Flying Finnair’s Innovative Business Class For Less
Every now and again, there comes a disruptor to the business class seat industry. British Airways did it when they launched the first flatbed with Club World in 1995. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a major airline without lie-flat business class seats on long-haul flights. Qatar Airways was the first to launch a business class suite with their QSuite in 2017. Now major airlines have followed by adding doors to their seats, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The next level of innovation has come from Finnair with its Air Lounge seat on the Airbus 350. It’s not a suite but is very private. Along with Singapore Airlines, it is one of the largest business class seats in terms of width. However, that is not what makes it unique. The concept is something some flyers are struggling to imagine – the seat does not recline.
The lack of recline does not mean there is no flatbed. Finnair’s business class product has a large flat sleeping area. The difference comes when the passenger is relaxing in the seat. Usually, we are used to pressing a button to recline while we watch a movie or read on board. Yet while at home, very few people have a reclining sofa or chair.
Many great innovations come about while trying to solve a problem. Within the airline industry, there are a number of airlines struggling with a wealth of broken premium seats due to supply chain issues. The majority of business and first class seats need a powered mechanism to move the seat, leading to more chance of failure. Finnair keeps these parts to a minimum, with the relative simplicity of the mechanism boding well for durability. Hopefully, it means there is less chance of you being faced with a broken seat.
The way that the seat works for reclining is simple but effective. The only powered mechanical part is the leg rest which can be controlled independently. You then recline yourself as you would do on a couch. To assist this, Finnair provides two cushions of varying size and firmness. In fact, the seat is so large you could even sit sideways with your legs tucked to the side if you wanted. The possibilities to arrange yourself comfortably are as endless as sitting on your sofa at home. When it comes time to sleep, a small infill is manoeuvred into position with a lever by the passenger to make up a large flat area. The seat is on the firm side, as is Qatar’s QSuite, but you do get a mattress topper for sleeping on long flights.
Finnair also revamped its long haul business class offering with new menus and tableware. The airline partnered with Iittala and designer Harri Koskinen to develop the new Kuulas range of tableware found in Business Class. Marimekko once again worked closely with Finnair to refresh the textiles on board with its distinctive style. The new menus are modern, with two small plates of starters, a main course and cheese as well as dessert. The wine and drinks list is very focussed on Finnish specialities which people may not be aware of such as a dessert wine and several excellent Finnish Gins. The good news for those who prefer a non-alcoholic drink is that Finnair’s Blueberry juice drink is available in all cabins. You may imagine that this could be very sweet, but like blueberries themselves, it has the right balance of sweetness to tartness making it a refreshing drink.
All this may sound like it would be very expensive in today’s world of eyewatering high airfares. Surprisingly Finnair offers some very attractive fares to Asia from many places in Europe. Their business model was built on being a fast route to Asia in terms of a connecting airline. With the problem of not being able to overfly Russia, they are now facing more competition from Middle Eastern airlines as well as national airlines that fly direct. To keep costs down even further, if you are flexible, you can look at departing from a different city, as there can be huge variations in price across Europe.
For those on a smaller budget, there is a way to try this seat or one of Finnair’s other business class seats on short haul. Their A350 seats are also modern in a 1-2-1 configuration, and the aircraft features some fun ambient light settings such as “Northern Lights”. Finnair fly their A350 once a day from London to Helsinki in winter and usually uses them long haul twice a day in summer from Heathrow. On short haul you won’t get the full long haul service but you will still enjoy a hot meal and a choice of drinks.
If this means a slightly longer connection in Helsinki, it will give you ample time to sample the new Finnair lounges. The business class lounge has the signature Finnair Nordic style with its range of wood, deep navy and gold furnishings. The cocktail bar is the most elegant area of the lounge, where you can sip Joseph Perrier champagne or enjoy a Finnish-style gin and tonic. If you have status with Finnair as a Platinum or Platinum Lumo member or have oneworld emerald, you can access the new Platinum lounge, which even has its own sauna. The must-try item on the a la carte menu is definitely the delicious reindeer burger served with blue cheese and lingonberry mayonnaise.
You can use British Airways Avios to buy tickets on Finnair with return business class tickets to Helsinki costing 33000 Avios + $101.09 (£83.61). Another option if you collect American Express Membership Reward points would be to transfer them to the Finnair Plus loyalty scheme to either purchase a ticket outright or use them to upgrade to business class. Cash fares start from £546 return to Helsinki in business class from London.