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Date: May 5, 2017
Flight No.: AY89
Route: Helsinki Vantaa to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
Type: Airbus A350-900
Shortly after I booked my flight from Budapest to Bangkok via Helsinki, and Tokyo to Budapest via Nagoya and Helsinki, I got an email giving me the chance to bid for an upgrade on the two long segments.
Since the lowest amount, just over 300 EUR, was reasonable for a ten hour segment, I decided to bid – not really expecting the upgrade to clear.
Surprisingly, though, about a week before the flight, I received an email titled “Congratulations, your bid was accepted!” And so begun my Finnair A350 business class adventure…
Waiting at Gate 34
As I had a bit more than two hours to transfer in Helsinki, I visited the [email protected] and Finnair lounges. I stepped out of the latter around 4:45PM and headed to gate 38 which was indicated on my boarding pass.
When I got there, however, there was no sign of the Bangkok flight. And indeed, when I checked the FIDS, the flight to Bangkok – AY89 – was showing as departing from gate 34.
By the time I got to gate 34, there was already a crowd gathered and the Finnair A350 was waiting at the gate.
Boarding Finnair Flight 89
Boarding started within minutes, just after 5PM. Behind me, there was a British guy in shorts and T-shirt that was approached by another man:
“Can I pass? Business class.”
“Ditto.” (with an annoyed British accent)
“Ditto!” (with an even more annoyed British accent)
At that point, the man who thought he was the “only one” in business class went to the counter and asked where the priority line was. When the staff pointed at the line he was just trying to cut, he asked “really, everyone?”
Well, unfortunately for the guy who thought he was the only one in business and who thought people in shorts and T-shirts don’t fly business class, and luckily for Finnair, the business class on the flight was close to full.
Anyways, soon enough after this situation, I got onboard the Finnair A350 and settled into my last row right-side window seat, 12L.
Exploring the Finnair A350 Reverse Herringbone Seat
Shortly after stowing my luggage, I took a quick peek into the economy section, and then started exploring my seat.
While Finnair uses staggered lie-flat seats on its A330s, the new A350s are equipped with 46 reverse herringbone seats in 12 rows. The first 8 of those are in the main business class section while the other 4 are in a smaller section behind it.
Compared to some other airlines, the design of the seat itself is simple, but that is what made the Finnair A350 appealing to me.
On the left side of the seat, there were two chrome buttons. Pressing the first one raised an armrest while the other one opened a small storage compartment.
In front of the seat, there was the foot space with a Marimekko-design duvet under it. There was also the IFE screen and another chrome button for flipping the screen out.
On the right side of the seat, there was a large counter with slippers, an amenity kit, a Bose noise-cancelling headset, and a folder. The folder contained the wine and meal menu, breakfast card, Thailand immigration card, as well as a pre-order in-flight sales leaflet (Finnair is very aggressive about that one).
There was also a separate, smaller, counter with kind of an anti-slippery surface which was ideal as a place to put cellphone.
Above the counters, there was a panel that housed the seat controls which featured both presets and controls for individual seat parts, a USB charging port, a universal power outlet, the headset connector, the IFE remote control, and a reading light. There was also a small storage compartment with a hook for the headset.
Above the seat, there was a pair of lights and the seatbelt (and so on) sign.
Under the large counter, there was a rack with the safety card and in-flight magazine, as well as a bottle holder with a bottle of water.
Finally, on the seat itself, there was a Marimekko-designed pillow.
Taking-Off Bound for Bangkok Suvarnabhumi
While I was exploring the seat, I was approached by a Thai crew member and offered a welcome drink. I asked for a glass of orange juice which was promptly brought a couple of minutes later.
Then, while enjoying the juice, I filled out the immigration card. Around that time – at 5:30PM – the captain addressed the passengers via the PA mentioning the expected flight time of 9 hours and 10 minutes among other things.
Two minutes later, boarding was finished and we were ready to go. While the cockpit crew was preparing for pushback, the cabin crew distributed newspapers.
We were pushed back at 5:41PM, six minutes behind schedule, and less than five minutes later we started taxiing towards the active runway.
In the meantime, the safety demonstration took place and the crew performed the final cabin check. At that time, I stowed my laptop below the foot space as instructed by the crew.
Soon, we reached runway 22R, and at 5:55PM we rotated.
As the aircraft banked to the right shortly after the take-off, great views of the landscape below us could be had.
A great aerial view of Helsinki airport could be had as well.
The Laptop Incident
At the time the crew member asked me to stove the laptop in the foot cubicle, I failed to realize that as we would speed up and rotate, the laptop would slip. I also didn’t realize that there was a small gap under my seat which would just fit my Macbook.
Luckily, the crew was extremely helpful and tried their best to help me get the laptop out. As it didn’t go easily, the crew first served the dinner, and then returned to help me.
To cut the long story short, after the crew and I tried to retrieve the laptop for a good hour, if not more, a fellow passenger stood up from his seat and asked what we were doing.
Quite a valid question, I thought. Little did I know that he would come over to help us, lie on the floor, and retrieve the laptop within five minutes.
Here, I’d like to express a huge thanks to both the crew and the passenger!
The First Meal Service: Dinner
Let’s rewind back a bit and go back to the meal service.
The service started at 6:25PM when the crew handed out warm towels followed by nuts and a drink ten minutes later.
Another half an hour later, table cloth was placed on my tray table, and the actual dinner was served.
There were two choices of starters, three choices of main, and two choices of dessert. I decided to go with fish for both the started and the main, and with ice cream for dessert. Below is the whole menu for reference.
Shortly after 7PM, my salmon appetizer was brought on a tray together with a salad and bread.
As soon as I finished the starter, the tray was cleared. A couple of minutes later, the main was placed directly on the table cloth.
Both the started and the main were great – especially the main was excellent with both the fish and the potatoes cooked just right.
Finally, after I finished the main, I was given two choices of ice cream. Vanilla or rhubarb. I went with rhubarb and was not disappointed.
The service was attentive throughout the service as well with the flight attendant refilling my Coke Light every time she saw an empty cup.
For the wine drinkers out there, below is the list of wines that were offered:
- Nicolas Feuillatte Brut Grande Reserve
- White Wines
- Chateau de Rochemorin 2013
- Villa Maria Private Bin Marlborough Riesling 2015
- Red Wines
- Chateau de Come 2011
- McGuigan Handmade Shiraz 2012
- Sweet Wines
- Noble House Beerenauslese 2012
- “Barao de Vilar” 20 Years Old Tawny Port
Exploring the Finnair In-Flight Entertainment System
Throughout the meal service, and for a short time after it, I played with the in-flight entertainment system.
And just like with the cabin, the design was simple, but highly functional. Also, I should mention here that the touchscreen was very responsive.
After selecting the language, a title screen showing a diagram of the flight phases was displayed.
As for the entertainment options, there was a selection of tens of movies and TV shows. Before every movie and TV show episode, two ads were played – each of which could be skipped after 10 seconds.
Besides visual content, there were also some radio channels. However, there were no music albums or other on-demand music.
Also, interestingly, there were no games. I think it is reasonable, though, given that I rarely see people playing them.
Finally, of course, there was the airshow. While the usual adjustable map was nice to have, the coolest feature was the tail camera which offered amazing views of our aircraft in-flight.
Besides the actual IFE system, Finnair A350s are equipped with onboard wifi as well. As a business class passenger, you can log in and use the Internet for free. However, I am not sure for how long as at one point the Internet went down, and when it went back up I was not able to connect anymore – getting a message that I used up my free limit.
Enjoying the Flatbed
Once I ate the meal, explored the IFE, and rescued my laptop with the amazing help of a fellow passenger, it was finally time to put the flatbed to test and sleep. At that point, the flight attendant came to pick up the breakfast card.
I turned the seat into the bed position and laid down. While the seat could use some extra padding and the foot space felt a bit claustrophobic, otherwise I could not complaint – and sure enough, soon I was fast asleep.
I woke up a couple of times as the cabin was a bit too hot, however, I was able to get about four hours of sleep before waking up for breakfast.
The Second Meal Service: Breakfast
The breakfast for me started when around 5:20AM Thailand time, I was offered a choice between a smoothie and an orange juice. I went with the orange juice – which was a “freshly squeezed” one rather than a box one. And it was great.
Shortly after, the flight attendant came back with a hot towel, and another fifteen or so minutes later, my breakfast tray was brought.
The contents were based on the breakfast card I handed in before going to sleep. The crepe was great, as was the rest of the breakfast – and all other meals on the flight for that matter.
Throughout the breakfast, I was enjoying the views outside. Both through the window and on the screen.
Arrival in Bangkok
Not too long after the breakfast tray was collected – at 6:31AM – we started our descent. At the same time, the captain announced that weather in Bangkok was almost clear with a 29 degree temperature.
Ten minutes later, the seatbelt signs were switched on.
The landing gear was lowered at 6:58AM, and just three minutes later we landed at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport.
Another five minutes of later, we reached our arrival gate F06 – bringing the great flight to an end.
I bade the crew a farewell, thanked them once again for the help with getting my laptop from under the seat, and got off the aircraft.