While the seat isn't mind-blowingly amazing, if Finnair can cut maintenance costs while still having seats this excellent, it's a revolutionary product in my book
To conclude my trip flying various new airline products and visiting beautiful Italy, I flew from Helsinki to London in Finnair’s business class. Specifically, I sought out Finnair’s gorgeous new A350 business class, which has received media attention mainly because of its novelty feature – it doesn’t recline. Of course this is still a flat bed product, but the legrest simply folds up to create a sleeping surface, presumably saving the airline a significant amount of maintenance fees.
Cost-efficiency is especially important for Finnair, as the closure of Russian airspace has severely impacted Finnair’s ability to operate profitably. Finland’s historically advantageous location suddenly turned into a massive disadvantage overnight, and flying time on routes to East Asia increased from nine to almost fourteen hours. Obviously Finnair isn’t expecting to recuperate the cost purely by installing new business class seats, though it’s one of the many ways the airline is planning to return to profitability.
Finnair primarily operates this product longhaul, though occasionally operates these flights on shorter intra-European flights, including to London. This isn’t a random one-off intra-European widebody flight – you can reliably expect certain Helsinki-London flights to be operated by an A350, though it won’t always be operated with the new business class seat (for case in point, Jason reviewed Finnair’s old A350 business class on the inbound segment of the same flight here). You’ll also find this seat on all but one of the airline’s A330s.
As luck would have it, a flight that worked with my schedule featured Finnair’s new A350 business class, so I flew it. Here’s my review, including the seat, amenities, food and beverages, and more.
Booking Finnair’s A350 Business Class
I booked a one-way business class ticket from Rome to London via Helsinki using 30,000 Asia Miles + HK$373 (~£38) in taxes. The itinerary was as follows:
09/04 AY1764 Rome Fiumicino – Helsinki dep. 19:45 arr. 00.05 (+1)
10/04 AY1331 Helsinki – London Heathrow dep. 08:00 arr. 09:10
The Rome-Helsinki flight was operated by an Embraer 190. I’ve reviewed that flight here.
My Experience Flying Finnair’s A350 Business Class
My flight from Rome arrived Helsinki at 12:05 AM, whereas the scheduled departure time for this flight was 8 AM. After a short but sweet night at the Clarion Hotel Aviapolis, I headed back to the airport, where I had access to Finnair’s fabulously designed new non-Schengen lounge, which I’ve reviewed here.
Boarding was scheduled for 7:20 AM. At 7 AM a “go to gate” note was added to the display board in the airport lounge. Wanting to be one of the first onboard to snap cabin pictures, I headed to gate 46, where my flight would be departing.
It was a beautiful day in Helsinki, and that served as a backdrop for our equally beautiful A350. What a stunning view!
Finnair A350 at Helsinki Airport
Our airframe today was OH-LWP, a 3-year old A350 that had just been reconfigured a month before our flight. (The aircraft featured the Moomin livery, though unfortunately all of the Moomin branding was blocked by the jetbridge.)
While “boarding” was already underway, we were just invited to take a seat in a holding area after our boarding passes were scanned. I’m never a fan of boarding gate holding pens, but Helsinki Airport has to have the most organised and high-tech airport holding pen system I’ve ever seen. There was a separate priority section, and when the plane was ready for boarding, a sliding glass door automatically opened to let passengers through.
The glass door slid open at approximately 7:20 AM, right at the scheduled boarding time.
Finnair Flight AY1331
Monday, April 10, 2023
Origin: Helsinki-Vantaa (HEL) Gate: 46 Dep: 08:00 (07:50)
Destination: London Heathrow (LHR) T: 3 Gate: 1 Arr: 09:10 (08:35)
Duration: 3 hr 10 min (2 hr 45 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900 Reg: OH-LWP
Seat: 8L (Business Class)
I entered through the second set of doors and found myself in Finnair’s refurbished A350 entryway.
Finnair A350 Entryway
I was welcomed by a friendly attendant who pointed me to my seat. I expressed my excitement at the new product and asked if I could snap a few photos, and got a “yes, sure!”.
Finnair’s A350 Business Class Cabin and Seat
Finnair’s stunning new business class cabin features 30 forward-facing business class seats laid out in a 1-2-1 configuration. Some of the airline’s A350s also feature a rear business class cabin with a further 13 seats (the forwardmost one of which is in its own row), though this wasn’t one of those planes.
Finnair A350 Business Class Cabin
Note the lack of overhead bins in the middle section of the aircraft – storage is fine but not amazing at this seat, so that’s worth noting.
As you can see, this isn’t your conventional airline seat – the seat is meant to resemble a sofa (or “AirLounge”) of sorts, so there’s no headrest, or even any differentiation between the seat and its “shell”. This means that the usable sitting space is the widest of any business class seat out there.
I assigned myself seat 8L, located in the back of the business class cabin. Notice the padded bulkhead behind my seat – there’s no loss of attention to detail here.
Finnair A350 Business Class Seat 8L
Middle seats are separated by a large partition, which can be lowered if you want to talk to your seatmate.
Finnair A350 Business Class Center Seats and Partition
While this “no-recline” concept certainly helps Finnair cut costs, the seat didn’t feel cheap, especially for a seat that supposedly should reduce maintenance costs. While there’s only one actual seat control, all lights and even the tray table deployment button was located by the seat controls.
Finnair A350 Business Class Seat Controls
After briefly struggling to find how to deploy the tray table, I was pleasantly surprised to find a large, sturdy tray table (I wasn’t a fan of the filleted corners as they took away from usable table space, though the table was otherwise large enough for this to not be a major issue).
Finnair A350 Business Class Tray Table
Storage was decent at this seat, but I felt like there were a couple of missed opportunities. To my right was a large but shallow storage compartment, which presumably would’ve housed headphones on a longer flight.
Finnair A350 Business Class Side Storage
By the side of the seat was the deepest storage compartment. These compartments were much bigger than they looked – the compartment closer to the seat could house a laptop on its side. It was also quite nice that the compartment lid formed part of the bed when closed, as it added to the bed width.
Finnair A350 Business Class Storage
Unfortunately there wasn’t space for a larger bag. Part of the bed folded up from under the ottoman, so you couldn’t store anything there. I’d say the one big opportunity for storage space was the ottoman itself – it would’ve been neat if it folded up to reveal a giant storage bin, though it didn’t.
To my right was a nifty faux wood side table, which was large enough to store a drink or a laptop. It housed a wireless charging surface, though I had to position my phone really precisely in order to get it to charge (and I have a MagSafe case).
Finnair A350 Business Class Wireless Charging
There was also USB and USB-C charging by the storage compartment next to the seat, which ended up being more practical.
Finnair A350 Business Class USB Charging
There was a further 110V power port located by my feet.
Finnair A350 Business Class Universal Power Port
While I certainly didn’t need an air nozzle on this flight between two chilly destinations, Finnair chose not to install overhead air nozzles on their A350s.
Finnair A350 Business Class Overhead Panel
For most, this is a super comfortable seat. It’s more than enough for a longhaul flight, let alone my short three-hour flight to London. I definitely felt like there was more space than your typical off-the-shelf reverse herringbone or staggered seat. The seat was comfortable enough to lounge in, though there isn’t an option to recline slightly (you’re either upright, or propped up in bed mode). I didn’t find myself missing the recline function much, since I could get comfortable fairly easily.
My one observation is that storage options were below average compared to the current custom-designed business class seat – I definitely would’ve appreciated not having to put my backpack in the overhead bin. This is especially an issue since Finnair removed overhead bins from the middle section of the aircraft.
I’ve noted comments on the seat in bed mode later in this post, since I checked it out later inflight.
Finnair’s A350 Premium Economy
As part of Finnair’s new cabins, they also debuted a new premium economy product. Finnair’s new premium economy class actually looks really nice – footrests at every seat, large plush headrests, and good padding. I’d like to try the product out on a longer flight, though on this flight these seats were being sold as “economy plus” and reservable at an extra charge.
The seats were laid out in a 2-4-2 configuration, for a total of 26 seats (the premium-heavier A350s have 24 seats).
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Class
Finnair’s A350 Business Class Amenities
Obviously this was a shorthaul intra-Europe flight, so amenities were kept to a minimum. Still, we were given two pillows. These were a decent size, and really useful for propping myself up and supporting my lumbar while lounging.
Finnair A350 Business Class Pillows
Later inflight I asked for a blanket, and the below day blanket was given to me. Finnair offers a mattress pad and duvet on longer flights.
Finnair A350 Business Class Blanket
A pair of fairly crap earbuds was provided, though I used my AirPods (which I couldn’t connect wirelessly to the IFE, but I just listened to my own music). Finnair offers better headphones on longhaul flights, though it’s nice to see anything offered, given Finnair’s “standard” shorthaul fleet wouldn’t have IFE at all.
Finnair A350 Business Class Earphones
I appreciated the pillows, though otherwise these are fairly standard intra-Europe amenities.
Finnair’s A350 Business Class Inflight Entertainment
The large inflight entertainment screen was located right in front of the seat. This housed Finnair’s intuitive entertainment interface, and I particularly enjoyed the flight timeline, where I knew approximately when we’d be fed (this wasn’t a big deal on this short flight, though I can imagine it’d be more useful on longer flights).
Finnair A350 Business Class Screen
Here’s where I’m an idiot – I checked out the entertainment system briefly before takeoff, when for some reason, only a small selection of TV shows and movies were available. Many of these were made available after the safety briefing, though I forgot to check out the entertainment selection when the full list was available. I did do a brief scroll through and it looked extensive enough for one to not get bored – if anything, I’m not sure why the full list of entertainment isn’t made available on the ground.
Finnair A350 Business Class Inflight Entertainment
I guess I was too excited about the inflight camera, which is the only bit of inflight entertainment I watch these days anyway.
Finnair A350 Business Class Tail Camera
Taking Off from Helsinki Airport
My seat afforded a beautiful view of the wing, where I could see another Finnair A350 parked in the distance.
View at Helsinki Airport Gate
The crew were in cheery spirits despite the early morning, and interlaced with the boarding music were a few automated “Hello, welcome onboard Finn” announcements, encouraging us to stow our bags in the overhead bins or under the seat in front of us. As far as I know the flight was mostly full, with only a couple of empty seats in business class. We were good to go with boarding complete at 7:45 AM, and the captain came onto the PA to wish that we had a “pleasant stay with [them]”.
I was hoping to have this part of the cabin mostly to myself. While the seat in front of me was empty, the seat across the aisle was taken by a younger lady who seemed to be taking lots of photos as well.
As is the norm with intra-European flights, there was no other pre-departure service. At 7:50 AM we pushed back from gate 46, in the middle of a safety briefing screening.
After this I look outside of the window to admire the aircraft I don’t typically see in London or Hong Kong, including a Finnair ATR-72, which seemed to be getting ready to head to Kuopio later in the day.
Finnair ATR 72 at Helsinki Airport
By 8 AM we were already getting ready to rocket off runway 22R and begin our journey towards London.
Taking off at Helsinki Airport
As you’d expect, we had beautiful views. While Helsinki was to our left, I still had beautiful views of nearby municipalities. I’d love to spend more time in Finland in the near future!
Takeoff views out of Helsinki Airport
Some subtle mood lighting was activated once we were airborne, and the seatbelt sign was turned off just a few minutes later.
Finnair A350 Business Class Cabin After Takeoff
For some reason at this point the IFE was showing a 2h 26m flight time (which was 45 minutes shorter than scheduled), though we did end up having a slightly longer flight time than that.
Finnair’s A350 Business Class Lavatory
After takeoff I visited the lavatory. While there was a lavatory behind seat 8A, I didn’t know it was there until deplaning – instead I visited the lavatory in front of the cabin, which was standard, and featured La Bruket toiletries (and a window!).
Finnair A350 Business Class Lavatory
Finnair’s A350 Business Class WiFi
Finnair’s A350s feature WiFi, which was charged as follows on this flight:
- €4.95 for a 1-hour pass
- €14.95 for a 3-hour pass
Unfortunately WiFi wasn’t working on this flight, which was a bit of a bummer, since I’d pre-purchased it. The crew seemed gravely concerned that WiFi wasn’t working, and multiple crewmembers apologised on several occasions, despite me insisting that it was fine. It certainly wasn’t the crew’s fault that WiFi wasn’t working properly on this aircraft. (I was refunded for the amount I’d purchased WiFi for after two weeks.)
I believe Finnair charges up to €19.95 for a flight pass on longer flights. I like that Finnair charges by time with no data caps instead of by usage, though do remember the days when they used to offer business class passengers free WiFi.
Finnair’s A350 Business Class Meal Service
Less than 10 minutes after takeoff I was presented with a hot towel.
Finnair A350 Business Class Hot Towel
Since I was in the back row of the cabin, it did take a while for the meal trolley to get to me. The purser serving me was an absolute delight – I’d just asked if she could help reset the WiFi system (and didn’t even tell her that I’d pre-purchased WiFi, but she pulled it up on her iPad before apologising even more), and after the conversation she jokingly said “I give you breakfast, then you are not mad at me”. This meant that I was served breakfast before the passengers in the row in front of me, which happened about 35 minutes after takeoff.
Everything in the below picture was presented on a single tray, except for the croissant, which was handed for me from a breadbasket. The meal was described to me as some “egg, sausage, and potato, muesli, yoghurt and fruit”, and that’s more or less exactly what it was. Everything was tasty, especially the potato pancake of sorts, which was the only part of the meal I wouldn’t have been surprised to find on a longhaul economy flight (this is consistent with the comments I had about the meal on my flight the evening prior). I personally probably would’ve hoped for some honey to go with the yoghurt and muesli, though perhaps that’s not very Finnish?
Finnair A350 Business Class Breakfast – Potato, Sausage, Omelet
Anyway, Finnair fed me well, and I can’t ask for more on a short intra-European flight. The meal service was also efficient.
Finnair’s A350 Business Class Service
As I hinted at above, the crewmembers on this flight were an absolute delight. The chief purser (who served me breakfast) was a slightly older lady who was really personal and affectionate. The other crewmembers were courteous and friendly as well, and when I accidentally knocked the call button instead of the “light off” button later in flight, the flight attendant who was passing by at the time (coincidentally) also apologised for the WiFi incident, despite me having mentioned nothing about it.
Finnair’s A350 Business Class in Bed Mode
It was then time to check out the seat in bed mode, since I was tired and wanted to take a nap.
The legrest is the only motorised component of the seat, which raises up to form a flat surface. That isn’t it, though – you have to use a mechanical lever to fold up the remaining section of the bed, in order for the surface to meet the ottoman. This isn’t a hassle by any means for able-bodied travelers, though I wouldn’t prefer it over getting a bed at the push of a button.
I didn’t take a picture of the footwell on its own, so the below picture gives the best perspective of how massive it is – it’s considerably bigger than your average reverse herringbone seat. The seat otherwise “reads” like a really spacious reverse herringbone seat, given you do have to sleep at a slight angle to the fuselage. I’d say sleep comfort wise it’s roughly equivalent to Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class, which also has an extra-wide footwell.
Finnair A350 Business Class Bed
For some reason, perhaps due to the seat’s contouring and the direction I was facing, I was more sensitive than usual to foot traffic on this flight. I don’t typically mind the lack of a seat door, though especially in bed mode, I would’ve appreciated a little bit more head privacy. This wasn’t much of an issue for me, though you may be affected more if you’re a light sleeper.
Perhaps my expectations were skewed by false impressions that this seat would be revolutionary in terms of space and privacy. From pictures, it doesn’t really make sense that the seat would’ve felt less private than in a reverse herringbone seat, where your head is even closer and more exposed to the aisle. I’d presume this may be due to the fact that you’re at a smaller angle away from the aisle, as well as the fact the seat shell “opens up” to meet the aisle at a tangent, despite being quite tall.
When lounging, I found it fairly easy to prop myself up comfortably with the two pillows provided, though I tend to do that anyway in any lie-flat business class seat. Do note that this may not the best seat for you if you’re mobility-impaired, since you can’t prop yourself up at the push of a button, and there also isn’t much of a frame to help you get up.
I ended up having a nap for about a half-hour or so, then woke up to do some work. I was able to do both comfortably.
Landing into Heathrow Airport
This flight felt super short compared to my last flight from Rome to Helsinki, especially since I had an idea of how much flight time we had left, as well as the far superior seat and the ability to lie down. About 2h 10m into the flight we were told that we’d made good progress to London, though our landing was dependent on Heathrow air traffic control, and he’d estimate a remaining time of about 30 minutes. He also mentioned cloudy and rainy weather in London, which was a change from the beautiful weather I had in Spain, Italy, and Finland.
Finnair A350 Business Class Cabin
Sure enough, I was very easily able to distinguish my Heathrow landing with the other four airports I’d flown in and out of in this trip, purely based on the lack of visibility during landing. The seatbelt sign came on about 10 minutes before landing, and after some quick crew checks we made our way into Heathrow.
Landing into Heathrow Airport
We were wheels-down at about 8:40 AM, and it was a quick taxi to our gate at Terminal 3. On the way I spotted a beautiful Qantas A380, as well as a Virgin Atlantic A350 that I’d love to fly sometime.
Traffic at Heathrow Airport
We parked at gate 1 at about 8:45 AM, and I paced to immigration, expecting a queue (which would’ve been annoying, especially given my revoked Registered Traveller Service membership due to my new visa). To my absolute shock and delight, immigration at Heathrow took less than 10 minutes. I was on the Piccadilly line by 9:10 AM, at our flight’s stated arrival time at Heathrow.
Conclusion: Finnair’s A350 Business Class
The revolutionary part of Finnair’s A350 business class hard product is that it’s really good. From a passenger experience standpoint, I’d still marginally prefer Qatar Airways’ QSuite or British Airways’ Club Suite – this seat isn’t a top-tier product, and certainly not revolutionary from a passenger experience perspective. However, if Finnair can manage to drive down maintenance, manufacturing and operating costs while keeping up a 9/10 customer experience, I’m all for it. I’m very supportive of airlines that can innovate to drive down operating weight and costs, while still maintaining an excellent customer experience.
Objectively, I also think this seat is better than Finnair’s older (and still really good) business class seat – in fact, it feels very similar to Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class, a reverse herringbone seat with an extra-wide ottoman. Cathay’s seat is slightly better as storage space is better thought-out, though I’d imagine this seat is significantly cheaper to maintain. I’d note, however, that I can see issues down the line for those with mobility issues using this seat.
Finnair also does quite well with their intra-Europe soft product. While the meals are fairly economy-style, that’s not too much an issue, given the fairly low bar that European airlines set for catering. I like that WiFi is offered on all of Finnair’s Airbus fleet (A321s, A350s, etc.), though will acknowledge the fact that it wasn’t working on this flight.
This was a very pleasant flight, and made me want to fly Finnair longhaul more. Maybe I should also make a point to try their good-looking premium economy?
Read more from this trip:
What’s your favourite business class seat out there?