The Finnair Airbus A350 XWB Trip
- Review: American Airlines Flagship Lounge Heathrow T3
- Review: Finnair Economy Class A320 (LHR-HEL)
- Review: Finnair Premium Lounge Helsinki
- Review: Finnair Business Class A350 XWB (HEL – LHR) – Part 1
- Review: Finnair Business Class A350 XWB (HEL – LHR) – Part 2
When I started this review it was only meant to be a single blog entry but, as I was typing, it became obvious that it would be way too long for a single post. So I’ve divided it up:
- Part 1 – Seeing the plane, Pre-Boarding/Boarding & Cabin/Seat
- Part 2 – Connectivity/Entertainment, Food, Service & Overall Thoughts.
On with the review:
This was the big event and the whole point of my lightning trip to Helsinki. The Finnair A350 XWB wasn’t anywhere to be seen when I landed at Helsinki Airport and there was good reason for that….it was en route from Munich on another of its “crew familiarization” trips. That gave me time to check out the Finnair Premium Lounge (link to review is above) and to catch up on what had been going on in the world.
The inbound flight was due to land at around 14:30 so, as that time approached, I headed towards Gate 32 (where my flight was due to depart) to see if I could find a good vantage point from which to see what the A350 XWB looked like. Sure enough, not much later, a big white aircraft rolled down the runway…..
Now, like I’ve said before, I’m not an Av Geek but I can still appreciate a great piece of engineering (which this undoubtably is) and I can still appreciate that the aircraft looks good in white 🙂
As the A350 XWB turned toward the terminal, I got a good view of the aircraft head-on…..
The body didn’t look particularly wide to me (and that’s probably because it’s still a little narrower than the 777-300ER aircraft which I’m used to flying on) but the wingspan looked impressive…even though it’s more or less the same length as that of a 777.
The thing which stuck out for me was the shape of the winglets which gave the aircraft a very avian appearance and, when you see them up close, they look a lot more curved than other winglets I’ve seen:
And, as the aircraft got closer, I got a view of what I think is a very cool set of cockpit windows (ok….now I’m sounding like an Av Geek!)…
I thought it gave the plane a Zorro-like appearance but then a Twitter follower pointed out that there was a striking resemblance to Robin 🙂
For completeness I should point out that Joanna thinks it looks like a Pterodactyl….which I can’t see…but then again she also called planes “big buses in the sky” so what does she know? 🙂
Once the Munich flight had rolled up to the gate there wasn’t much of the plane that I could see so I went back to the lounge (which was packed!) to try to find a seat and to read up on the new aircraft.
It turns out it has some pretty cool features:
- Large panoramic windows
- Ambient LED mood lighting which works in harmony with the time of day.
- The background of the TV screen matches the mood lighting in the aircraft
- The aircraft has an advanced air filtration system which changes the cabin air every 2-3 minutes.
- Adjustable temperature zones (which I think are adjusted by the crew)
- Lower cabin pressure to make travel more comfortable
- The aircraft is 25% more efficient than the previous A350 from which this was spawned.
The last point is probably one of the more important as it’s what allowing more airlines to fly planes like this. In the past they were simply too expensive.
Boarding was set to take place at gate 32 and I deliberately got there a little early to see if there was any chance that I could board a few minutes early to allow me to get some good pictures of the aircraft interior.
The Finnair gate agents were very kind and said that, while they couldn’t promise anything, they’d ask the crew to see what could be done.
As boarding time approached one of the gate agents came up to me and asked for my passport and boarding pass so that she could scan my details in the event that I got permission to board early. And 5 minutes after that I was ushered on to the plane before anyone else – that was very cool of the Finnair staff.
I was lucky enough to be seated in the Business Class cabin of the plane but I took a quick look at the Economy Class section before I headed towards my seat:
The Economy Class cabin is laid out in a 3-3-3 formation which gives passengers 18″ of seat width each – and that’s very deliberate. There was an article in the onboard Finnair magazine which discussed the A350 XWB and how the details of the interior were selected as the aircraft was still being built. Here’s an extract:
Settling into the pretend-plane’s aisle seat, Candelier [Finnair Cabin Marketing Director] shows the difference between a seat width of 18 inches, as is planned for A350 XWB’s economy class at nine abreast, versus the competition norm of 17 inches.
“The difference is this,” he says, as he brushes elbows with the person next to him as soon as he sits in the smaller seat. “This one inch is very important”.
I couldn’t agree more and it’s fantastic that Finnair has actually made a positive decision in favor of passenger comfort when a lot of other airlines are squeezing in 10-seats across a similar width plane (American, Emirates and others please pay attention!).
All of the Economy Class seats come with an 11″ personal TV screen (which you can see in this photo I took later in the flight):
The front few rows of the Economy Class cabin have been designated as “Economy Comfort” seats and come with 4″ of extra leg room.
Next came the important bit….at least for me 🙂
If you’ve flown the American Airlines 777-300ER things will seem very familiar:
The business class cabin is laid out in a 1-2-1 formation (like on the American Airlines 777-300ER) and the seats are laid out in a reverse herringbone style (like on the American Airlines 777-300ER):
The cabin looks sleek and clean and has a nice feel to it….
The seats are also similar to the product on the newest American 777 but there are a few subtle differences.
The seat reclines into various positions (including a fully flat bed) using the simple controls to the side….
The seats on the Finnair A350 XWB come with a small storage locker by your thigh:
And it’s deep enough to hold an 11″ Macbook Air….just…..
There’s not much storage around the seat other than that and that’s something that’s been overlooked. The little storage area to the right of the passenger’s shoulder (where American has a little cubby hole) is open and clearly only to be used for headphones….
….even the sign underneath it says that it shouldn’t be used during take off and landing.
There isn’t much storage by your legs either and I’d question the practicality of placing a cup holder down there:
Once sat in my seat my view (straight ahead) was this:
…and I had two large windows to look out of to my right……
Because the seats don’t exactly line up with the windows I suspect some will have better access to windows than others. In my case, in row 3, I had most of two windows to look out of but I think there was at least one row where only one window was particularly usable.
But, that wasn’t my row so I got some great views during the flight:
The leg room offered by the seat will be ample for most people….
…..but I couldn’t shake a nagging feeling that it was smaller and slightly more confined than the space you get on the American Airlines 777-300ER. It wasn’t uncomfortable and it wasn’t unpleasant….it just felt smaller. I’ll be flying in one of American’s newer Business Class seats pretty soon so I’ll see if I’m imagining things or if I actually have a point.
The tray table has two main positions…
…and it feels sturdy when you’re resting a laptop/Macbook on it.
The overhead bins above the seats area good size….
…and they need to be because there are no overhead bins in the centre of the plane….just on the sides:
This probably won’t be an issue as the bins are well proportioned but, if someone takes liberties with their carry-on allowance, you could find yourself having to use an overhead bin that’s not over/next to your seat.
That’s just about all the information I have on the cabin and the seat but, if you want to find out more about the Finnair A350 XWB (like what the connectivity and entertainment options are like, what food was served and what the service was like) check out Part 2 of this review which follows next.