Finnair exec: Airbus A350 the "complete package" for comfort, experience

By Chris Chamberlin , June 9 2016
Finnair exec: Airbus A350 the

Finnair’s five-strong fleet of Airbus A350s will almost quadruple in size over the coming years as the airline modernises its amenities and on-board service across a growing number of routes for business class passengers.

Offering fully-flat beds up front with direct aisle access from every seat, the A350 now provides the “complete package” for travellers, believes Finnair’s Senior Vice President Strategy and Resource Management Ville Iho.

Finnair's all new Airbus A350 business class seats...
Finnair's all new Airbus A350 business class seats...

“It’s challenging to highlight only one way the A350 is bringing improvements to Finnair,” Iho shares with Australian Business Traveller.

Among them, however: new mood lighting technology that Finnair uses to simulate the Northern Lights during the flight, a lower effective ‘cabin altitude’ that helps you arrive feeling more refreshed and an air conditioning system that completely replaces the cabin air every three minutes.

“We’ve used the A350’s entry into service to signal that we are renewing who we are as an airline and what we offer,” Iho continues.

“When customers are considering the likelihood of using Finnair again after flying on the A350 versus the A330 and A340, the A350 gets much higher ratings from business class passengers, which is our ultimate test.”

Finnair A350s: coming to Australia?

While Finnair doesn’t fly its own aircraft to Australia, passengers Down Under can book Finnair (AY) codeshare flights to Asia with Qantas, British Airways or Cathay Pacific, before continuing their journey to Finland and beyond with Finnair.

“Even though we don’t fly (to Australia) ourselves, it’s a very important market for us and we’ve been surprisingly well-received by Australians: and the connections we are offering serve our customers well,” Iho observes.

But as to launching Australian flights with its own aircraft? “That’s not in our plans”, shares Iho. “Our niche is to fly to destinations we can serve within a 24-hour rotation.”

While a few routes are an exception to that rule, Australia would be a “huge stretch” to both those guidelines and the non-stop flying capabilities of the A350, unless detouring via Asia which passengers already do today.

However, you can expect the A350 to begin serving Finnair’s Singapore-Helsinki flights by the end of November 2016, and further destinations to be announced as the airline’s A350 fleet continues to grow.

Dining on Finnair’s A350s

Passengers who do hop aboard the A350 enjoy meals served straight to their seat, rather than from trolleys strolling the aisles, helping to replicate a restaurant feel with colourful crockery by Finnish designer Marimekko...

... and chic Ultima Thule glassware by Tapio Wirkkala, which Finnair has been using since the 1960s:

But unlike some airlines which are moving towards more formal dining options in the lounge so that travellers can maximise sleep in the air, Finnair doesn’t see that as the best option for its network.

“A huge number of our customers are connecting passengers,” Maarit Keränen, Head of Inflight Product (Food) at Finnair, explains. With Helsinki designed around quick transits of less than an hour, “they don’t necessarily have a long time for a dinner experience in the lounge.”

“We’re trying to find a good combination of lounge offering and inflight dining,” Keränen continues, but “the main dining experience is still on board.”

You’ll find Finnair’s Airbus A350s flying from Bangkok, Beijing and Hong Kong to Helsinki, with full codeshare journeys from Australia on sale via the Finnair Australia website.

Also read: Finnair considers Platinum Plus, VIP frequent flyer tiers

Chris Chamberlin travelled to Helsinki as a guest of Finnair.

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Feb 2015

Total posts 149

I'm booked on BKK-HEL in Aug/Sep in J, am looking very forward to my first A350 experience!

QFF

12 Apr 2013

Total posts 1446

I love Finnair and also looking forward to try their A350 – already have booking. Worth to note that J class with Finnair is incredibly competitive – dummy booking shows MEL-SIN-HEL  $5661 with Finnair and $8897 with Qantas on the same metal. Take a guess whom I will be use.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Mar 2013

Total posts 137

My flight in August was originally supposed to be on one of these. Finnair must be getting frustrated with the Airbus supply issues. They've had to push the A350's arrival on this route back and back.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Apr 2013

Total posts 56

Flew the A350 last month via HKG. Incredibly smooth and comfortable experience. J configuration is similar to CX. The return on the old A330 wasn't anywhere near as good. Will be looking forward to their A350 expansion. 

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"The return on the old A330 wasn't anywhere near as good."

AY currently only use flatbed in a staggered layout for J on all 333 with only 5 window seats(Among 45 J seats) or 3 window seats(Among 32 J seats) in the cabin without direct aisle access. In terms of specs, this J is nearly on par with the J on AY's 359 so I'm really surprised U found it "wasn't anywhere near as good".  Also, I'm even more surprised to learn that AY still use 333 on HKG->HEL sector(AY only deploy 333 to BKK, ICN, Japan + a few Chinese routes these days) as the route should be all-359 since early 2016 per AY timetable.  On the other hand, AY retired an older version J in 6abreast without direct aisle access well over 3mths ago.

Which J version did U fly for HEL->HKG sector on AY's 333?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Apr 2013

Total posts 56

It was HEL-SIN on the way back...and typo sorry, it was an A340.

31 Mar 2016

Total posts 644

"HEL-SIN....it was an A340."

Now it makes sense...AY does deploy 343 on HEL-SIN.  It's the longest AY route(Beyond payload/range of 333) and requries @ least 2 frames to maintain a daily rotation...all other AY routes need only 1 frame.  So it has to stay 343 until AY receive significantly more 359 deliveries.  The route is scheduled to go 359 fm Oct16.  

There're only 343 x5 remaining in AY fleet(All scheduled to retire by nex yr).  Only 1 frame(Mostly on op std-by rather than regular deployment though) still use the older flatbed 6abreast config(Similar specs to Skybed II of QF) in J while the remaining 4 frames hv the same staggered config(Actually, the overall seat design too) as 333 /359.

I'm guessing it "wasn't anywhere near as good" for you has nothing to do with the seat itself but more to do with the cabin environment such as a wider+taller cabin overall, higher humidity, closer to sea level pressure, larger windows, lower noise level, etc. on the 359?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Apr 2013

Total posts 56

Thanks for that. I think it was the overall experience including the seat. Old faded and less comfortable seat. Smaller screen with less entertainment choices. Less storage space around me. All in all, much preferred the A350, not surprisingly.  

QF

24 Jun 2016

Total posts 1

I have travelled with the FINNAIR 350 twice now and I hate the seats. I have big feet and the pointy bit where you feet go is just too small. Other than that it's very nice. Nothing special/nothing bad.

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 11

I agree - particularly if you are in a bulkhead seat, which was where I was on the flight last week from Helsinki to Hong Kong. I had 9D, and there is a little funnel where you have to put your feet. The moral seems to be that if you get a window, and non bulkhead, it is good, but not a centre seat. Finnair says its A350 here has only a 45 inch pitch between seats, and it's really noticeable that Finnair put in 8 rows of business class instead of the seven that are in Cathay Pacifics A350. That makes them just a little bit more squashy. But on the other had the price is really good for Business Class, particularly if you take economy from/to Asia and Australia. Either way, it is vastly better than the old Finnair A340.


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