This is our favourite all-round Business Class offering in the sky right now: super-cosy sofa-seats, ingenious flatbeds, Finnish design accents, great food and wine.
Finnair AY61 from Helsinki to Tokyo Haneda. Airbus A350-900, new Business Class cabin.
We love the Finnair Business Lounge at Helsinki Airport (near Gate 52). We’ve seen it busy but never overwhelmed – there always seem to be plenty of seats, even the sought-after fabric cube chairs, which are soft and enveloping, and dull the sound from the rest of the lounge. The food’s good too: in the mornings there’s a pot of hot porridge and berries (very Finnish) and later in the day the stylish circular bar serves a good wine selection.
Business Class passengers and OneWorld Sapphire frequent flyers (Qantas Gold) can access the lounge. OneWorld Emerald (Qantas Platinum) can also get into the Finnair First Lounge (“Platinum Wing”) right next door, which has large shower rooms with relaxing forest birdsong coming through the speakers; that lounge even has its own sauna… only in Finland!
The first thing that struck us as we entered the new Business cabin was the brilliant white of the ceiling and the backs of the seat shells. We had just spent a week in the frozen north of Finland and were already missing the snow… this was a lovely reminder of the tranquillity of the snowscapes we had experienced. We were pleasantly surprised at the size of our seats; more like mini-sofas really, and they felt a good deal wider than other Business Class flatbeds. The cushions and amenity packs designed by Finnish clothing and fabric brand Marimekko provided more echoes of our time in Finland.
Our A350-900 had 32 seats in Business, in a 1–2–1 configuration, with each seat having access to an aisle. The seats do not have privacy doors like some other airlines but the clever curved design ensures they are still very private. They are all also fitted with built-in USB A and C sockets, PC power and a wireless charger.
At the rear of Business, just before the new Premium Economy cabin, there was a spacious refreshment area where we did a mid-flight stretch and sneaked in a post-stretch glass of wine.
Best seats for couples
My wife and I are geography nerds so we love a window seat to marvel at Delhi’s great carpet of lights at night or see the morning sun kiss the Swiss Alps. On this flight she had 2A and I was directly behind her in 3A.
Now, about those seats. They are called AirLounges and Finnair is the first airline to introduce them. Although they do not recline you still get a perfectly flat bed and with more width than almost every other Business Class seat in the sky.
Before I flew the new cabin I had trouble understanding the seat’s mechanics but once I was ensconced in my Arctic-white shell – glass of Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale brut champagne at my elbow – it all became clear.
The only moving part is a small section which you raise and lower with a button to fill in the gap between the sofa-seat and the leg area, making a fully flat bed. Apart from that, everything is fixed. You scooch down from a sitting position to a lying position the same way you might on your sofa at home.
The crew will make up your bed for you, with a mattress topper and Marimekko pillow and duvet, and once you’re horizontal there’s a second handy seatbelt for safety during sleep.
Finnair have introduced the AirLounge mainly to reduce the number of moving parts their Business seats have… and so reduce the risk of something breaking.
If you’re not fussed about a view and can’t be parted from your loved one for more than a minute, then pick the middle two seats (D and H). Lower the electronic divider screen and you can chink champagne glasses, dine à deux and hold hands while watching a film on your 18-inch (46cm) screens.
Food and drink
You can pre-select your Business Class meal but only on flights departing Helsinki, not inbound ones arriving into the Finnish capital.
My fish with lobster sauce was delicious; so good I would have been happy to pay serious dollars for it in a restaurant. My stewardess cleverly matched a Canadian (yes, Canadian) Gewürztraminer Riesling with it – the perfect combination. My wife had the braised beef cheek and a Portuguese red wine and they were equally delicious.
Later in the night I indulged in a couple of cocktails; the Bloody Mary was so-so but the Helsinki Gin & Lingonberry tonic was excellent.
I raved about Finnair’s new Premium Economy cabin food in a recent review so it was great to see the quality is also very high in the new Business Class. Both the menus and tableware are new; the tableware is a range called Kuulas, the result of a partnership with Finnish glass and chinaware company Iittala, who also make the amazingly tactile Ultima Thule glasses on board.
To be just slightly more sustainable we now politely refuse airline amenity kits… but for the record, Marimekko has designed eight different pouch designs for Finnair’s new Business Class. Each contains personal care items from Swedish organic skincare firm L:a Bruket plus a Marimekko sleep mask, earplugs and a toothbrush made from cornstarch-based bioplastic.
Each seat has a 46cm (18-inch) screen. Personally, the movie choice was not my favourite in the skies right now but I still found enough films to watch on the 13.5-hour flight and I’m a huge fan of the front-facing flight camera, especially for take-off and landing.
The Nordic Sky portal allows you to accessdigital newspapers, audiobooks, destination information and more for free and offline. If you need internet, Business Class passengers get one hour free per flight. You can buy more 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 chinaware, glassware and cutlery in Business are made from lightweight materials. The AirLounge seats also weigh less because they have fewer mechanical parts, which improves fuel efficiency.
The woven blankets are 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.
This is our favourite all-round Business Class offering in the sky right now. We loved the simplicity, comfort and width of the mini-sofa seats, the wonderful Finnish design accents, the fabulous food and wine, and the demure but super-efficient service. It’s going to be hard to beat.
- Availability: Finnair is rolling out its new Business Class across long-haul routes. On the date this article was published it was available on routes between Helsinki and Singapore, Hong Kong and Tokyo Haneda, which is good news for Aussies, as these are major hubs for flights to Europe, and Finnair is a OneWorld codeshare partner with Qantas. As of March 26, 2023, the new Business Class will also be flown on routes between Helsinki and Bangkok, Delhi, Doha, New York, Chicago and Dallas.
- Luggage: Business Class passengers get 32kg checked luggage allowance.
- Routes: Finnair is a oneworld.com partner so if you’re flying to Europe through Asia (in northern summer 2023) you can use codeshare airlines Qantas, Japan Airlines and Cathay Pacific from Australia, then 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.