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Review: Finnair A350 Premium Economy (HKG-HEL)

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Review Overview

Finnair's Premium Economy is pretty average when compared to some of the other products available on the market. While the seat, service, and amenities on my flight were excellent, the baggage allowance and on-board food offering was uncompetitive.


Last week, I flew with Finnair from Hong Kong to Helsinki in Premium Economy on their Airbus A350-900. Finnair has been through a very rough past few years with the COVID-19 pandemic and the closure of Russian airspace, which effectively eliminated its past strategy of offering one-stop connections between Asia and Europe. In response, the airline aggressively cut costs. Most controversially, Finnair cut free carry-on bags on intra-European Economy tickets.

While these cuts have restored Finnair to profitability, they have also had serious negative effects on Finnair’s reputation. With that in mind, I wanted to share my experience. Overall, I found Finnair’s Premium Economy to be fine, with an excellent hard product and a mediocre soft product.

a large white airplane on a tarmac
Finnair Airbus A350

How I Booked Finnair’s A350 Premium Economy

I booked this ticket as part of an itinerary from Hong Kong to London. For my dates, Finnair was the cheapest oneworld airline in Premium Economy – which made sense considering that my routing was at least 5 hours longer than the other options.

Prior to the closure of Russian airspace, Finnair’s Helsinki hub was geographically well positioned for connections between Asia and Europe. However, Finnair flights between Asia and Europe now take a lengthy detour around Russian and Ukrainian airspace, which has largely eliminated Helsinki’s geographical advantage over other European hubs.

a screen on a wall
Finnair A350 Moving Map

I booked a Premium Economy Classic ticket, which came with a free checked bag (up to 23 kilograms) and limited ticket flexibility. Finnair is quite stingy with its baggage allowance across all cabins in cheaper fares. Specifically, the airline sells hand-baggage only tickets for both Premium Economy and Business, and only offers up to 1 checked bag on some long-haul Business Class routes.

In general, I find that Finnair’s Premium Economy prices are on the lower end for most Asia-Europe routings. However, the I don’t feel that their pricing is consistently attractive enough considering their onboard product offering (more on that later) and limited baggage allowance.

Finnair’s Premium Economy Ground Experience

I arrived at Hong Kong International Airport approximately two and half hours before my flight, where I found a massive line for Premium Economy and Economy passengers. Finnair does not offer priority check-in for Premium Economy passengers. This is a bit disappointing considering that most European competitors (including British Airways, Air France, and KLM) offer this benefit. Thankfully, I was able to skip the queue with my oneworld elite status.

people at an airport
Finnair Hong Kong Airport Check-In 

I was checked in by a friendly ground agent and headed through security immediately. To my surprise, boarding started around 5-10 minutes before the published boarding time. As a result, I was unfortunately unable to get any pictures of the cabin during boarding. Sorry in advance!

Finnair Flight AY100
Friday, 12th of January, 2023
Origin: Hong Kong (HKG) Gate: 61 Dep: 21:45 (21:55)
Destination: Helsinki-Vantaa (HEL) Gate: 44 Arr: 05:40 (06:15)
Duration: 13 h 55 min (14 h 20 min)
Aircraft: Airbus A350-900XWB – 42J Reg: OH-LWC
Seat: 21C (Premium Economy)

I was welcomed aboard by the Purser and Senior Cabin Crew member in Economy, who were handing out bottles of water. After passing the small mini Business Class cabin, I made my way to the Premium Economy cabin.

Finnair’s A350 Premium Economy Cabin

Our aircraft had an intimate Premium Economy cabin of 24 seats spread out across three rows in a 2-4-2 configuration. Finnair chose a customised and upgraded HAECO Cabin Solutions’ Vector Premium seat for both its A350 and A330 fleet in Premium Economy. To my knowledge, the only other airline that operates this seat is… Spirit Airlines.

Some Finnair aircraft have a slightly larger Premium Economy cabin of 26 seats, which you can see below in a photo that Alvin took (thanks!). Finnair has bucked the industry trend of having large Premium Economy cabins. I wonder if this decision came down to concerns over the profitability of Premium Economy, or if Finnair wants to focus more on Economy travel.

an airplane with seats and windows
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Cabin

I appreciate that Finnair has a full cabin divider and curtains between their Premium Economy and Economy cabins, which gave an additional feeling of privacy during the flight. Furthermore, I’m a particularly big fan of Finnair’s Nordic-inspired cabin design.

Finnair’s A350 Premium Economy Seat

Finnair’s Premium Economy seat is excellent. According to Finnair, its Premium Economy seats are padded with memory foam. While I’ve never understood the hype around memory foam, I found the seat to be extremely comfortable. These seats are one of the most comfortable in the industry, and I had no trouble relaxing during the flight.

a person sitting in an airplane
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Cabin

One concern that I have regarding the seat is that the padding is almost too generous. Finnair’s Premium Economy seat pitch (e.g., the distance between the backs of each seat) is 38 inches, which is a little less than what some other competitors are offering. Combined with a very thick seat design, I found the legroom on non-bulkhead to be tighter than on competitor products.

a seat in a plane
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Seat

Non-bulkhead row seats are equipped with a smaller storage compartment for loose items and a larger bin for laptops. Each seat also comes with a personal reading light, as well as a large and sturdy adjustable headrest.

a group of people sitting in an airplane with monitors
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Cabin

Each seat is also equipped with a leg-rest, which was comfortable and provided some much-needed calf support during the flight. Interestingly, the recline buttons on the seat are unlabelled (which is consistent with Finnair’s Nordic design ethos), which meant that I had to go through a bit of trial and error when adjusting my seat.

a grey object with a black object on the side of it
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Leg Rest

The seat recline was generous and sufficient. Combined with the leg-rest, I was able to sleep quite well during the flight.

a plane with a lot of seats
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Leg Rest

There’s not much that airlines can do to differentiate their Premium Economy seats. That being said, Finnair’s seat is exceptionally comfortable. With a bit more legroom, I would rate this as one of the best Premium Economy seats on the market.

Finnair’s A350 Premium Economy Entertainment & WiFi

Each Premium Economy seat comes with a USB-A and Universal Power Outlet. I was disappointed to find USB-C charging was not available, especially considering that Finnair offers USB-C charging in Business Class on their A350 aircraft.

Finnair’s entertainment system itself is well-designed and one of my favourites across the airline industry.

a screen on a wall
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Entertainment System 

I love that Finnair has a journey planner on the home-page of their entertainment system, which includes useful information on meal service timings and inflight service offerings. In particular, I appreciate that Finnair lays out the journey planner in both Helsinki and Hong Kong time, which made it easier to plan my sleep schedule and adjust to jet-lag.

a screen on a wall
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Flight Planner

a screen with a picture on it
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Flight Planner

The entertainment selection itself was decent, but slightly limited. The movie selection was pretty good (and even included some newer releases like Barbie). There was also a decent selection of TV shows. However, only a few episodes of each TV show would be on offer, which I’ve always found to be an issue with Finnair’s entertainment system.

a screen on a wall
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Entertainment Selection

The entertainment system also includes information on inflight food and drink offerings, which I’ll cover later in the post.

Finnair also offers a full-flight WiFi package for 25 Euros, was on the pricier side. The system itself also wasn’t great: the WiFi speeds were spotty and my internet connection couldn’t be switched between devices. I was, however, happy that there were no data-caps.

Finnair’s Premium Economy Amenities

A set of inflight amenities was pre-set at each seat upon boarding. Most notably, Finnair offers each Premium Economy passenger a neck pillow in lieu of an actual pillow. Quite frankly, the neck pillows felt like a gimmick, especially considering that Finnair’s Premium Economy seat already offers great neck support. I’m also not sure how well these pillows are cleaned in between uses. During my flight, I didn’t notice many passengers using the neck pillow.

a hand holding a pillow
Finnair Premium Economy Neck Pillow

A Marimekko-branded blanket was also offered. I loved the blanket – it was incredibly soft, comfortable, and thick enough to keep me warm throughout the flight.

a pillow with a pattern on it
Finnair Premium Economy Blanket

The amenity kit was also Marimekko branded, and contained a pair of (rather uncomfortable) polyester eye-shades, earplugs, and a “sustainable” toothbrush/toothpaste set. I’m not the biggest fan of the cardboard-esque material of the kit, but found the contents of bag to be sufficient for a Premium Economy product.

a hand holding a brown and black bag
Finnair Premium Economy Amenity Kit

Premium Economy passengers also receive a set of PhiTek noise-cancelling headphones. While I didn’t use the headphones much during the flight, they were comfortable and adequately noise-cancelling.

a hand holding headphones
Finnair Premium Economy Headphones

Finnair’s A350 Pushback and Departure

Boarding finished around 15 minutes prior to take-off; both the Economy and Premium Economy cabins on our flight ended up around 60% full. The Helsinki-based captain then made an announcement welcoming us on-board and described our route in great detail. Due to unfavourable wind conditions, our flight time was around 20 minutes longer than expected which, combined with a brief departure delay, meant that we would be arriving in Helsinki around 30 minutes late. Finnair might want to look at re-timing its flights to avoid missed connections.

Next, the Purser welcomed us on-board in English and Cantonese and played the safety video.

a tv on a wall
Finnair Safety Video

Finnair’s flights to and from Hong Kong are exclusively operated by Hong Kong-based cabin crew to save on staffing costs. These crew are hired via a third-party contractor and are on a different pay scale than their Helsinki-based counterparts, but receive the “standard” Finnair training. At times throughout the flight, I felt like I was flying with a Hong Kong-based airline.

I turned on the tail camera as we pushed back and taxied to the runway. Finnair doesn’t serve pre-departure drinks in Premium Economy.

a screen on a wall
Finnair A350 Tail Camera

The crew also dimmed the lights in preparation for takeoff.

a tv and screen in an airplane
Finnair A350 Premium Economy and Business Cabins

After take-off, the crew then came through and closed the curtains between Business and Premium Economy as soon as the seat belt sign. Then, the Senior Cabin Crew Member in Economy Class came by to personally welcome Finnair Plus elite and oneworld Emerald members, which was a nice touch of elite recognition. This appears to be standard practice on all Finnair flights.

a screen on the wall
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Cabin

The crew then came by with hot towels.

a white towel on a black surface
Finnair Premium Economy Hot Towel

Finnair’s Premium Economy Meal Service & Drinks

The drink service commenced around twenty minutes after takeoff. I decided to try Finnair’s signature Northern Blush cocktail, which was served in a can. I found the drink to be decently tasty, but I still prefer Finnair’s signature blueberry juice.

a drink and a can of chips on a table
Finnair Premium Economy Drink Service

Finnair’s Premium Economy tray tables cannot be folded in half – which meant that I had to pull open the full table every single time I got a drink or snack.  Despite being less than three years old, these seats are showing signs of wear and tear; the wooden finish on my tray table was peeling off.

The meal service started immediately after the drinks service. Finnair Premium Economy passengers get a choice between two “warm plates”. I appreciate that Finnair’s displays its menus on the entertainment system, which saves paper. On our flight, there was a choice between a Chinese-style pork stir fry or a fish dish. Both of these options appeared to be lifted from the Business Class menu.

a screen on a wall
Finnair Premium Economy Menu

I went with the Chinese pork dish, which came with a roast beef starter, a cold bread roll, and a pack of walnut cookies from Hong Kong’s iconic Kee Wah bakery.

a tray with food on it
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Meal Service

I found the food to be perfectly fine. Both the roast beef and the pork were dry and overcooked but flavourful. I particularly enjoyed the sauce on the main dish. That being said, I felt that the portion for the main course was too small for a fourteen-hour flight.

I also ordered some red wine to go with the meal, which was Finnair branded.

a plate of food and a bottle of wine on a table
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Meal Service

I was a bit disappointed with the cookies for dessert, considering that most airlines typically offer something a bit more substantial (e.g., a cake or ice cream) in Premium Economy. The crew then offered coffee and tea while trays were cleared, before wrapping up the whole meal service in around 90 minutes. The meal ended with some chocolates from Finnish chocolatier Karl Fazer. Yum!

a hand holding a candy in front of a screen
Finnair A350 Premium Economy Chocolate!

Overall, the meal service was underwhelming. The food was just okay, the portion sizes were small, and the dessert was mediocre. I was, however, extremely impressed by the service throughout the meal. The Senior Cabin Crew member in Economy and Premium Economy was warm, friendly, and attentive. He made a few drink suggestions and even addressed me by name throughout the service, which I wasn’t expecting on Finnair. The rest of the crew were also friendly and professional (e.g., I noticed the crew describing meal options in-depth).

Finnair’s Premium Economy Mid-Flight Service

I walked through the Economy cabin after the meal service was finished, which is configured in a 3-3-3 configuration. Finnair opted to keep its last-generation Economy seat when it refurbished its A350 aircraft with a new Business Class and Premium Economy cabin.

a group of people sitting in an airplane
Finnair Airbus A350 Economy Cabin

I took some time to explore the mid-flight menu. Finnair offers a pretty extensive selection of complimentary alcoholic drinks in Premium Economy, including a wide range spirits from Finnish distillery Kyro.

a screen on a wall
Finnair Premium Economy Drinks Selection

I was, however, a little irked that Finnair charges Premium Economy passengers for mid-flight snacks. I understand that Finnair is in a tough financial situation, but charging 3 Euros for a chocolate bar and 4 Euros for a muffin in long-haul Premium Economy is a little ridiculous. To my knowledge, Finnair is the only airline the world that charges Premium Economy passengers for mid-flight snacks.

a screen shot of food on a wall
Finnair Premium Economy Buy On-Board Selection

This move feels especially cheap considering the already-small portion sizes that Finnair serves on its long-haul flights – which often stretch beyond 13 hours long.

a screen shot of food
Finnair Premium Economy Buy On-Board Selection

Eventually, the crew dimmed the lights in the cabin. Around this time, the crew also set up a small snack and drink station in the galley. A flight attendant invited me to help myself to the snacks and drinks on offer.

a counter with plastic containers and plastic cups
Finnair Economy & Premium Economy Snack Station

Later on in the flight, I picked up a Finnish lingonberry biscuit.

a hand holding a package of cookies
Finnair Lingonberry Biscuit

I fell asleep for much of the flight, and woke up as we were over the Black Sea. Finnair’s inflight map is one of my favourites in the airline industry.

a screen shot of a computer
Finnair A350 Inflight map

Finnair’s Premium Economy Breakfast Service

Under two hours before our arrival into Helsinki, the crew turned on the lights in the cabin in preparation for the breakfast service. Finnair serves the same meal in Premium Economy and Economy for the second meal service on long-haul flights, which is a little disappointing considering the notable price difference between Premium Economy and Economy. There was only one option for breakfast.

a screen with food on it
Finnair Premium Economy Breakfast Menu

I got a cup of blueberry juice to go with the breakfast, which was served in a small paper box along with some “sustainable” disposable wooden cutlery.

a food in a box next to a cup of liquid
Finnair Premium Economy Breakfast

The breakfast was disappointing. While the omelette itself tasted pretty good, the portion was ridiculously small, especially considering that meal didn’t come with any side dishes (e.g., fruit or pastries). The amount of food served was insufficient for a fourteen hour-long flight. In summary, Finnair’s breakfast service is uncompetitive with what other airlines are offering in Premium Economy.

After collecting our meal boxes, the crew came by once again to offer coffee and tea. Shortly afterwards, the crew turned on Finnair’s gorgeous Northern Lights-inspired mood lighting.

a person sitting in a chair with a few monitors on the wall
Finnair A350 Premium Economy

Finnair’s A350 Descent and Arrival

The inflight entertainment system automatically displayed connecting flight information as we neared Helsinki. I love how Finnair’s inflight entertainment system contains tons of useful information about Helsinki Airport and onward connecting flights. Kudos to the Finnair product team for putting together such a well-designed, intuitive, and useful entertainment system.

a screen with a map on it
Finnair A350 Connecting Information

Around forty minutes before landing, the captain made an announcement with updated arrival information. Afterwards, the crew screened a video about connecting at Helsinki Airport through the cabin. The crew also collected Premium Economy neck pillows at this time.

a screen on a wall
Finnair Connections Video

The wonderful Senior Cabin Crew member in Economy came by once again to chat about my experience and thank me for flying with Finnair. I was very impressed with the level of service from the cabin crew on this flight.

We arrived to a (very dark and snowy) Helsinki Airport around thirty minutes behind schedule, where I went to catch my connecting flight to London.

Bottom Line:

All things considered, I enjoyed my flight in Finnair’s Premium Economy. Finnair’s Premium Economy seat is incredibly comfortable and one of the best in the industry. I also was extremely impressed by the high level of onboard service which rivalled some of the best experiences that I’ve had on both Asian and European carriers. Furthermore, I found the onboard amenities to be (generally) pretty good. I stepped off my flight feeling well rested, which is really all you can ask for on a long-haul flight.

However, I didn’t walk away from the flight with a positive impression of the product. The product team at Air New Zealand once described a good Premium Economy experience as one where “1+1=3”. In other words, the many small enhancements in Premium Economy come together to create an elevated experience. Unfortunately, I didn’t get this feeling when flying with Finnair. Finnair’s baggage allowance and policies are excessively harsh across non-flexible fare types. Additionally, the onboard dining experience was a let-down. The breakfast service was not up to par with what competitors are offering in Premium Economy, and charging 3 Euros for a chocolate bar is a bit ridiculous.

While I’d probably still fly with Finnair if they offered either the most direct routing or the lowest price on a particular itinerary, I definitely wouldn’t pay a price premium to fly Finnair over another carrier.

1 comment

  1. Thank you for the review. I just had a horrendous Hong Kong – London – Hong flight in Premium Economy on CX. Their Premium Y class product was poor from all aspects; poor quality and quantity of food, uncomfortable hard seats, poor legroom at the bulkhead seat, a fold out screen which had to be held throughout the flight, because the tilting mechanism was worn out. Service was slow and robotic.
    This was not the Cathay I know from before the pandemic. Looking forward to my Finnair in premium Y on the same routing you did.

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