Finnair Business Class Stockholm-Helsinki – Short hop across the Baltic
At the Airport
As a traveller in business class, I was able to pre-book seats before departure by logging in with my booking reference number on the Finnair website. With a Bonus Card at One World Sapphire or Emerald level (Finnair Plus Gold or Platinum), the seat next to you is automatically blocked and it becomes one of the last to be allocated to another passenger.
I arrived at Arlanda terminal 2 at 11:45am with 70 minutes left to departure. Since I only had hand luggage, it was easy to check in via the automated kiosk and after a few quick questions on the screen, my boarding pass was printed. The only thing I dislike with the automated check-in machines is the thin paper that is used as it very easily breaks in a packed bag.
Terminal 2 has, for the past year, had a fast track channel for travellers in business class or with gold cards or equivalent. Normally this would not be necessary as the ordinary queue is usually very short, but today it was something else entirely with a queue that snaked well into the departure hall. Fast track saved several minutes and the arrangement worked very well. Although the two open checkpoints were shared, the queues were cleverly positioned so it was not perceived as one person forcing his way into the front of someone else’s queue.
A quick lunch had at the Menzies Aurora Lounge where there was pasta and chicken with salad in the self-service buffet and cookies and mini muffins to go with the coffee. All sorts of drinks were available but unfortunately, only on-tap wine instead of bottled. Otherwise it’s a fairly pleasant lounge.
Boarding and First Impressions
The plane arrived early from Helsinki and there was a desire from the crew to try to get away a little earlier from Arlanda. The screens changed to “new departure time 12:45”, ten minutes earlier than the scheduled departure time, and at 12:15 the boarding process started, which pretty quickly changed to “final call”. There were a number of passengers who got a bit more stress than they had planned.
A flight attendant met me at the entrance and I was quickly shown to my seat 02F, a window seat on the second row. Business class consisted of three rows with 12 seats and overall we were eight passengers. With the next seat blocked nobody occupied the seat next to mine, 02D, and it remained vacant. Occupancy in economy class was almost 100 percent.
Pushback was ten minutes before departure at 12.45pm. The welcome speech was made in Swedish, Finnish and English, followed by a safety demonstration. Newspapers were offered. At 12:55pm we took off with a flight time of 40 minutes to Helsinki.
It was an Embraer 170 that made the short hop to the Finnish capital. The cabin consisted of 76 seats, 19 rows in a 2-2 configuration with business class occupying the first three lines. Unlike Airbus aircraft where the middle seat is always available, there is is no such guarantee in business class on an Embraer aircraft. If it is full, all business class seats will be busy and you get nothing extra in seat comfort.
The cabin was light grey with fabric seats. Legroom was perhaps not spectacular but it did not feel too cramped either. The vacant seat beside me also helped to create more space and roominess. Overall I think the Embraer 170/190 is an excellent aircraft to fly with, definitely one of the best regional aircraft.
Formally, it was not a Finnair operated flight but a flight operated by Flybe for Finnair. In a practical sense, the difference was minimal, the interior and the service concept were the same as on Finnair’s own flights and it was just the announcements before takeoff and after landing that the name Flybe was mentioned.
Shortly after take-off, divided trays were handed out in business class to those who wished to eat. No carriage was used, instead trays were served individually by the flight attendant. A simple snack was served, consisting of a dark rye bread sandwich with a shrimp mix and afterwards a chocolate. The sandwich tasted good, provided you like dark bread, but felt rather something simple for a flight in business class right at lunchtime.
After the trays were distributed, a serving trolley passed with a full range of drinks. I ordered a bottle of champagne to drink. Finnair has changed champagne variety, formerly the Joseph Perrier was being served, now they have gone over to Nicolas Feuillate, the champagne variety which SAS has had for many years in Europe. Personally, I like both kinds.
The champagne was served in the renowned Iittala glasses, a signature of the Finnair Business class concept, with a glass series called Ultima Thule. The glasses are a pleasure to drink from and helps to lift the experience into something that feels luxurious and elegant. It is quite different from the rather boring drinking glasses and wine glasses that most airlines use within Europe. It is fascinating what a difference a few designer glasses can do for the experience.
Despite a fairly short flight time, I managed another half bottle of champagne and a glass of water. In economy class, passengers make do with coffee or juice.
Two flight attendants were working aboard, one of which, the purser, had the responsibility of business class before she later helped with catering in economy class. She had a native Finnish language but spoke excellent English and Swedish. The welcoming on board was also very polite and respectful, something more than what it probably would have been on another airline, and I was consistently engaged in conversation. The staff were completely natural and very pleasant.
With an early departure from the airport, it was also an early arrival in Helsinki where we landed 20 minutes ahead of schedule at Vantaa Airport with a speedy parking after landing.
Vantaa is a very convenient airport to use. It may not be the largest in Europe and the Schengen transit hall is getting fairly cramped, but the lay out is easy to grasp and walking distances are short no matter where to. Many passengers from the Stockholm plane would then be travelling on to another destination, in Asia.
A short hop across the Baltic Sea. Somewhat simple for it to be business class but the hospitality was the best imaginable and Iittala glasses are always a pleasure to drink from.