My trip in Finnair A350-900 business class was my most anticipated flight of the year. Most of the time I book itineraries that are the most time or cost efficient, but this one was different. I was specifically interested in both flying Finland’s flag carrier and flying the Airbus A350 for the first time. Even though it was a longer itinerary, I was quite excited to book it.
The flight was fantastic, not to spoil the review ahead of time. I booked the one-way itinerary as part of a 5-day trip to begin the outbound leg of the Alitalia error fare I booked back in January that departed Barcelona. I’d been leaning toward flying nonstop to Barcelona in Norwegian economy, as the flight from SFO would be the most time and cost-efficient. But when award space was open to fly to Helsinki in Finnair A350-900 business class, I couldn’t pass it up.
The award I found was SFO-LAX-HEL, flying American domestic first and then Finnair business with an overnight layover in LAX. Not a ideal itinerary, but it was the only option at the time where everything was in business. Working all day in LAX from the business class lounge didn’t sound bad, so I decided to jump on it. Flying the A350 would be worth it.
It’s easy enough to search for Finnair business class at either aa.com or ba.com. I preferred American’s old user interface, which is what I used to book the trip. You can still find Finnair flights with the new interface, they just won’t always be listed first if available, as American now likes to present you with their own, less ideal, options.
The business class saver award set me back 57,500 American AAdvantage miles and $5.60 for the TSA fee. Not a bad price for a long overnight business class flight to Europe, and one of the best options for booking this particular itinerary.
Finnair operates three flights per week between Helsinki and Los Angeles using one of their A350-900 aircraft. The route has the prestigious flight number of AY1 (outbound) and AY2 (return). The schedule on Sundays, Tuesdays and Thursdays is typically:
- AY0001 – Helsinki to Los Angeles – 16:40 departure, 17:45 arrival
- AY0002 – Los Angeles to Helsinki – 19:35 departure, 16:25 arrival
Arrival at LAX
I’ll be candid and say that I really don’t enjoy leaving Los Angeles International Airport. Connecting through is fine, but getting to/from can range from mildly inconvenient to a downright nightmare. This is primarily due to both the notorious Los Angeles traffic, as well as the traffic within the airport itself. Most of the reasons I dislike LAX have to do with its ground transit issues and connectivity.
The airport shuttle took nearly 30 minutes to get me from the Candlewood Suites LAX Hawthorne to the Tom Bradley International Terminal (TBIT). This was my first time at the TBIT outside security. To say it’s a busy place would be an understatement.
I was already checked-in, so I didn’t even bother finding the Finnair check-in desks and headed straight for security.
Check-In and Security
Initially, I’d had some problems when trying to check in online from my phone. The message to “check in at the airport” came up, which made my heart sink. Finnair’s check-in would not be manned for hours, which might make working from the lounge most of the day an no-go.
But everything worked smoothly when I tried from my laptop. I had to enter a bit more information, but I happily received my boarding pass. I also switched seats. Originally, I was in window seat 8A. I moved myself further back into another window seat in the section behind the galley.
Security went smoothly, except for the initial boarding pass check. The TSA agent looked confused after viewing my Finnair boarding pass on my phone. She told me she’d never seen one on a mobile device. After radioing up to another officer, she received the affirmative that it was okay and let me pass through. I would have been upset had the TSA been the ones to stymie my plan by not allowing an electronic boarding pass.
After that point, security was a breeze with TSA PreCheck.
Oneworld Business Class Lounge
Once through security I headed to the Oneworld Business Class Lounge LAX where I would hang out for several hours. I had access as a premium cabin customer with a Oneworld airline. You can also access the lounge as a Oneworld Emerald or Sapphire on a qualifying itinerary.
The lounge is large and gets fairly busy, but it is a nice space with better food options than any domestic airline lounge I’ve encountered so far. The Oneworld Business Class Lounge also provided the opportunity to shower, which was nice before a 10-hour flight. Read the full review here.
I took one break and and wandered the TBIT for a while to see some of the other aircraft present. But aside from that, I spent the time working.
Boarding and Departure Experience
I headed downstairs a few minutes before the scheduled boarding time. We were boarding from Gate 148, which is probably the most convenient gate in the TBIT, as it is directly off the central atrium. My name was called up to the podium for document verification. During online check-in, I’d not been asked for passport info, but I had by American Airlines the day before. I’d figured this had made it over.
Boarding started 30 minutes late. This was in line with the delay that I’d noted on the departures display in the lounge a couple hours earlier.
The flight attendants welcomed us on board and directed us to our seats. It always amuses me a bit, as I nearly always know exactly where I am seated, but I do understand that this is necessary for directing passenger traffic in a two-aisle plane.
The Finnair A350-900 business class cabin is subdued, calm and bright, all elements of Nordic design. The blue mood lighting adds to the aesthetic. Finnair’s logo is even understated, with a single gray ‘F’ at either end of the cabin. The planes’ interior was designed by Finnsh company dSign Vertti Kivi & Co.
My Finnair A350-900 business class cabin is in either one of two different layouts. Some aircraft have a single business class section of eight rows of reverse-herringbone seats in a 1-2-1 layout. Others have an additional, smaller business class cabin behind a lavatory and galley section with another 4 1/2 rows of seats.
I’d actually switched my seat from 8A to 11L, which put me in this smaller cabin.
As with any reverse-herringbone seating layout, the best seats for couples are in the middle. As a solo traveler for the trip, I opted for a window. All seats have direct aisle access and offer a great deal of privacy.
The flight attendants soon came around offering pre-departure drinks. There were a couple wine options, juice, water, and a couple of Finnair’s signature cocktails.
The cabin crew were generally friendly during boarding and prior to takeoff, albeit reserved. When boarding had finished and we were preparing to depart, one of the attendants took to putting away stuff for me, such as the headphones and menus, but it wasn’t at all in a rude sort of way. Granted, I should have had it cleaned up. The surprise was that she didn’t simply ask me.
We taxied quickly to runway 24L and took off. The main screen in the Finnair A350-900 business class cabin was showing the tail cam during taxi, which was super cool.
There was certainly a roar to the engines, but it was nothing like that of many other aircraft. The noise reduction, one of the signature features designed into the A350, is definitely noticeable.
Finnair A350-900 Business Class Seat
Finnair A350 business class offers reverse-herringbone Zodiac Cirrus III seats. Each is fully lie-flat and has direct aisle access. Like the rest of the cabin, they have an understated but nice gray and blue aesthetic.
The business class seats offer plenty of pitch, with more than enough legroom for practically anyone. But that is stating the obvious, as any long-haul business class product should provide you this.
I found that my seat rocked slightly when upright. It wasn’t all that noticeable, and if I settled into one position, it didn’t move. But if I shifted forward or backward, it would rock a bit.
The dining and drink menus were arranged on the side table with the amenity kit, also in dark blue.
Under the side table is a water bottle, the magazines, and the Airbus A350-900 safety card. Safety cards are one of my son’s favorite things to review every flight.
To the side of each seat is the seat control, headphone jack, USB port, universal power outlet, and IFE controller, along with the reading light.
The tray table folds out into a fixed position. It does not slide back and forth.
You’ll have two full windows to enjoy the view outside in Finnair A350-900 busines class window seats. The windows are fairly deep, but not as deep as those on the A380.
The headphones are located in the storage cubby on the aisle side of the seat. Finnair business class offers Phitek noise canceling headphones.
Finnair’s business class amenity kit is rather simple, providing just the essentials for a long-haul flight.
You have an eye mask, earplugs, facial cream and a toothbrush.
Under the footwell are your blanket and slippers.
I also noticed that the seats have a convenient foothold for accessing the overhead bins for those that struggle to reach them. After watching a lady stand on her economy seat to reach the bin a few days ago on another flight, this seems an excellent addition to the design.
Overall, Finnair A350-900 business class offers a nice hard product. The seats are spacious, private and comfortable, which is typical for a reverse herringbone configuration.
Finnair Business Class Service
Service started at 8:40 PM with the classic hot towel. This was about 20-30 minutes after takeoff. The first food wasn’t served until another 45 minutes later. The whole meal service in Finnair A350-900 business class was very protracted, which surprised me. But this gave me plenty of time to review the menus. Here is the food menu:
The Finnair signature drink menu features a variety of cocktails, all of which include blueberry flavor or the actual berries.
The wine selection consists of three reds, three whites, a champagne, and a dessert wine.
Beyond the wine, you have the typical soft drinks, juice, tea and coffee.
The first things served are drinks and a small starter of shrimp with minced peppers and cilantro. I went with the Blue Sky cocktail.
This wasn’t the actual starter course, however. I picked the beet marinated salmon starter, which was absolutely delicious and plated very artistically. Fantastic presentation.
For the main course, I went with the pork collar. It was excellent as well.
Dessert was Haagen Dazs ice cream, frozen rock solid.
Finnair’s business class catering is excellent. It might just be the best business class meal I’ve had to date. The food was delicious.
However, the timing of the meal service is what surprised me a bit. The spacing between courses was substantial. There was 45 minutes between the hot towel service and the start of the meal. Then it took another 30 minutes for the starter, another 35 minutes for the main course, and another 35 minutes for dessert.
For an overnight flight to Europe, that is quite long. I would guess that most guest would want to be sleeping as quickly as possible, and a meal service that takes over 2.5 hours seems excessive.
The style and responsiveness of the Finnair A350-900 business class in-flight entertainment screens is one of the best I’ve ever experienced. The screens are large, and I never had issue with their touchscreen function. The screens stow into the side of the seat in front of you.
The Nordic Sky Entertainment offers plenty of entertainment options, including new releases, some classics, and lots of kid films. I had no trouble finding something I wanted to watch.
I watched The Martain during the meal service, but turned on the flight map for a bit before I settled in to sleep. We were well over Canada by that point. Unlike the old Alitalia IFE screens I would use just a few days later, these are super sharp and the images are great.
The mood lighting actually changes through the flight, and this is reflected in the IFE menus as well, which is a nice touch. It is designed to change based on the time of day (or what time you need to adjust to).
You can also purchase WiFi access through Nordic Sky. Full flight access costs about €20, or you can use Finnair points.
The lie-flat seat is lacking a bit it terms of comfort. The bed is fairy long, with the footwell narrowing significantly at the end. This is probably my biggest complaint about the design.
The lie-flat seat likely offers sufficient space for most people. However I found the gap between the seat cushions awkward. To be comfortable, I had to sleep further down in the seat that I wanted. This meant my feet were crammed in the end of the footwell, which wasn’t comfortable, either.
I did sleep well for a couple hours, but after sliding up to get my feet out of the footwell, I woke up with a lower back ache. I should have asked for a second pillow to alleviate the issue of the space between the cushions.
I slept brokenly for most of the rest of the trip, eventually sitting up with little more than an hour left in the flight.
Second Meal Service
Breakfast was already being served, and I had apparently missed it, so I pushed the attendant call button. I worried that they wouldn’t offer the hot breakfast because I wasn’t awake. I belatedly realized I hadn’t handed the flight attendants the card I’d filled out. Yes, I wanted to be woken up. I’d just failed to let them know that.
However, the flight attendant was more than willing to serve the full meal. Contrast this to when I missed the breakfast window with American and was basically told “tough luck”.
Breakfast was a good spread, with fresh fruit, blueberry yogurt, and cream cheese-filled crepes with berries on the side. Have you noticed the blueberry theme yet? Blueberries (technically, bilberries) grow wild in Finland and are a frequent element in their cuisine.
I browsed the IFE for a song playlist for the final part of the flight. I decided I’d see what the “This is America” playlist included. I had to chuckle, as it was less classic American music and more a mix of songs where state names were mentioned, such as Native New Yorker and Dolly Parton’s Eugene Oregon. I kept waiting for Take Me Home, Country Roads or Sweet Home Alabama to play.
We started our descent with about 35 minutes until arrival. I finally opened the window shade to have a look at the beautiful afternoon sky outside.
The flight attendants kept the business class lavatory very clean and well stocked the whole flight.
Arrival Into Helsinki Vantaa
We touched down at Helsinki Vantaa, nearly on schedule. It was an overcast, dreary day.
We landed at a remote stand, which really surprised me for a widebody flight. Everyone deplaned via a covered staircase where we boarded buses that took us to Vantaa airport.
Finnair does an excellent job of preparing your for arrival into Helsinki. The IFE has some great information on connections and transit into the Helsinki city center. The map shows the taxi, bus and train connection locations.
You can also find the transit info by connecting to the Nordic Sky WiFi and exploring the site.
I followed the signs for arrivals, making my way to the train station and downtown Helsinki.
Concluding Thoughts on Finnair A350-900 Business Class
Flying Finnair A350-900 business class was a very enjoyable first experience on an Airbus A350 and with Finland’s flag carrier. It was a great way to kick off my first visit to Finland. The service and catering are excellent, and the crew are friendly. While the business class seat offers a great array of features and is comfortable when upright, I found that the compressed footwell and spacing of the sea cushions made it a bit uncomfortable for sleeping. But this may not be the case for everyone.
Since sleeping is a large part of when I choose to fly business class, it was a bit of a bummer to wake up after a couple hours with a back ache. But this is the only negative thing I have to say about the entire experience. The length of the meal service was surprising, but given the excellent of the catering, I didn’t really mind. If you’re looking to sleep as much as possible, I can see how this could be frustrating.
Looking back, I’d very happily fly them again. Overall, I had a very nice flight experience in Finnair A350-900 business class. If only they operated this aircraft between San Francisco and Helsinki!