Finnair Airbus 350 roundtrip to Hong Kong, business & economy

Finnair is a small airline, but has become an important carrier between Europe and Asia through its Helsinki hub. I have flown Finnair long haul flights a few times, with good experiences. Flights have been on time and transfers in Helsinki tend to be fast.

Finnair has recently renewed its long-haul fleet, becoming the first Airbus 350 operator in Europe. Their aged A340s are all gone now, but Finnair keeps operating Airbus 330 on some long-haul routes.

Despite flying countless times, I had never travelled in business class. My employers have not provided this luxury, let alone would I pay for such seat myself. But on this occasion I got an opportunity to upgrade to business class on my flight from Helsinki to Hong Kong, opting to take it. For the return flight, I had to settle for the familiar cattle class.

Helsinki Airport

Despite some drawbacks, Helsinki-Vantaa is one of my favourite airports. It is fairly small airport for an international hub, but that’s why it operates so effectively.

Helsinki Airport has offered free wi-fi since early days. This is fast and without apparent time- or data limits. There are numerous mobile charging ports around, but many of them are not working, somewhat surprisingly, as maintenance is usually taken seriously in this part of the world.

Airports tend to be expensive, and Helsinki must be among the costliest ones. More and more space is allocated to shops and restaurants, at the cost of passenger seats. Some gates have a negligible amount of seating for waiting passengers, including the one for my Flight to Hong Kong (photo below).

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The departure gate for Hong Kong flight hours before the departure. Nearly 300 passengers are expected to share these seats.

Finland has the cleanest tap water, but this airport has no specific drinking water taps. Only toilets have tap water, many people have reservations about drinking it. The other option is to buy ridiculously priced bottled water.

As a business class passenger I had a lounge access. Finnair has two lounges: Business class lounge and the flashier Premium lounge. To enter the latter, one needs to be a Oneworld Emerald member (I am not, yet…). My lounge experiences are too few for comparison, but I was happy with the serving here. The business class lounge was surprisingly quiet, despite several long distance flights departing late in the evening.

Helsinki – Hong Kong, business class

Many times I have walked past business class, vowing myself one day I would take a seat there. What a surreal feeling now that I was really getting the seat! Despite being clad smarter than usual, I felt more out of place here than as a sole white passenger on a fully packed rickety bus in Africa!

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A view of Finnair A350 business class

These business class seats are of great comfort, adjustable to full-flat position. Even a tall person will find the leg space sufficient.

The personal IFE screen is large, wish there was some meaningful content to watch…. Finnair has a poor movie selection, those C-class actions films and comedies nobody cares about. The highlight was Roque One, the latest Star Wars movie.

There is a three-pin audio jack for the provided BOSE headset. Nothing to complain about its quality, but I prefer using my earphones instead. Laptops can be charged though the multiplug next to each seat.

I had high expectations for meals. The dinner was served about 40 minutes after the midnight takeoff, while the breakfast time was 90 minutes before landing, past midday Hong Kong time.

While both meals tasted good, still I felt those could have been way better. The portions were similar in size compared to economy class meals. If still hungry, various snacks were provided on request throughout the flight.

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Business class dinner. My choice was pike-perch with potatoes
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Business class breakfast, western breakfast option

There is a selection of wines and other drinks offered for free. I was not there to drink, only taking a glass of wine and Finnair Blue Sky signature cocktail, the latter tasting very good actually!

Since this was my first business class experience, I cannot compare it with other airlines. Based on reviews by other travellers, Finnair A350 business class is among the better ones.

After losing my business class virginity, do I feel flying in business class being that special? Sure the seats are much, much better than economy ones. Personally I feel economy seats comfortable enough, even sleeping there relatively well. Serving in business class is certainly good, but nowhere near the experience of dining at a classy restaurant. While business class is way better than economy, I’m still perfectly okay flying in the latter (don’t tell that to my employer, though…).

Return flight Hong Kong – Helsinki, economy class

Finnair online check-in starts 36 hours before the flight. I forgot this and completed the check-in only 24 hours before the flight. By then I had been allocated a middle seat. Luckily, there were still window and aisle seats still available. This was another reminder to check-in immediately after it opens to avoid a bad seat.

While check-in was possible online, no mobile boarding pass was provided. Instead I had to obtain one at the airport, With hand baggage only, I did not want to queue at the check-in counter only to get the boarding pass. Luckily I got it using a check-in machine. Only at the gate I was briefly stopped for not having provided my passport details.

The flight departed after midnight. The onward flight arrives Hong Kong two o’clock in the afternoon, meaning the plane stays for ten hours at Hong Kong Airport. Some other European airlines do the same. There would be adequate time flying to a third destination. But with all airspace regulation, getting proper rights is just  not possible.

Finnair Airbus 350 has a 3-3-3 seat arrangement in economy and economy premium classes. The latter provides more leg room, but similar seats.

Every seat have an adequately sized IFE screen. As already mentioned, the film selection is pathetic. While the boarding started an hour before departure, the entertainment system was turned on much later. Despite brand new plane, audio jacks are still the ancient two-pin ones. Charging mobile phones is possible through USB ports.

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Economy class IFE screen

Two meals were served, on this 10-hour flight, dinner and breakfast. The dinner was served rapidly, I got my meal less than an hour after take-off despite almost a back row seat.

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Economy class dinner, beef with rice. The dessert cake was really nice. Shaky picture due to turbulence!
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Economy class breakfast

Despite half an hour delay in departure, the flight landed Helsinki slightly ahead of the scheduled 6am arrival time.

Finnair is a reliable airline and provides a good economy class experience, but can’t just match the quality in Middle Eastern airlines.

Bromma – Stockholm city airport

Major cities tend to keep growing, subsequently local airports get too small, with no room to expand. Instead, new bigger airports are built located far from city centers. Stockholm is a good example, the original airport Bromma is located just eight kilometres from the city, but became inadequate by the 60s and was replaced by Arlanda Airport, nearly 40 kilometres north of Stockholm.

Bromma still operates as a secondary airport, but is planned to be closed in the future. Due to its short runway, only turboprops and Avro jets operate there. Bromma serves mostly domestic travellers, as Bruxelles, Helsinki and Aarhus are the only international destinations.

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My new laptop experiences (HP Spectre X360, late 2016)

My previous laptop stopped working sometime ago. It was a Sony VAIO laptop (as you may know, Sony quit making laptops several years ago). But when bought, it was among the best of its time, and had aged well until starting to develop various problems before failing permanently.

In the meantime, I used even older laptop, a bulky Macbook. Otherwise still functioning well, its battery was no more charging, so I had to use it always plugged in! Not an ideal situation, as I have no fixed office but instead make use of hotel beds or hostel couches, or opt to work outside.

It took excessively long to get a new laptop, but it got to be worth the wait. I use laptop alot, much (if not most) of the day, both work and free-time. Better then get one that I am fully satisfied with!

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Addis to Johannesburg flights

When flying between two cities in Africa, it might be logical to use a local carrier. But flight connections there are not that good, frequencies are few and fares often exorbitant.

Take Johannesburg – Addis Ababa route as an example. The former is the busiest airport in Africa, while the latter is the hub of a major airline (Ethiopian). So there are multiple airlines flying between these cities several times a day? Nope. Only one airline serves the route directly, Ethiopian Airlines. South African Airways does not fly to Addis, only code-sharing with Ethiopian, its Star Alliance partners.

After travelling all the way from South Africa to Ethiopia mostly overland, I opted to fly back to Johannesburg. When booking a one-way flight, Ethiopian Airlines was far from being the cheapest airline, charging no less $550 for the flight!! Kenya Airways was the cheapest option, just over $300, while Emirates offered almost the same price. Having never flown with Emirates before, I was excited trying this well-rated airline. Sure, flying between two African cities transiting via Dubai is bit odd, but I prefer traveling the unusual way.

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Emirates is a relatively new airline, turning 30 only last year, but has experienced tremendous growth over the years and is now one of the leading global airlines. Its wide destination network covers all continents (except Antarctica), served by large and new fleet consisting only of big widebodies, Airbus 380 and Boeing 777.

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Ethiopia – budget travel tips

Ethiopia is not a country attracting masses of tourists, but certainly has a huge potential to be a major tourist destination. Ethiopia has a unique history spanning several centuries. Plentiful historic sites scattered around the country, now rendered to tourist attractions, remind us of those cultures. Ethiopian cultural richness extends to music and food.

With all its mountain ranges, volcanoes, waterfalls, lakes and river valleys, Ethiopia’s  nature is wonderful. Apart from a few established trekking routes, outdoor activities in Ethiopia are still at infancy stage.

Ethiopia’s recent history has been ravaged by instability, violence and drought. Despite being among fastest growing economies in Africa, a large proportion of its citizens live in a deep poverty. Ethiopia is formerly a communist state, its economy is still much closed and any foreign brands are rare.

Anything touristy tends to be expensive, but with a bit of know-how, it is possible to travel around Ethiopia very cheaply. This is not the easiest country to visit independently, but it is still well doable.

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