plonk, confusingly home to plenty of guests sprawled all over the place hoovering up the two bowls of crisps and nuts. A moment’s glance was quite enough and I retired to my room for the evening.

After a comfortable night’s sleep I showered (both myself and the bathroom floor thanks to the ill-fitting cubicle door) and headed down to the restaurant for an early breakfast, which was included thanks to my status. The Executive lounge at this property doesn’t do breakfast, so all guests on the Executive floor have to use the main restaurant which is no bad thing. The buffet was generous, although the OJ wasn’t fresh and the pastries didn't look the most appetising. The waiting staff seemed to miss me sitting down initially, as I wasn’t offered tea or coffee, unlike other tables.

Check-out was prompt and as equally efficient as check-in, and before long I was heading back through the slush to the terminal building for what would be the shortest flight I’d ever taken.

Next: Three lounges, two propeller aircraft and a jet

Last edited by Genius1; May 17, 17 at 2:14 pm
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Old May 17, 17, 11:20 am   #2
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The CX-lounge seems to be a real improovement. Hope they do the same with their other lounges.
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Old May 17, 17, 6:02 pm   #3
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Nice report on your experience with Finnair. I've read a few reports about them, and they look nice, and it sounds like they offered a decent service for a flight of this length.

Thanks for sharing!
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Old May 17, 17, 7:04 pm   #4
  
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Great report. Thanks for posting.

I do like the airport lounge. Whilst it is a big room it still looked sectioned off and private unlike some lounges like the Air NZ lounge in Sydney.
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Old May 18, 17, 12:19 am   #5
  
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Nice report so far Genius1. I did the TLL run myself at the start of March and must say, I quite enjoyed it. Didn't have time to stop off in HEL this time though.

Looking forward to the rest of the report.
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Old May 21, 17, 2:25 pm   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by offerendum View Post
The CX-lounge seems to be a real improovement. Hope they do the same with their other lounges.
Yes, CX are gradually rolling out this concept as they refurbish their lounges worldwide.

Quote:
Originally Posted by 757 View Post
Nice report on your experience with Finnair. I've read a few reports about them, and they look nice, and it sounds like they offered a decent service for a flight of this length.
Thanks 757, yes I thought AY were good. Not outstanding, but certainly on a par with BA based on this sector. Overall, however, I'd say BA have the edge factoring in my return experience.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Annalisa12 View Post
Great report. Thanks for posting.

I do like the airport lounge. Whilst it is a big room it still looked sectioned off and private unlike some lounges like the Air NZ lounge in Sydney.
Thanks Annalisa12, yes CX have done a great job with making the lounge feel private and exclusive.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stu1985 View Post
Looking forward to the rest of the report.
Thanks stu1985, the report should be completed this coming week.
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