“Finnair has set a new standard for Premium Economy. There’s a distinctly homely, cosy feel to the cabin, as if you are settling into a subtly lit Helsinki living room under a warm blanket for an afternoon of reading or Netflix bingeing.”
Finnair AY131 from Helsinki to Singapore. Airbus A350-900, Premium Economy cabin.
It may be coincidental but the look and feel of the new Premium Economy cabin echoes the Finnish landscape. The seat fabric is a dark, metallic blue not unlike the Baltic Sea on an autumn day, while the arms and headrests are charcoal grey, reminiscent of the granite outcrops that pepper the country, poking out of green, summer fields or blankets of winter snow. The cabin is more refined and better designed than others and there’s a distinctly homely, cosy feel to it, as if you are settling into a softly lit Helsinki living room under a warm blanket for an afternoon of reading or Netflix bingeing. You know it’s going to be worth the extra dollars.
Our A350-900 had 26 seats in Premium Economy, in a 2–4–2 configuration. There were three rows of seats plus an extra pair on the right-hand side. Finnair says this is the maximum number of seats in any Premium Economy cabin but smaller planes might have 24 or 21.
It was separated from Business by a spacious galley which was a good spot to grab a blueberry juice or water and do some mid-flight stretching. The separation from Economy, however, was little more than a curtain and a partial dividing wall. We could use the Business Class toilets in the galley but I believe on smaller planes Premium Economy passengers share the Economy toilets.
Best seats for couples
We were in the ‘double’ seats 23H (aisle) and 23L (window) on the right-hand side, our own little cocoon in the air. If you want to minimise the noise of a screaming child in an Economy bassinet, pick the front row of Premium Economy (21 or 22), which also has acres of legroom.
Finnair says Premium Economy passengers get approximately 50% more space than those in Economy, with a longer seat pitch (the distance from headrest to headrest) of 96.5cm (17.5cm more than Economy) and a 20cm recline (5cm more than Economy).
Each seat is built with memory foam and lumbar support, has a foot rest that is really a continuation of the seat base and supports the whole leg, and has AC power and USB outlets to keep all your devices charged.
A slight downside for die-hard romantics (this is shared by many, if not all, other airlines’ Premium Economy cabins) is that the armrest between the two seats is fixed (it contains your tray table and cocktail table) so you can’t flip it up and cuddle.
Food and drink
The crew served blueberry juice (a long-running Finnair tradition) just after boarding and we were underway shortly after midnight, with the midsummer sun glowing just below the northern horizon.
The main meal was served about 1 hour and 45 minutes after take off. There was a choice of fish or beef and this turned out to be one of the best non-Business, in-flight meals I can remember: fig, fetta and mint salad and a delicious smoked fillet of salmon. A wonderful taste reminder of Finland.
We had vowed to go easy on the booze but re-thought that plan when we tried the Tourelle de Tholomies Collection, a French white wine blending two grapes we had never heard of – Vermentino and Colombard. Delicious and a welcome change from same-old Chardonnay and Sav Blanc.
I tested the on-screen call button in the depths of the night and a friendly steward appeared in seconds, returning almost as rapidly with a Finnish Kyrö gin and tonic.
Champagne and snacks were available to buy. I get the champagne thing – it’s really the preserve of Business Class – but I thought it a bit mean to charge Premium Economy passengers €4 (A$5.80) for potato chips. A few packets in the galley to accompany the free blueberry juice would have been nice.
Just before our evening landing in Singapore, the crew served spinach gnocchi in a puttanesca sauce, which was high on flavour and (thankfully) low on garlic.
Premium Economy kits have been created by Finnish design brand Marimekko. There are eight different print designs but each pouch contains the same items from Swedish, organic skincare firm L:a Bruket. You get a lip balm, chamomile or lavender face cream, Marimekko sleep mask, earplugs and a toothbrush made from cornstarch-based bioplastic. We’re still using our pouches at home.
Entertainment on flights is a personal choice (one flyer’s Angry Birds is another’s West Wing) but one thing is sure: you’re going to love the 13-inch Panasonic touchscreen, which has fabulous image quality, and the noise-cancelling headphones from New Zealand tech firm Phitek.
The range of entertainment is also pretty impressive, with more than 200 movies and TV episodes, games, music and an interactive flight map for geography nerds like us. Sadly the front-facing flight camera was not working on our flight.
We didn’t try the Nordic Sky portal but you can use it to accessdigital newspapers, audiobooks, destination information and more for free and offline. If you need internet, you can buy it in advance via Finnair’s Manage booking page, for surfing, emailing and social media but not instant messaging calls.
Finnair’s target is to half its emissions by 2025 and become carbon neutral in 2045. It is reducing the use of single-use plastics, reducing waste and employing materials that have good recycling qualities.
The switch to on-screen services reduces the amount of printed material on board, while all china, glassware and cutlery in Premium Economy and Business are made from lightweight materials. The woven blankets in Premium Economy are also sustainable, being made from 100% recycled polyester, while all unused items from the travel kits are donated to women’s shelters and causes in war-torn Ukraine.
A cosy, welcoming cabin with lots of space, great food and some lovely Finnish design touches. Finnair has set a new standard for Premium Economy.
- Availability: Finnair’s new Premium Economy is currently available on routes to Singapore, New York, Chicago, Dallas and Hong Kong. Premium Economy will become gradually available on all long-haul flights to and from Asia and North America operated with Airbus A350 and A330 aircraft.
- Luggage: Premium Economy passengers get 23kg checked luggage allowance (same as Economy) unless they book a cheaper Premium Economy Light ticket, in which case they need to purchase baggage allowance before they fly.
- Routes: Finnair is a oneworld.com partner so if you’re flying to Europe through Asia (in northern summer 2022) you can codeshare with Qantas, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific, and connect to Finnair in Singapore, Bangkok, Delhi, Mumbai, Seoul, Tokyo Narita, Hong Kong and Shanghai. If you’re flying east across the Pacific, you can pick up Finnair in Los Angeles, Dallas, Seattle, Chicago and New York.
- Fun fact: Finnair is – we think – the only airline to call its right-hand-side window seat ‘L’ rather than ‘K’.
- More info: Check out the Finnair website.