Review: Finnair Business Class A350 XWB (HEL-LHR) – Part 2

Yes, there were teething problems. The entertainment system needed re-booting The WiFi didn't really work There were a few loose bits of plastic around the seats But flights like this are about ironing out those teething problems so that's not a complaint from me. 

The Finnair Airbus A350 XWB Trip

In Part 1 of this review I took a look a the pre-boarding/boarding experience with Finnair and the cabins & seats on the Airbus A350 XWB. In this part of the review I’ll take look at the rest of the offering onboard.

Connectivity/Entertainment

The entertainment screens on the Finnair A350 XWB are a good size and are what passengers are coming to expect from Business Class cabins:

Finnair A350XWB Review

The screen is both touch-screen and can be controlled via the remote control that’s provided:

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

As this was just a short-haul flight and as the aircraft was only flying this route because of “crew orientation” not everything was as you can expect it to be on a true long-haul A350 flight….and that’s fair enough.

For example, the head phones that were handed out were ear buds….

Finnair A350XWB Review

…which, in my case, only gave mono sound and that’s the same thing that happens when you use a single jack input on American’s 777-300ERs.

I expect Finnair will be handing out a noise cancelling (or equivalent) head set when the A350 XWB goes into regular service and that will fit the headphone socket better:

Finnair A350XWB Review

Entertainment-wise there was a pretty good selection and most passengers should find something  to their taste:

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

As far as connectivity goes, Finnair has fitted out their A350 XWB with onboard WiFi (a very sensible decision) and they’ve also decided to provide it free of charge to Business Class passengers, along with Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum frequent flyers and their OneWorld Sapphire and Emerald equivalents (possibly not a sensible decision).

The thing with onboard WiFi is that, in my experience, connection speeds are often quite sketchy…and that’s when it’s “paid-for” WiFi. When it’s free you’re going to get a lot more people using it and I’m not convinced the service can cope.

On this particular flight we were given our voucher codes by the crew as the system was playing up but, ordinarily the code appears at the bottom left of the screen:

Finnair A350XWB Review

“Nordic Sky” appears under the list of WiFi options on your device….

Finnair A350XWB Review

….and, once you connect, you get offered the payment/voucher screen:

Finnair A350XWB Review

and then, after you see your payment/voucher go through….

finnair-internet-code-gives-discount

….you’re good to go. Technically.

Remember what I said about free internet possibly not begin the greatest idea? Well, this was almost unusable. I’m not sure if, because this was a special flight, Finnair gave the whole aircraft free internet access but, whatever they did, the internet speed was terrible to non-existent. This was a screen I got very well acquainted with on the short trip:

Finnair A350XWB Review

I could just about use iMessaging…slowly but, more often than not, web pages wouldn’t load or would freeze half way through loading….or nothing would happen at all. If these sort of download/upload speeds continue Finnair will have to rethink their “free internet” policy or the onboard internet will be pointless.

Having complained about the internet I should now point out the coolest part of the onboard entertainment…and that’s the two cameras that Finnair have installed on the outside of the aircraft.

One near/on the tail and facing forwards:

Finnair A350XWB Review

and one underneath the plane which looks down:

Finnair A350XWB Review

These are fantastically simple yet fantastically great additions as you get to see your flight as you may have never see it before.

I wasn’t aware of the camera during take off so I’m not sure if they’re on right from the moment you board the plane but I can confirm that they were on right up to the point I physically got off the plane in London. Take a look at a video I’ve posted on the Traveling For Miles YouTube Channel in which you’ll see the view I had (via my TV/monitor) of our approach and landing at Heathrow.

Food & Drinks

Once again you need to bear in mind that this wasn’t a true long-haul flight so what was offered on this trip is not what you’re going to get on a real long-haul Finnair flight.

Having said that, what we got wasn’t bad at all.

Shortly after take off the crew brought around a menu (click to enlarge the thumbnails):

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

…but it was more to show the choice of drinks rather than to offer a choice of food (there was only one food option).

Shortly after the menus were distributed the crew came around with drinks and, for once, I actually indulged:

Finnair A350XWB Review

45 minutes into the flight dinner was served.

The presentation was nice…..

Finnair A350XWB Review

…the crayfish-pike terrine was light and, although not hugely flavorsome, a nice start to the meal:

Finnair A350XWB Review

The pan-fried rainbow trout was very nice and the herring butter and mashed potatoes were good accompaniments:

Finnair A350XWB Review

The dessert, a “blueberry goodie” was the only let-down of the meal. It tasted a little fake and I wouldn’t have rushed for seconds had any been available.

After dinner, and while tea and coffee were being served, the crew came around with a second dessert of blueberry brioche…and that was much better:

Finnair A350XWB Review

The pastry was light and flaky and I can believe that actual blueberries may have been used in the making of the dessert – always good.

Amenities

Because of the nature of the flight no amenity kit was provided…and I can’t say that I really needed one.

I had a quick look around the aircraft and, although I’ve heard that there’s a “ladies only” bathroom I didn’t notice it.

The Business Class bathrooms are done nicely:

Finnair A350XWB Review

Finnair A350XWB Review

And there’s even a window in the front starboard (right) bathroom (presumably the left-hand-side bathroom has the same):

Finnair A350XWB Review

Service/Other

The service on the flight was fantastic and enhanced my growing belief that Finnair actually give a damn about what their passengers think. My experience in Economy Class on my flight to Helsinki was similarly good so it’s not just limited to premium cabin service.

The crew was very welcoming as everyone boarded and they were clearly happy and proud of their new aircraft (justifiably so). The food service was very polite and service was always provided with a smile. And not any smile, these smiles actually felt genuine.

I was making a concerted effort to pay attention to the service and I can honestly say that I didn’t see a single misstep or grumpy moment from the crew…and they had a couple of unnecessarily fussy passengers (not me!) up front.

These guys were so far ahead of any crew I’ve had on British Airways or any US airline that it was nice to be reminded of what premium service can be like (and without the overly deferential service you can get on some Asian or Middle Eastern airlines….which just make me uncomfortable).

The plane was comfortable and very quiet. I’m not sure if that’s to do with whatever engine they’re using or if it has something to do with cabin design but it was a noticeably quieter experience than a lot of wide-body flights I’ve been on.

Overall

Yes, there were teething problems.

  • The entertainment system needed re-booting
  • The WiFi didn’t really work
  • There were a few loose bits of plastic around the seats

But flights like this are about ironing out those teething problems so that’s not a complaint from me. If you want perfection don’t fly on an “orientation flight”. The only thing they really have to address is the WiFi.

This was a fun experience and there was a joviality around the whole trip back to the UK – the crew were enjoying discussing their new toy and I don’t think I’ve seen more strangers talking to one another onboard any other flight I’ve been on. It’s funny to see the effect a new plane has on people 🙂

The A350 XWB is a great addition to Finnair and to OneWorld and the Business Class product will be an excellent option for anyone wanting to get between Europe and Asia in comfort. Finnair has 19 of these aircraft on order or already delivered and, with a growing network in to Asia, there should be no shortage of opportunities to try this aircraft out.

But, as I’ve already mentioned, what I was most impressed by wasn’t the new plane or the gadgets that come with it. It was the service I received from Finnair staff from the agent on the lounge door to the gate agents at Helsinki Airport and the crew onboard the A350 XWB. They were excellent. I only wish the airlines that I fly more often than Finnair could provide service even half as good.

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