Prague to Helsinki on Finnair
Today I had my first Finnair flight albeit only a two hour flight from Prague. There service was different to previous flights, rather hands off from the staff. I was sat next to two Australians heading home which made the journey quick as we enjoyed a good conversation. The flight was comfortable and some basic catering was provided although I am clearly still adjusting to European service culture standards at times.
Before even seeing a AY plane one benefit was their provision of decent seating for oneworld Emeralds, not sure about Sapphires. Expertflyer denotes two Y seatmaps, one full fare and the other discount economy. Well emerald basically gives you similar to QF – all but the front row. Their site is a temperamental so I found it best to use the Qantas booking lookup which let me choose windows or aisle and allocated as such in the second Y row. Only difficulty was the planes frequently changed between A319/A320/A321. After the QF site stopped working well I rang up the Sydney Finnair office and they took care of it. The only thing is you cannot choose are the exit rows, these are delegated at the airport.
At the Airport
Prague airport is an out-station for Finnair with ground crew contracted. Check-in was relatively very efficient compared to other airlines. Either my timing was good or they do put on extra staff compared to the low cost carriers operated out of Prague Airport. Other airlines has long queues while Finnair had several desks to line up and they were all empty. In this case all the desks were empty.
A sequence number close to 100 suggests people either check-in online or were at the airport rather early. Had to ask which lounge I was using today because the oneworld site has different partner lounges for each airline and I hadn’t checked the web site beforehand. Being a Schengen flight they used the Menzies Aviation Lounge which I spent a hour or so in after passing security.
Now on the plane. Like a lot of this trip, it would be an eye opener to some differences that others just take for granted. For example I had read Finnair’s A319 has proper J seats rather than convertibles for short haul, but that wasn’t the case. Certainly hard to imagine people paying the outrageous amounts (AU$1200+) for the direct flight. But that’s Europe on traditional big carriers, there is limited premium cabin options, often economy style seating and also no point to point pricing, however low cost carriers are forcing them to change practices, particularly on the last point.
My flight was full, actually very full. Unsurprisingly a lot of their custom on intra-EU flights are transit pax connecting through HEL to further reaches. But surprisingly I was sat next to two girls from Melbourne. Great to chat to strangers, something you miss in premium cabins. So did not take photos on this one but we came to some conclusions.
- It was funny to see the limited staff partcipation during the safety demonstration. It is entirely left to the video and they stand there, doing nothing but watch you’re paying attention like in school, before pointing to the exits then sit down.
- During taxi and take-off they have a camera in the nose of the plane shown on the public IFE. This is featured on many of their airframes. Rather cool and I like the first person POV. Obviously an option for airlines, hence uncommon, except where it’s required e.g. A380.
- They did serve a very basic snack onboard. It’s basic but at least something, a cheap convenience store style sandwich and a cup of water. I miss being provided a small bottle. At least I still avoided the awful trend of buy on board.
The whole service felt a bit tired but otherwise quietly welcoming. The customer service was rather limited which is part of the experience here. No particular negatives which itself is a positive when in economy.
I arrived on a Saturday afternoon into Helsinki which is apparently there crazy peak period. The departure terminal looked truly packed. To alleviate this they actually allow you to check-in luggage the night before when it is quieter. The idea appears dad can drop off the family’s bags in the evening so there’s no rushing on the day.
On arriving into HEL you have a few choices to get into town. Taxis of course and public buses. They are currently building a rail link with a subway airport station. I noticed a giant deep hole next to the terminal. For now one option I used is the Finnair coach bus. They’re proper coaches with plenty of room, running all day. Relatively express, you can pay by credit card and when I rode it was quiet. It goes all the way into town and stops at the central bus station which is adjacent to the central train station. Adjacent to both is the relatively new Holiday Inn, where I would be staying. It is just metres from the door to the bus stop yet enough to get soaked if it rains.
Flight details: AY716 PRG-HEL on a Airbus 319 OH-LVF in economy, seat 6D. Flight length: 2:10 hr, 820 miles.