Fly with Finesse We tried out the luxurious new business class cabins onboard Finnair as the airline launches daily flights from Dublin
TURNING left on a plane is thrilling, but for someone as thrifty as me, it doesn’t happen very often. However, since the pandemic, the price difference between economy and more premium cabins has narrowed. Now, paying a little more money for a lot more luxury is a lot more appealing.
This seems to be the case for many flyers, as the airline industry is seeing a demand for more premium experiences now that travel is opening up. But customers aren’t just after the champagne and cosmetic bags that typically come with those fancy seats at the front of the plane. They are looking for extra space and fewer people in the cabin to minimise the risk of catching Covid compared to being shoe-horned in economy sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers.
So, Finnair, Finland’s national airline and the fifth oldest airline in the world, has perfectly timed the launch of its brand-new premium economy cabin and refurbished business class on its long-haul aircraft.
I sampled the airline’s radical new business class seat on a three-hour flight from Helsinki to London. Why radical? Well, it lacks the one thing many travellers deem essential in business class — recline. Yup, you read that right: Finnair has gotten rid of reclining business class seats and replaced them with Collins Aerospace AirLounge seats.
These new style seats take inspiration from lounge furniture and are designed to “maximise comfort, space, and freedom to move during a long-haul flight,” and it comes as no surprise that the Finnish airline is the first to have them fitted to its aircraft, after all, Finland has long placed design at the forefront of its national identity, and its capital, Helsinki is a UNESCO City of Design.
Good design is part of everyday life in this Nordic country and this philosophy is also true for Finnair. Water and wood are synonymous with the Finnish style, which takes much of its inspiration from nature, and you’ll see this theme throughout Finnair’s airport lounge and the new business class cabin. Nature is expressed in many forms — the dark blue materials, the beautiful wood finishes, the soft wavy shapes, and the new mood lighting inspired by the aurora borealis. It’s a unique design language that expresses the airline’s Nordic roots.
Settling into my AirLounge seat, I have to admit, I find it a little confusing at first. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced before on a plane. Thankfully, there is a video tutorial on the 18-inch entertainment system that demos how it all works. A member of the cabin crew also comes over to show me the new features including the sash seatbelt.
The scooped, fixed shell seat is like a large armchair, and it curves around creating a private space. It doesn’t recline at all, but you can still lie down flat by moving the different seat elements to fill in the gaps which create an almost-200cm long bed. In this configuration, I have plenty of room to sleep on my side and curled up in a ball. A mattress and Marimekko designed textiles make the space extra comfortable and cosy.
The seat’s flexibility means you can sit in all manner of positions. For someone like me, who has trouble sitting still, this is an ideal set-up. I was able to sit with my legs curled under me, outstretched, with one leg up and one leg down and in the lotus position — handy for a bit of meditation.
In fact, the whole cabin is Zen-like with its cool, calming colour scheme, mood lighting and the stillness that comes with private seats and fewer people chatting and moving about. I would have no problem falling asleep even without the aid of the free alcohol that you get in business class.
Speaking of which, the food and drink also pay homage to the airline’s Nordic heritage with a menu inspired by the natural ingredients for which Finland is famous. Food is served in elegant Iittala chinaware, created by leading Finnish designer Harri Koskinen, and the large, leaf table has plenty of dining space and wireless charging for your devices. They really have thought of everything.
Overall, flying in the new Finnair business class cabin was a joyful experience, especially because it gave this fidgeter ample space and flexibility to get comfortable for the whole flight. The cabin immerses you in Finnish design - I was surprised I didn’t find a sauna in the toilet, to be honest — and gives you a sneak peek of what’s to come when you land in Helsinki. After such a cool, calm, and comfortable flight, you’ll arrive fresh in Finland with a smile on your face — incredibly apt for visiting the world’s happiest country.
Finnair’s first three long haul destinations to get the new cabins will be Helsinki to Singapore, Helsinki to New York, and Helsinki to Dallas with flights starting in May.
■ MELANIE was a guest of Finnair. Return flights from Dublin to Helsinki start from €155 in economy and from €573 in business class.
■ Direct flights between Dublin and Helsinki operate up to nine times per week year-round.
■ For more information on flights and prices go to Finnair’s website.
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