Forget the kangaroo with Finnair's Reindeer Route via Helsinki

By John Walton, December 10 2012
Forget the kangaroo with Finnair's Reindeer Route via Helsinki

If you're looking for a new option to get to Europe to replace the traditional one-hop Kangaroo Route, Qantas' oneworld partner Finnair thinks it has an appropriately seasonal answer: the Reindeer Route via its modern, efficient hub in Helsinki.

The idea is that you fly Qantas to Singapore, Hong Kong or Bangkok and change planes to one of Finnair's jets for the longer leg to Helsinki.

Taking advantage of the short transfer times at Helsinki Airport, you then connect onwards to your European destination with Finnair, earning full Qantas Frequent Flyer points and status credits all the way since Finnair is a oneworld partner airline.

You might be visualising a map and wondering how flying so far north makes sense, but flying the polar route to Helsinki takes advantage of the earth's curvature -- which is distorted on a standard map projection:

Sydney to Paris via Singapore and Helsinki is only 110 km further than Sydney to Paris via Dubai. Similarly, Brisbane to Frankfurt via Hong Kong and Helsinki is just over 300 km further than a one-stop at DXB. Find a globe and a tape measure or pop your route into the Great Circle Mapper calculator and you'll see what we mean.

Beancounter-pleasing "combi" fares are available for the cost-conscious business traveller: Qantas economy or premium economy for the shorter hop to Asia and Finnair business on the longer leg.

And Helsinki Airport's ultra-fast 40-minute minimum connecting time between your flight from Asia and your onward journey to Europe lets Finnair cleverly schedule its flight connections to minimise the amount of time you spend waiting for the next plane.

The fantastic Finnair Domestic/Europe lounge we reviewed recently is an added bonus, even if you do end up having to wait in the airport.

And Helsinki Airport is blanketed with free, lightning-fast wifi -- 29 Mbps down, 47 Mbps up -- to make your journey even more convenient.

Seating is fairly middle-of-the-road if you take the Singapore option: Finnair uses older A340 planes on this route with angled lie-flat seating rather than the excellent fully flat beds with direct aisle access it uses on the Hong Kong flights.

And from Helsinki to Europe, Finnair's  Eurobusiness-standard flights only have middle-seat-free economy rather than proper business class -- hardly conducive to a jetlag-busting snooze.

So it's a bit of a balancing act to compare the seats, service, timetables and airports on the Reindeer Route and the new Dubai-style Qantas + Emirates Kangaroo Route. That's why Australian Business Traveller tested the Reindeer Route out earlier this year, bringing our signature fine tooth-comb analysis to the service. 

Keep an eye out for our full review of the Australia-bound experience, from European lounges to Finnair's Europe flights, Helsinki Airport and lounges, and onwards on Finnair's A340 to Singapore.

And for the very latest, follow us on Twitter: we're @AusBT.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 Nov 2011

Total posts 28

I have transited via HEL twice and on the inbound flights the wait time at immigration to connect onwards to my final European destination was over 45 minutes each time.  There were many distraught passengers in the queue trying to alert airport staff they were about to miss their connections.  My connection luckily was 2 hours, but I spoke to the airport staff  to help the other passengers and the response was that they could do nothing.  I took it upon myself to move one passenger to the front of the queue to the surprise of a group travelling to Hong Kong.  It was a disaster and I hope it this situation has been corrected (the last time I transited there was Aug 2011).  I find Zurich a far more efficient hub.

03 Jan 2011

Total posts 666

Interesting data point from last year, thank you — I'm interested to hear others', since the only delay I experienced at Helsinki (between Schengen and non-Schengen flights each time) on any of my four trips this year was at baggage claim. 

I'd welcome any other thoughts from readers on whether HEL is heaven or…not.

17 Nov 2011

Total posts 27

I am a big fan of Finnair and taking this quick route to and from Europe. Whilst I have only used Finnair once (return SYD to Copenhagen via BKK there and HKG back) I was very happy with the service. The ability to earn QFF status credits is a big plus.

Given I usually only get to travel in economy, I was also pleased with the 2-4-2 seating layout in economy, as opposed to the bigger A380s or 777/747 operated by others.

I missed my onward connection to CPH due to a delay out of BKK, but that wasn't a problem and was quickly put on a later flight and able to enjoy Helsinki airport. Wasn't able to try the spa though.

On the return leg, despite heavy snowfall there were only minor delays out of Helsinki, whilst at the same time all planes were grounded at LHR - which to me is a big plus for HEL.

19 Jun 2012

Total posts 29

I've done the Reindeer Route via SIN, HKG or NRT at least 5 times over the last few years as it's my preferred option for getting to Europe.

Everytime Finnair performs consistently well and I've never had to wait more than 5 minutes for security or passport control at HEL. Some of my connections have been only 40 minutes and that's always been ample time.

The one time that the flight from Asia did arrive late Finnair staff were waiting at the plane to escort passengers connecting to certain flights through express security and passport lines to ensure they made their connections.

02 Dec 2011

Total posts 47

Slightly OTT, but I'm interested how to book those combi fares - ie. mixed economy/prem economy and business fares all on the same trip?


Cathay Pacific - The Marco Polo Club

07 Jun 2012

Total posts 32

Yeah the combi fares are issued all on the one e-ticket (which isn't anything new given interline arrangements are already in place between OW carriers). 

The tricky thing is how to book them. I read about them sometime last year and was interested so gave my travel agent a call who spent half a day trying to piece it together and couldn't get the combi fare to work. He told me that it was likely that combi fares were newly introduced into Aus and were hence subject to restricted availability because it was largely promotional. He advised me to call AY directly who were able to pull together a combi fair but it still wasn't all that cheap and this was before UK APD went up this year (the routing was BNE to LHR via HKG and HEL in CX Y for BNE-HKG and the rest AY J).

Given AusBT has increased coverage on it I'm guessing that the 'promotional' period might be over and that they're going to stick around in the main so should be a lot easier to book. That being said, the website is hopeless so you're better off talking to a TA if not the Finnair callcentre directly.

Has anyone flown AY long haul economy? How does it rate against BA? I'm interested in the following parameters: 1) On-Board Customer Service, 2) Food & Drink, 3) Entertainment Technology,  4) Entertainment Content.


Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 12

I've done two Reindeer route trips - both in Business. The last just a couple of weeks ago.  In bound immigration from Asia has been smooth on both occasions. In fact, the last trip was about 10mins from air bridge to lounge to wait for my on ward connection to Amsterdam. The return from London even easier.

Both schengen and non-Schegen lounges are very good and greatly improved from my first visit a few years ago before the new terminal was completed..

Singapore is an easy transfer. Unfortunately I had the older A340 seats over and back going via Singapore. It's a shame that Qantas flights no longer hook up with the AY flights to/from Bangkok. But Hong Kong is a good alternative.

With Malaysia joining Oneworld in Feb, the attraction for AY to major ports will be less compelling. But if you are going to/from secondary cities in Europe, it is still worth considering.

Thank you SYD. Much appreciated. They're awfully cheap ex-LHR. Might give them a try.

The Reindeer route  through BKK gives a chance to try their new fully flat beds in J, similar to Swiss A333, great for a solo traveller especially. Four of Finnair's  A333's have the new J seats, their booking systems shows "330" for the new cabin, "333" for the older type.


15 Dec 2012

Total posts 2

In case QFF pts and status credits are important to travellers it may be worth notng that a number of AY Euorpean connections from Helsinki are now flown by FlyBe in some type of codeshare arrangement. I queried the lack of credit on my HEL - GVA flights  with QFF on my return and was told that no points or credits ar awarded in any class of travel on FlyBe flights.

19 Jun 2012

Total posts 29

When did your travel occur?

The Finnair page on Qantas website matches your situation, but it was last updated in February 2011.

However, from October 28 Flybe has become a oneworld affiliate for its flights operated on behalf of Finnair, so points and status should be earned as normal on those flights. See for more info.

I'll be on one of those Flybe flights in a few weeks and I'm hoping I'll earn points.


15 Dec 2012

Total posts 2

In case QFF pts and status credits are important to travellers it may be worth notng that a number of AY Euorpean connections from Helsinki are now flown by FlyBe in some type of codeshare arrangement. I queried the lack of credit on my HEL - GVA flights  with QFF on my return and was told that no points or credits ar awarded in any class of travel on FlyBe flights.

01 Mar 2016

Total posts 2

It sounds great as I am thinking of taking a vacation in Finland...   

Pretty much for all the times I have travelled in Europe I  stopped over in Singapore

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