Singapore to Helsinki on Finnair A340 Business Class
Just flew Finnair between Singapore and Helsinki on their older but good A340 business class product. Fully flat beds, individual aisle access and some Nordic colours goes a long way toward making a comfortable 12 hour flight onto Europe. I eventually got to fly after postponing the flight a few times including showing up at the check-in desk a week ago only to decide to no-show! This sector was originally scheduled and booked on their latest A330 business class product, but it was nice to try the older (yet actually quite young) A340. A midnight departure meant sleep was the predominant activity and the fully flat beds in business class were comfortable enough to rest well.
Check-in and a seat swap
I was back at the Changi at the same check-in desk after last week, when I decided not to fly and told them I would no-show. Today I had preselected and checked in online seat 2A. This and a few other seats (4A, 6A…) are called thrown seats because they have a tablet on each side and are otherwise by themselves. It’s difficult to explain the seat map so better to just take a look for yourself. So I was happy to grab the best seat for a single traveller. Unfortunately, before arriving at the airport I saw on my phone that I had been moved to the back of the cabin and 2A occupied. Queue privileged rant of SOMEONE STOLE MY SEAT… (that’s a joke before you get judgemental)
Arriving at an empty check-in, I firmly but very politely asked for an explanation. I knew it was an outstation with contracted ground operations, and regardless there was little they could do so I wasn’t going to push it. I just wanted to know why they would move a oneworld emerald passenger a few hours prior to departure. The seat wasn’t a bassinet nor accessible and the remaining seats choices were all pretty in the middle. The guy at the business check-in counter was happy to look into it. Again I didn’t want an argument, it was just relative disappointing, although always a privilege to be travelling at all let alone with a bed to Europe. After a talk to the supervisor and a phoning the office he said the passanger medical reasons. He seemed overly willing to give details so I thanked him there. It ticked in my mind while waiting that seat might have the medical power outlet, for a CPAP machine for example. Once on board I confirmed my suspicions. I just got super unlucky this time with a last minute business class pax needing the power outlet.
That wasn’t the only problem at check-in, I had two tickets: SIN-HEL-MAD on Finnair, ticketed on Cathay Pacific and MAD-CMN-RAK on Iberia and Royal Air Maroc ticketed through the former. Although I will be staying overnight in Madrid, it is within 24 hours so hoped they could tag the bags through. Not unexpected however, they only interline with Iberia so it was either Iberia or Casablanca for the bag. The former was preferable. Iberia of course would be able to tag the bag through from there.
It was finally time to say goodbye, I had spent nearly a couple months in Indonesia, Malaysia and Singapore. There was time enough for dinner and a quick shower in the Qantas Business Lounge. I intended to visit the British Airways lounge since I have yet to see it post renovations. I just ran out of time however, as people were leaving when I walked past. A quick check of the flight departures and I could see they must have called their final flight of the day, so didn’t want to enter under the circumstances. Although Finnair is part of oneworld they issue invites to a third party lounge. Recently renovated and new to me, I spent a brief time in the dnata Changi T1 lounge before boarding. Of course they changed the boarding gate at the last moment to the furtherest one possible. I got there toward the end of boarding so was able to proceed straight on.
Pre-departure drinks were served. I settled into my front row seat and hoped I’d be able to get some rest on this midnight departure without too much noise or light disturbance. The seat itself is somewhat narrow but having the side table does help with some storage space. With other seat designs the space may have been better utilised with a wider seat but again that’s a trade off. Plenty of legroom and adequate, but not fantastic padding.
For the whole flight I had limited contact with the crew. The service wasn’t lacking but the timing partly contributes to distant approach. I do note they were predominantly Singapore based crew however it is hard to tell sometimes with the ethnic diversity in some parts of Scandinavia.
A midnight supper service after takeoff which about half the passengers declined. In these cases I am still hungry and the lights will be on and cutlery chiming so no chance for rest. The menu offered four main choices for dinner and two for breakfast.
For dinner the entire tray is served to speed up the service. I picked the Beef Gulai Padang. The description did a better job than the name of representing it but you can tell by looking it was the standard westernised fusion that you get onboard. It still tasted nice and I finished it but not something you’d want to serve up in Indonesia.
A couple hours before landing the breakfast service commenced. Like most good airlines this is relatively staggered, as passengers wake up and are ready. The choice is between a western or eastern ‘inspired’ hot breakfast. Often I look at these choices and try to think 1) what would have the local catering at departure been more competent at and 2) what would have survived half prepared for the past 12 hours. Often on long-haul flights from Asia I’d prefer a noodle or rice based dish, they seem to fair better.
In typical style I didn’t use the entertainment system at all and would use my own tablets if I wanted. Although not terrible, the screen and entertainment system seemed the most aged thing on the aircraft. Unfortunately the rate that consumer technology advances and the lead-in time required for airline fleet and cabin purchase decisions makes this conclusion unavoidable.
I wouldn’t say I got a full nights sleep but did find the seat converted into a relatively comfortable flat bed. No slope from what I could tell. The narrowness was again restrictive, so I may have been lucky not to be too restless this flight. Compared to other A340 products I have tried, I’d prefer the ‘Herringbone‘ seat arrangement pioneered by Virgin Atlantic or the similar older Cathay Pacific business class a.k.a. ‘coffin class’ still equipment on their A340s (which I just missed out when flying Hong Kong to Auckland late last year). Actually what I’d really prefer is the Lufthansa A340 First Class… 😛
Finnair has a unified design to their amenities kit, slippers and blankets. Of course you can’t take the latter but the amenity kit is worth putting into the collection. The contents however are pretty much bare basics. The back of the included card states they will provide on request: socks, shaving kit, mouthwash, hairbrush or makeup remover, so it’s probably a pragmatic cost saving effort.
Arriving into Helsinki-Vantaa super early in the morning I was in no rush with a day long transit ahead of me. Unfortunately for everyone heading to arrivals it was a long wait for the security door 20 metres from the gate to be opened, over half the passengers had deplaned before it any could proceed. Transiting you re-clear security which was adjacent to our gate. Although my next flight was within Schengen I spent the first few hours in the non-Schengen zone. Last time I had just missed the opening of the platinum “premium” lounge with the return of the sauna spa. As the best lounge in the airport I was happy to take my time using it as an arrivals lounge before going into Helsinki for the day.