Review: Finnair Short-Haul Business Class (LHR-HEL)

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

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Finnair flys its excellent Airbus A350 between London Heathrow and Helsinki on a daily basis but, as luck would have it, the A350’s schedule wouldn’t get me into Helsinki in time to connect on to my Qatar Airways flight to Doha so I was stuck with a narrow-body A319.

I don’t normally book myself into short-haul Business Class (either with miles or points) as I don’t generally see the value in paying considerably more for a cabin that differs only slightly from Economy Class. On this occasion, however, I had chosen to overpay for my flight and book the frontmost cabin as the math behind the tier points I’m earning this year showed that it was the right thing to do.

My flight departed Heathrow Terminal 3 so, after a pleasant hour in the Cathay Pacific Business Class lounge (courtesy of my oneworld status), I made my way to Gate 25.

I didn’t have long to wait in the gate area before boarding was called and I was making my way on to a Finnair Airbus A319.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class Cabin

Finnair’s A319 Business Class cabin is set out very like most short-haul Business Class cabins you’ll find flying around Europe – 3 seats either side of the central aisle with the centre seat blocked off:

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

I had selected seat 2C which is an aisle seat in row 2 but, as things transpired, there was no one seated in 2A so I had all three seats to myself.

I try to avoid bulkhead seats in aircraft such as this one because, as was the case here, the armrests don’t move, there’s no unseat storage and the bulkhead limits how far you can stretch your legs.

You can see the limited legroom in the image below and you can see the difference between the armrests here….

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

…and the armrests in a regular row:

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

The seats on the Finnair A319 offer 18″ of width and 31″ of pitch (leg room) irrespective of which cabin you’re sitting in so, as British Airways’ comparable aircraft offer just 17″ of seat width and 29″-30″ of pitch, this is a step up in comfort….and it felt it.

There may only be an inch more leg room in the Finnair A319 cabins but I noticed it straight away.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

One of the first notes I wrote after I had finished taking pictures of the cabin and had checked out the seats read “definitely more leg room than BA“…and that was without having referred to any information about the aircraft in advance.

I could stretch my legs out and still not have my knees hitting the seat ahead….and that is about as much as I know I can hope for from a European Business Class cabin.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

Storage around the seats is definitely an issue in the Finnair A319 as the seat back pockets are small (just about big enough to hold and old fashioned Kindle in its cover)…..

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

…and the area where the magazines are stored (also in the seat back) is full and inflexible so it won’t take a laptop.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

There is always the option of storing items on the vacant center seat (as I did on this flight) but, if you have someone else sharing the center seat with you then this is hardly ideal.

Another notable negative is the lack of any kind of power supply around the seats. I appreciate that a lot of short-haul aircraft in Europe don’t yet have power outlets but, considering the London – Helsinki route is scheduled to take around 3 hours (so it’s not that short), power should be something the airline provides.

Amenity-wise there was as little as you’d probably expect on a intra-Europe flight – just a small pillow and a blanket which were already on the seats when we boarded.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

One last item that’s possibly mentioning is the nose-wheel camera that relays live video to the monitors at the front of the Business Class cabin (and presumably to monitors further back too).

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class

I didn’t remember to watch the monitors when we were landing in Helsinki but the feed as we took off from Heathrow was fun to watch.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class Dining (Breakfast)

No menus were passed out but the crew verbally offered a breakfast choice of a hot breakfast (eggs, sausage etc..) or cold cuts with yoghurt and muesli. As I have little faith in how well most airlines can serve eggs I chose the latter.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class – Breakfast

As you can see from the images breakfast also came with orange juice, a choice of tea or coffee and a choice of bread from a breadbasket.

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class – Breakfast

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class – Breakfast

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class – Breakfast

Finnair Short-Haul Business Class – Breakfast

I had eaten a breakfast in the lounge before departure so this was more than enough for me (I only really accepted breakfast so I could include it in this review) but I wouldn’t call it substantial.

What was offered was perfectly ok (I particularly liked the dark bread) but if you’ve left home without eating and not eaten in the lounge this may not be enough for you.

Everything Else

The rest of the flight was uneventful (just how I like my flights to be), there were some nice views of towns and villages encased in snow as we flew over various parts of Scandinavia….

…and the cabin crew were very pleasant indeed.

This was probably my eight or ninth time flying with Finnair and I am yet to have a cabin crew members that isn’t friendly, polite and has a smile on his/her face. That goes a long way when you’ve been up since 4am!

Thoughts

Negatives:

  • No in seat power
  • No wi-fi
  • Limited space around the seat to store larger items like laptops
  • Cold breakfast may not be substantial enough if you haven’t eaten before the flight

Positives:

  • Friendly crew
  • Good seat dimensions for a European Business Class cabin
  • Fun nose-wheel camera
  • The food that was served was nice

Bottom Line

The difference in price between the cheapest Business Class fare and the cheapest Economy Class fare on this flight was £323 ($426) and there is absolutely no way in the world that the Business Class product warrants that kind of premium.

If you were booking the Finnair A350 flight where you get an international Business Class cabin in which all the seats offer direct access to the aisle and turn into lie-flat beds then, if you try really hard, perhaps you could argue that the extra spend is worth it….but you can’t make that argument if you’re booking on to a short-haul aircraft.

Finnair A350 Business Class Seat

On the A319 Business Class and Economy Class have the exact same seats so what you’re effectively paying for is breakfast and the privilege of having the seat next to you blocked off. That’s about it.

Yes, if you don’t have elite status you’re also effectively buying entry to the lounge before your flight but, as you can buy a year’s Priority Pass membership for far less than the fare difference, this doesn’t really make the value proposition any better.

I genuinely like Finnair and I enjoy flying with their friendly crews but, unless I find myself in another situation where the math tells me that the economical option is to book a Business Class seat, I’ll be booking an exit row for the cheapest fare possible.

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