Odyssey on Finnair A350-900XWB
Finnair is the first A350 operator in Europe, and currently, A350 are being run on mainly Bangkok flights and Shanghai/Beijing flights, with a brief run in mid-January for its JFK flights. There are three other operators of A350s now – Qatar Airways, Vietnam Airlines, and Finnair. Finnair gives me the best price and schedule, and while Finnair is not a fancy carrier, it offers a consistent product both in the air and on the ground. I love its joint branding with Marimekko – cabin interior, upholstery, china, plates, pillow, bedding, amenity kit, and service folder. There are certain areas for improvement especially its ridiculously weak catering, but for an affordable business class ticket, Finnair provides a good product, especially when after flying an overnight transatlantic 787 flight on British Airways Club World. However, the most impressive aspect is the plane itself and A350s definitely earn its XWB badge, and the headroom/high ceiling is just unbelievable. I am a big fan of A350 now. For this trip report, I flew three A350 segments: HEL-BKK-HEL-JFK. I try to take as many pictures as possible, and since I am flying J, I also try to take some pictures in the back. Unfortunately both HEL-BKK-HEL are full 100% and HEL-JFK has a much lower load, but passengers spread out through the plane, so I never got the chance to sit at one of the Y seats.
Here is the full photo album for those, who are not interested in the written part!
January 10, 2016; Sunday
AY 89 HEL-BKK Lv1700 Arr0725+1 Airbus A350-900 OH-LWA
Flight Plan for AY 89 – I love the new display and your voucher for free wifi in J is also displayed – each seat has a different voucher – Finnair offers wifi on all the A350 flights, and the day pass costs 15EUR, but it is free for business class. Each seat features a different voucher for you to use, and the voucher is only good for one device. But you can login and logoff in one device, and then use it on another device by logging in again. The system worked pretty well on all the flights, except the BKK-HEL segment, in which it took a while for the voucher code to work. The speed was acceptable – not lighting fast of course, but you can do basic social media things. Text is fine.
After arriving from London Heathrow on AY 832 on OH-LQB, an Airbus A340-300, I headed straight to the Finnair’s Premium lounge, which is fairly crowded. It got worst, as the day progressed especially in the middle of the late afternoon Asian rush. There were passengers, who had to stand, and given how AY continues to expand, they need more lounge spaces.
A few shots of the business class cabin on the A340-300, which will give you some comparison with A350:
Not really bad feet space
Lack luster intra-European Finnair meal – fancy printed menu, but need more substances and will it hurt to serve a real dessert, not some packaged bun? Not to mention an additional fruit or cheese plate!
Despite the plane arrived early from Beijing, boarding did not begin till 4:36pm at Gate 32. A note about the terminal – there are much construction going around and seats are in short supply. I hope the Vantaa airport authority is aware of the problem, and things will improve after the renovation is over. There is a separate priority and economy class boarding lanes, and the agents are very good in enforcing the order of boarding.
I manage to snap a picture of the empty J min-cabin after door 2 – better pictures on my last leg
Main J section between Door 1 and 2
Can you tell that there is a major difference between these two business class cabins?
I just love these herringbone suites
New LCD signage panel
Seat control panel
Bottled water holder and literature pocket
Pre-takeoff beverage – OJ or champagne
Door was only closed slightly late at 5:06pm, despite the plane was 100% full in J and Y. The pilot proudly introduced the A350 and our flying time was eight hours and fifty-five minutes, and also telling us that we need to deice the wings, which might slightly delay us. I guess since we only needed to deice the wing, we did it in the gate, instead of in a remote parking space.
I love the new tail camera
We took off from R/W4R at 5:30pm, and our routing took us over Russia – St Petersburg and Volgograd at 39,000ft, and before towards Krasnoarneysk, Liman, Aktau, Murgab, Maymana, Gharzni, and we climbed to 41,000ft before passing Sirsa, Hisar, Teonthar, Serpurjalpal, Wakema, Ye, and into Bangkok Suvarnabhumi airport.
I love the cockpit view of the new flight map:
Dinner service began about thirty minutes after takeoff. I was not sure how the new A350 signature menu is significantly different from previous premium flights. The meal was nice in terms of quality, but lacking in terms of quantity and not comparable to most top tier Asian airlines. It is still better than BA though.
I tried Finnair’s signature drink:
Finnair Signature Cocktail: Blue Sky
1 cl Lapponia Blueberry Liqueur
8 cl Nicolas Feuilatte Brut Grande Reserve
A350 Signature Menu
Mixed Nuts – not sure if I will call a bowl of mixed nuts an amuse bouche, but Finnair should serve both a real amuse like on the other two segments and a bowl of mixed nuts. Finnair simply does not serve enough food.
Cold smoked Baltic herring, smoked herring mousse and marinated cucumbers – I was never asked for my choice, but given this herring dish automatically. I guess if you order a special entrée, they automatically assign you to one of the specific appetizers. I definitely would prefer the soup because of the weather. I also remember that they used to serve both a starter and a soup, so this is cost cutting, rather than an enhancement.
Creamy crayfish soup and crayfish salad seasoned with lovage-pistou
I checked online for the meal choices and were not too impressed with the three choices. So I settled on one of the three pre-order only entrées.
Warm smoked arctic char, potato terrine and Granny’s traditional sour cream sauce
Slow cooked reindeer entrecote, Jerusalem artichoke puree and dark sea buckthorn sauce
Mushroom raviolis, tomato-olive pure and cep cream seasoned with fresh thyme leaves
WHEN DEPARTING FROM HELSINKI, YOU CAN ALSO ORDER ONE OF THE FOLLOWING MAIN COURSES:
Food Lover´s Treat
Herb seasoned bratwurst sausages
- Roasted potatoes and onions with fresh tomatoes – it is pretty good.
Roasted fillet of reindeer with
- Potato gratin
- Grilled vegetables
Wellness and Energy
Grilled chili marinated prawns
with cashew nuts
- Jasmine rice
- Fresh vegetables
Cheeses from Finnish Small producers:
Peltolan Blue cheese and Viinitarhuri, award winning, strong matured milk cheese and rhubarb jam
Haagen-Dazs Vanilla or strawberry cheesecake ice cream
Coffee or tea avec
Maybe it was a full flight, so I was not offered both cheese and dessert. Anyway I was so tired by this point, and only wanted to go to sleep, but I snapped a few photos before going to sleep!
Seat on recline position
Seat on full flat position
Then I slept for the rest of the flight until breakfast. The seat was very comfortable and I appreciate that the blanket was actually long enough to cover me from shoulder to toes. I have a picture showcasing the Marimekko bedding on the next segment. The breakfast card was a pretty cute concept, but given that Finnair’s breakfast was fairly basic. It was really not necessary. Unlike Virgin Australia or Qantas, which actually offered a full range of choices of breads, beverages, dishes and side dishes, and the F/As did not bother recollecting the breakfast cards.
Omelette with smoked salmon, rosti potato with cream cheese and creamy spinach
Warming morning roll and croissant
I asked for a yogurt
Fresh Fruit and Yogurt
Chicken curry toast
I always like Finnair’s hot breakfast service, which is better than its light meal service on daytime flights. At least the meal is actually filling and features a warm entrée.
Descent began at 6:53am Bangkok local time.
We landed on R/W19R at 7:21am and parked at gate F6 eleven minutes later. We had to wait a bit before an ANA plane got pushed from our gate.
Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport remained as unimpressive as always, and on arrival, there were agents scrambling to pass out fast pass invitations to premium and elite passengers. There is a board with the list of passengers and the whole process is pretty dis-organizaed and chaotic. It makes more sense to pass those fast pass invitations during the flight. Anyway, the fast pass lanes were fairly busy and my bag had already arrived in the baggage claim by the time I deal with the so-called “fast pass” immigration lane. My bag suffered some major dents during today’s flight.
January 12, 2016
AY 90 BKK-HEL Lv0905 Arr1455 Airbus A350-900 OH-LWB “ONEWORLD livery”
I basically spent most of my layover sleeping, as I wanted to take more pictures on these daytime flights.
Finnair’s check-in counters at Bangkok Suvarnabhumi – fairly organized
The agent was fairly clumsy though and I had to return to the counter to get my fast track invitation, and it took a while for the check-in to be completed. At least she seemed to be genuinely apologetic. Fast track worked better ton the return and I just hope that there is better signage telling passengers where fast track lanes are. But for an airport like Suvarnabhumi, I am thankful that there is a priority lane. You can’t expect too much from this airport.
As an Oneworld Emerald passenger, I was directed to the Cathay Pacific lounge, which has recently undergone a major renovation. Talk about a major change here – I used to hate CX BKK lounge, but his new lounge is simply gorgeous. I can spend hours here and both the beverage and food selections have dramatically improved – it really made Finnair’s Helsinki lounge looked pale in comparison.
OH-LWB was in charge of my flight today, and I was happy to fly another A350, and it features ONEWORLD livery.
Boarding, as usual, was pretty chaotic, but at least the agents made an effort to reinforce the order. Economy class passengers were turned away from the business class lane.
Boarding began really late today at 8:48am with not much explanation, as the inbound arrived fairly on time. I guess staffs were still getting used to the new plane, and Lufthansa Technik was the hired agent here for AY. There were a number of local and German engineers checking out the plane.
My seat for this leg
I missed taking a picture of the side storage bin on the last segment – here it is:
Bottled water is already pre-loaded:
New Marimekko amenity kit and folder containing the menu, wine list, immigration form, and duty free pre-order flyer
Door was closed at 9:08am, which was very impressive given our full load again – 20 minutes to board a full widebody plane
OH-LWB at gate F6
We pushed back at 9:16am and slowly taxied towards R/W19L. Traffic was not too bad, and we took off at 9:32am for our ten hours and twenty-eight minutes flight to Helsinki. There was strong headwind all along the way.
Our routing today: Ka Mar Wet-320-Kawkade-Thetkala-Thonze-CCU/Kolkata-Pnachet-GAY/Gaya-LKO/Lucknow-Sandila-Chandausi-380-Sharanpur-IXC/Chandigarh-Philaur-400-LHE/Lahore-Pershai-KBL/Kabul-Samangan-Termez-Sarshi-Maydayop-Alchin-Tamdybulaq-Shiy-Uralsk Opan-Pugachyov-Zemetchino-Sarai-Molvina Sloboda-Venyov-Polotnyanyy Zarod-Vyazma-Pechory-Mooste-Palamuse-Kolga-Helsinki
Lunch service took place thirty minutes after takeoff, and it was clear that Finnair did not cater enough food for a hungry crowd on a daytime flight. The mid-flight snack menu indeed featured more items but it was obviously insufficient.
Real amuse bouche this time
Mozzarella and cherry tomato with pesto
Garden Salad, balsamic vinaigrette
Smoked salmon with cocktail sauce, rocket salad
Creamy green asparagus salad with cheese sticks
Stir fried chicken in sweet chili sauce, bok choi and carrot, steamed rice
Beef burgundy, roasted potato wedges and steamed vegetables
Paccheri pasta stuffed with ricotta and spinach, tomato coulis and pesto sauce, snow peas, sautéed mushrooms and roasted tomatoes
Cheeses – Camembert and mild cheddar
Haagen-Dazs Vanilla Ice Cream
Coffee and tea, avec
After lunch, I checked out the bathroom – Finnair actually publicizes that it has introduced a female only bathroom on the A350, but none of the bathrooms really has a sign like Virgin Australia or JAL. I actually accidentally walked in that particular bathroom with some interesting amenities.
Anyway here is the regular bathroom – only two bathrooms in the first J section has window:
Really interesting to read the instruction on how to prepare hot towels:
“Woman” Bathroom – behind door 2 on the right side
Fully reclined suites with Marimekko bedding – need I say more! It is so well-matched with the cabin interior and seat upholstery.
Mid-flight snack galley
I really want to show you the sandwiches, but they were all gone by the time I ever made a move. I took these pictures early on during the flight, and by the end of the flight, they were nearly all gone. Only thing left were the grapes and candies.
Chicken club sandwich, finger sandwiches, warm Finnish cinnamon buns, fresh fruit, potato chips, nuts, almonds, and biscuits
I want to note that the Chicken Club sandwiches were not offered during mid-flight, but were offered as a “third” choice for the pre-arrival meal. I did not know if it was a catering mistake, menu mis-print, or the F/As forgot to offer them during mid-flight.
Instead of the 90 minutes mark, the F/As decided to start the final meal service two hours and twenty minutes prior to arrival. I guess too many passengers were requesting various snacks, and they were running out of stuff. It was also dinnertime in Bangkok. The light meal on this segment actually featured a hot option, which was much appreciated, especially compared to my next segment. The noodle dish was just right, and it was delicious. I think the meal could use an appetizer course, as well as a real dessert – sort of like Finnair’s intra-European hot meal on its two to three hour flights. One course is fine, but it needs more substances.
Our second service, ca 90 minutes before landing, will be a light meal from the following menu.
Salad Nicoise with grilled tuna (COLD)
Stir fried Chinese noodles with vegetables and sliced chicken in oyster sauce
I did not say much about the F/As because I want to save them to the end. I had the same flight crews on both HEL-BKK and BKK-HEL segments, and while they were not as crazy attentive as the top tier Asian airlines, they were very friendly and personable. They obviously noticed that I had a short stay like them, as well as taking many pictures (I was also using my olloclip too). Instead of treating me with suspicious (which was a real life case on jetBlue last year), they just asked me with a smile on why the short trip. I just told them that I had been trying to get an A350 flight, so my main purpose of the trip was the A350, not warm weather or Thailand. She was very impressed and later I had a chat with her colleague about this new plane. They are all very proud of the new plane and enjoy the spacious cabin and galley. Later they even offered me a cockpit visit on arrival in Helsinki. The lead purser also had a short chat with me and asked for feedbacks too. So I only have good things to say about the F/As.
Descent soon began at 2:30pm Helsinki local time – things were already getting dark. It was another snowy and cold day in Finland, and I love the nose camera. Gear down at 2:56pm:
We landed on R/W4R at 3pm.
I did not envy passengers on this JAL flight from Tokyo:
We parked at gate 35 four minutes later.
After most business class passengers deplaned, the F/A brought me to the cockpit and both pilots were happy to show off this new plane. I was simply amazed by the size of the cockpit, and words were not enough to explain how I was impressed with the A350. The pilots were kind enough to tell me a few things about the plane, and were very humble when I commented on how smooth the landing was. I only stayed a few minutes and then left, as they still had some work to do. But many thanks to the cockpit crews to allow this visit, as well as the F/As that arranged this brief visit.
January 13, 2016; Wednesday
AY 5 HEL-JFK Lv1410 Arr1555 Airbus A350-900 OH-LWA
Of course on an ideal world created by me, OH-LWC would not fly to Bangkok, and instead fly to New York JFK. But in the end, Finnair assigned its first A350 on this week long visit to New York JFK.
Helsinki’s Terminal Two was fairly quiet when I checked in about three hours prior to departure. Priority check-in counters were not busy at all. The agent was friendly and I was soon checked through to JFK.
Finnair’s Premium lounge was available for Oneworld Emerald passengers and things were quiet this early afternoon.
Main sitting room
Main sitting room with lights “on”
Main dining room
Buffet – mostly cold dishes, except two kinds of soups and some vegetarian dishes. Meat based dishes are in scarcity for sure.
Sitting room upstairs with limited tarmac view
OH-LWA towing to gate 37 – running late – not sure why it was towed so late and maybe there were maintenance issues!
Out of my four Finnair segments, this flight was very unusual because they seemed very disorganized. For a daily flight to New York that has been operating for decades, it was strange that the ground crews were not aware of all the security related matters. Boarding was delayed because of security checks and other ground operating issues. We did not board till 2:10pm, our scheduled departure time.
This time I aimed to take a few more pictures of the economy cabin, and shortly after I boarded, I asked if it was okay, and the F/As said, “of course”!
The second business class cabin was different from the main business class cabin, because there were additional cabin bins for the middle section. For the main section, there were only overhead bins along the window seats, which caused some issues especially there was no under-seat storage for all the business class suites.
Economy class cabin:
Really smart design – this is actually the mid-galley at Door 2 – the drape was to be put down during boarding and de-boarding:
Amenities- slippers are offered automatically on this flight, instead on request:
Boarding was completed quickly but there were issues with luggage. Some connecting passengers were denied entry into the US and their bags need to be removed. During the delays, the F/As were very proactive in refilling everyone’s drinks and offering water. Door was finally closed at 2:48pm and we pushed back ten minutes later:
Winter wonderland at HEL:
Of course, de-icing next – it was fun to see an A350 getting de-iced:
Getting ready to takeoff from R/W4R
We finally took off at 3:26pm and today’s flight time was eight hours and twenty minutes.
Chasing sunset throughout the flight
Kerava-Urjala-Merikarvia-360-Nyland-Solleftea-Lund-Kvinora-Drag-400-Tasiilaq-Paamiut-410-S of Hopedale-400-Rivere-aux-Graines-Saint Leonard-Guilford-Westbrook-Kittery-Boston-Marshfield-Fall River-Westerly State Airport-Long Island-Blue Point-JFK
Amenity kit and contents:
Beverage service began shortly after takeoff
Blue Sky again and this time with real blueberries
Cold Smoked Salmon and cauliflower-dill tapioca
Marinated lavaret, akvavit seasoned fennel and vendace roe mousse
Smoked Jerusalem artichoke soup with crispy bacon and nuts
Grilled sander Grenobloise and potato puree flavored with cod, garlic and thyme
Slow cooked reindeer entrecote, roasted celeriac and dark sea buckthorn sauce
Ravioli Pasta filled with truffle, Riesling cream sauce and leaf spinach
Cheeses from Finnish small producers:
Peltolan Blue cheese and “Brandy-pahkina”, matured milk cheese with brandy-nut flavor
Port wine jam
Haagen-Dazs Vanilla or strawberry cheesecake Ice Cream
Coffee and tea, avec
I definitely appreciated being offered both cheese and dessert on today’s flight and I presume that there were plenty extra on this lightly loaded business class cabin.
Scenery after dinner
One of the F/As told me that they would put out a light show after the meal service and it was called “Northern light” and the best view was from the aft cabin. I initially misunderstood them that I would be able to spot the Northern light out from the window and towards the end, I realize that they were using the mood-lightning feature to do a light show. It was pretty cool!
Throughout the flight we will served a variety of snacks and sweets in the cabin.
Feel free to choose from fresh fruits, potato chips, noodles, nuts and almonds and chocolate.
Midflight winglet shot
The light meal was a major disappointment, and it was served when it was 9:45pm Helsinki time/2:45pm NYC time. It was basically dinnertime and I was actually quite hungry, but that cold salad was such a turnoff. It was honestly the last thing I wanted at that time of the day. There was no meat or seafood topping and I didn’t care how fresh the vegetables were. I wanted at least a hot sandwich or a warm entrée like a pasta dish. They also ran out of bread rolls so only crackers were offered.
We served a light meal ca 90 minutes before landing.
Goat cheese and beetroot salad with apple and pine nuts
Balsamic-olive oil or Caesar dressing
Descent began at 4:03pm local time, and I took a series of pictures of the tail camera.
We landed on R/W31R at 4:46pm.
We parked at gate B6 at 4:52pm.
Unfortunately, this trip ended with a delay that could be avoided. The only saving grace was the quiet immigration hall, as we were the only international flight arriving at these late afternoon hours.
In conclusion, I am a fan of the A350 and look forward flying them in the future, especially with other airlines. Finnair does a pretty good job in decorating the cabin and the joint branding with Marimekko is brilliant. The cabin looks stylish and the new business class suites are definitely a success. Some people mentioned that those reverse herringbone seats are pretty bad for couples, but direct aisle access and suites are more important these days. Most passengers in J are solo travelers, so Finnair makes the correct decision with this seat. Finnair, however, really needs to work on its catering and I feel that the A350 signature menu has some cutbacks, rather than improvement. You need to serve more substantive courses and maybe offering a dessert tray with fruit, cheese, and dessert will be necessary at least on daytime flights.
Thanks for reading and I hope you enjoy this A350 trip report!