Flight Review: Finnair (A350) Business Class From Singapore to Helsinki
Following a short trip to Singapore onboard United's inaugural flight from Los Angeles (LAX), I had to make my way from Changi Airport (SIN) to Hamburg (HAM) to attend the 100th Emirates A380 delivery — and check out the airline's awesome new in-flight bar.
There aren't any nonstop flights between Singapore and Hamburg, unfortunately, but there was a one-stop option that I found particularly appealing, on Finnair. The 12-hour hop from Singapore to Helsinki made for a few cheesy jokes (from SIN to HEL — get it?), and also gave me an opportunity to try Finnair's Airbus A350, which we've reviewed in Economy Comfort but not business class.
I've flown the Airbus A350 a few times before, on Qatar Airways, Singapore and most recently Delta, and overall I've been impressed with the way these carriers have innovated in their business-class cabins. Finnair's A350, on the other hand, felt like any old plane — it was clean and fresh, but uninspired. Still, I'd choose it over an A330, but overall this isn't a product to get especially excited about.
Initially, I booked a refundable one-way business-class ticket for about $2,700, which certainly didn't seem terrible for a 14-hour trip from Asia to Europe. However, a few days before departure I decided to check the fares again, and found that my one-way trip could now be had for less than $2,000. Score!
I canceled the original booking and made a new reservation at the lower rate — paying less than $2,000 for a last-minute one-way ticket in business class seemed like quite the deal, especially considering that I'd have another chance to fly the A350.
I decided to credit my flight to American Airlines, since I'm actually within reach of Gold status there.
Since I was traveling solo, I really wanted to score a single seat by the window, and I was quite pleased to see that 12L was still available, which is located in the last row of the smaller mini-cabin behind the main business-class galley — with just 14 seats, it felt far more private than the large cabin up front.
The flight ended up being almost entirely full — in fact, the only open seat was 12H, located just across the aisle from mine.
Airport and Lounge
I attempted to check in online, but for whatever reason I was instructed to check in at the airport, instead. That wasn't a big deal, tough — even the economy lines were empty, so I was on my way in just a minute or two. My first stop was one of Changi's legendary restrooms. What's appealing about them is that they're cleaned regularly, and it shows — I really wish the bathrooms at Newark Terminal C, for example, offered even a fraction of the cleanliness you can expect in Singapore.
Changi Airport feels very clean overall — much of the terminal is carpeted, which I find a bit odd, but miraculously it doesn't look worn or dirty.
I didn't spend much time wandering the terminal this time, though — at check-in, I had received an invitation to the Dnata Lounge in Terminal 1, so that's where I went.
At that point I was ready for a shower, but unfortunately there was a sizable queue. The lounge was pretty crowded, but not at capacity by any stretch. I was a bit underwhelmed by the food and beverage options, though, so I decided to head out and explore my other options.
Given that Finnair is a member of the Oneworld alliance, and that I was traveling in business class, I also had access to the Qantas and British Airways lounges. Of the two, I figured Qantas' lounge would be more appealing — I didn't make it to BA's, but the Qantas lounge was definitely a huge step up from the Dnata. I had no trouble getting in, either — the agent simply scanned my Finnair boarding pass and waved me in.
The Qantas lounge was far more spacious, and offered a larger food and beverage selection.
There were a mix of hot and cold items, including cold cuts and salads. It all looked very fresh.
The highlight for me was the shower, though — there were a whopping 20 available, and there wasn't any wait at all.
If you're doing this trip in reverse, you'll have access to the Finnair business lounge in Helsinki, which I visited ahead of my connecting flight to Hamburg. It was fantastic as well.
Cabin and Seat
Our flight boarded more or less on time, around 11:05pm for our 11:45pm departure. With security screening and boarding pass scanning completed as you enter the gate, actually boarding the plane is painless — groups are called and passengers simply walk through to the jet bridge.
I boarded through the forward door, which brought me to the front of the main business-class cabin, which consists of eight rows of seats in a 1-2-1 configuration.
The main cabin was perfectly fine, but it definitely felt fairly large. Notably, the main cabin doesn't have center overhead bins, while the mini-cabin in the back does. At my seat, a Marimekko blanket and pillow were waiting for me.
Finnair offers a decent reverse-herringbone product, similar to what I flew on Qatar Airways' A350. Qatar's seat and cabin are far more attractive though — Finnair's variant is a bit too bland, in my opinion.
Still, it's a perfectly comfortable seat — the footwell was a decent size, too, even though I wasn't seated at the bulkhead. There's not a ton of privacy — had there been someone occupying 12H across the aisle, I'm sure we would have made eye contact at least once or twice during the flight. The seats are fairly straightforward, with one large bank of outlets and controls, along with a small reading lamp. The seat controls are intuitive — I simply held the lie-flat button and the seat folded completely flat in just a few seconds.
One thing I could have done without was the enormous airbag built into the seatbelt — I've noticed that these are becoming more common, and they really make using the belt a bit uncomfortable. Storage was another issue — there's really just one compartment, and while it's large enough for a book and cellphone, even the smallest laptops are too big to fit.
Everything else had to go in the overhead bin — speaking of which, one was inoperable for whatever reason, as you can see indicated by the duct tape below.
It's worth noting that Finnair's A350s do not have individual air vents — I really wish more international carriers offered them. And the lavatories were small, but they were kept fairly clean during the flight, and I really liked the decor.
There were a total of four lavs — two up front and another two between the two business cabins.
There were an amenity kit and Bose headphones waiting for me when I arrived at my seat.
I also got a pillow, a decent blanket and slippers.
The amenity kit was very basic, though it did offer the essentials, including an eye mask, earplugs, a dental kit and lotion.
There was also a water bottle already at the seat, located in a nifty built-in holder.
These days, the in-flight entertainment I care about most is Wi-Fi — and it needs to be usable, if not speedy. Fortunately, business class, Economy Comfort and elite passengers get an hour of Wi-Fi for free, so I got to take it for a test drive before pulling the trigger on a plan.
The performance was hardly outstanding, but it was fine for social media and email. I ended up purchasing a three-our pass for €11.95 (about $14) toward the end of the flight. You can't pause and resume as you can on some other airlines, though.
The actual in-flight entertainment system was decent as well, with a 16-inch HD touchsceen display. There were dozens of movies to choose from, including a large selection of new releases. There were also plenty of TV shows on offer — unless you are a frequent Finnair flier, you shouldn't run out of stuff to watch on a long-haul flight.
The moving map was pretty spiffy as well, with a super sharp picture and full interactivity. You could pinch and zoom just like on a tablet, and the panel responded instantly and accurately.
My favorite feature of all, though, was the live camera view.
There are actually two different camera feeds to choose from — the tail cam was the highlight for me. As I mentioned, Finnair offers Bose noise-canceling headphones, which are among the best money can buy, in my opinion. Also, unlike American Airlines, which collects its Bose headphones at least an hour before landing, I was able to use mine until after we arrived at the gate.
One peculiarity came about during our descent, though. A flight attendant came through and unplugged any electronics that had been charging during the flight, including my iPhone. When I asked why, he explained that the plane needed all of the power to fly, and there wasn't enough to charge my gadgets as well.
That seems utterly absurd, especially considering that an aircraft needs far less power to descend than it does at cruise, when electronics are allowed to be charged. Bizarre.
Food and Beverage
Considering we weren't airborne until around midnight and I had already had a large dinner earlier in the evening, I would have been fine had there not been a meal service at all. There were two full meals, though, including a dinner service that began about 45 minutes after takeoff.
When I went to select my seat ahead of the flight, I noticed an option to pre-select a meal as well. I went with Option 3, the Japanese-style beef curry. For whatever reason, my selection hadn't been communicated to the crew, but I didn't have any issue getting that entree anyway. Notably, the menu options matched what I had seen on the website, though the printed menu had a fourth option as well, a butternut squash soup.
Shortly after boarding, I was offered a pre-departure beverage. I selected two — sparkling wine, plus a glass of Finnair's signature blueberry juice, which is delicious.
Then, dinner was served all at once about 45 minutes after takeoff.
I was a bit surprised to see my appetizer, entree and dessert appear all at once, but it made sense given the late hour.
The curry was flavorful, but the meat was overcooked, as were the veggies, which were a bit mushy for my liking. I had the salad after that, which was basic but fine, and the cheese plate was fine as well, but not particularly exciting. The menu also referenced ice cream for dessert, so I ordered some of that as well.
I had a Tuscan red with my dinner, something called Message in the Bottle. It was drinkable, but the highlight was the super-cool glassware. I mean just look at that! This glass is a work of art.
After dinner, flight attendants set up a self-serve bar in the galley, with a mix of snacks and fresh fruit.
Then, about 90 minutes before landing, breakfast was served — again, everything came at once on one tray.
I ordered the Asian option, which consisted of thinly sliced beef with egg noodles and veggies. Everything was overcooked again.
I actually preferred the breakfast on my connecting regional jet flight to Hamburg — we weren't given a choice there, but the meal was flavorful and fresh.
I really enjoyed my flight on Finnair. I actually managed to get seven straight hours of sleep, which is more than I get in my own bed some nights. While the product isn't terribly "posh," it's certainly comfortable.
What wasn't so comfortable was the time I spent outside in Helsinki, as we boarded our connecting regional jet at a remote stand. I certainly wasn't prepared for the harsh cold and wind, so make sure you have a jacket handy just in case!
Overall, I wouldn't hesitate to fly Finnair again. I found it to be perfectly comfortable, though this isn't an "aspirational" product — in other words, I wouldn't book it just for the experience, but if you're looking to get from A to B in comfort, Finnair's A350 is a very solid choice.