In February 2022, Nordic Oneworld member Finnair introduced a new business class. Finnair is the launch customer of this seat and is pursuing a new concept with manufacturer Collins Aerospace. The seat should be more reminiscent of a sofa at home than a plane seat – therefore the backrest cannot be adjusted.
By now, planes with the new seats are already being used on long-haul routes. In May 2022, for example, I had the opportunity to test it extensively on a flight from Helsinki to New York. You can read here whether the 8-hour flight was able to counter my initial concerns.
For transparency: the flight was paid for entirely out of my own pocket. I also didn’t tell anyone that I would be writing a review of the flight.
Table of Contents
Before we get down to business, a quick look at the flight details:
- Flight: AY 5 Helsinki
HEL– New York
- Seat: 1D
- Plane: Airbus A330-300 OH-LTO (delivered in May 2009)
- Scheduled time of departure: 13:10
- Scheduled time of arrival: 14:40
- Flight time: 8h 30min
- Date: May 2022
In August 2021, the Oneworld partners offered cheap business tickets from the Netherlands and France to the USA. The whole thing was even cheaper as an open jaw flight from the Netherlands to the USA and back to France starting at approx. €940:
Based on this offer, we put together this round trip:
RTM - LCY - LHR - HEL - JFK - LAX | SJC - LAX - MIA - LHR - NCE At a price of less than €1,000, this was set to get us 760 Tier Points and around 25,000 Avios. Not a bad yield!
Of course, there were some flight schedule changes and six months after booking, there were hardly any flights left from the original connection. American always rebooked us – on request – to an acceptable alternative. Experience has shown that AA would have rejected a rebooking to other travel dates (as provided for in the passenger rights).
It hadn’t worked out in Rotterdam yet, but we were able to check in to L.A. at the Finnair counter in London Heathrow. The checked luggage was even checked through to the USA – despite a 14-hour overnight stay in Helsinki.
In London (as in Helsinki) there was no queue, neither for economy class nor at the business counter. However, the employee at the counter lacked professionalism and friendliness. She was downright grumpy – and then forgot to put the priority label on the suitcase.
This is certainly just a snapshot, but a successful start looks different. Fortunately, we met much friendlier employees in Helsinki.
Helsinki Airport was once a major hub on the way to Asia. Due to the entry and airspace closures, there is currently little evidence of this. The airport seemed deserted and most of the shops were closed.
That’s probably why we got through the security check in no time at all. Liquids and laptops do not have to be removed, which speeds up handling even in normal times. Overall, the airport made a clean, well-organized impression. However, the footpaths can sometimes be quite long. I would therefore refrain from a connection with a transfer time of only 35 minutes (as is sometimes offered).
If you have enough buffer time in Helsinki, you can visit one of the Finnair or Plaza Premium lounges. Since June 1, the Finnair First Class lounge (Platinum Wing) has also reopened for frequent flyers with Emerald status. It is considered one of the best lounges in Europe – including à la carte dining and a Finnish sauna.
Unfortunately, the Platinum Wing was still closed at the time of the flight in early May. We, therefore, had to use the Finnair Business Class Lounge (non-Schengen) despite our Emerald status. This is the lounge for all business guests and frequent flyers with Sapphire status or higher.
At first glance, the lounge is reminiscent of a Swedish furniture store. However, IKEA customers have to do without the bar and the buffet of drinks and food – a plus for Finnair. The fact that the lounge seemed a bit sterile was certainly also (but not only) due to the fact that there were only about 20 other passengers there beside us. The lounge offers space for up to 450 guests.
There really is no shortage of seats. The lounge is divided into different areas with dining tables, long bar tables, private armchairs and curious yet chic “egg-seats”. I couldn’t find a dedicated workspace. Sockets, on the other hand, are sufficiently available and so every dining table can quickly be used as a desk. Showers are also available.
As far as the culinary offer is concerned, I was a little disappointed. Not because the food was bad or not enough. With such a huge lounge, I was expecting just a little more than four hot self-service options. The choices were ravioli, a chicken dish, bulgur, and vegetables. Anyone who has ever visited a Lufthansa Senator Lounge knows what to expect: you’ll be full, but not really happy.
But from what I’ve heard, a lot of people go to the lounge for the alcohol and not the food anyway. And things are looking pretty good in this regard: everyone can help themselves to wine and beer. Additional drinks and cocktails are available at the staffed bar.
I was a bit irritated that the staff at the lounge entrance were not able to change seats for the connecting flight. To do this, we should have contacted the Finnair service desk outside the lounge. I actually expect an airline lounge to have access to the in-house booking system.
Overall, the lounge is in the midfield for an international business class lounge. I’m just a bit spoiled by other airlines (United Polaris Lounge, AA Flagship Lounge, …).
A boarding time was not specified on the boarding pass. With an expected departure time of 13:10, only Gate opens 11:55 was noted. In order to be able to take a few more photos of the (hopefully still empty) cabin, we turned up at the gate about 40 minutes before the scheduled departure time. At that time, however, boarding the plane was not yet possible. I only had access to a seating area at the gate:
At least there was already a separate area for passengers with priority boarding (Oneworld Emerald/Sapphire/Ruby + business class). However, the number of seats was barely sufficient for a long-haul plane.
We finally boarded the plane 25 minutes before the scheduled departure time. It’s a good thing we weren’t at the gate an hour earlier.
Finnair only used one boarding door of the A330. Coming from the boarding gate, we turned left into the business class cabin. The interior made a modern, but at the same time inviting impression. I like the dark colouring and it prevents the plane from looking too sterile. In the photos, it usually looks a bit lighter than in reality.
On the other hand, things looked very different in the A350, which had previously brought us from London to Helsinki. The cabin looked like a hospital there:
Back to the A330 with the new cabin. It has a three-class configuration with 28 seats in business class, 21x premium economy and 230 seats in economy class (incl. economy comfort). The alignment in business class is 1-2-1, i.e. each seat can be reached directly from the aisle.
There really isn’t a “best seat” in business class. The compartment for the legs feels slightly larger in the first row than in the rows behind. In return, you may have to live with some noise from the galley. Solo travellers are sure to appreciate the window seats. If you are travelling as a couple and want to talk to each other, you can hardly avoid a seat in the middle.
If desired, there is also enough privacy in the middle. All you have to do is extend the partition wall:
The new seat is called AirLounge and was developed by Collins Aerospace in cooperation with Finnair. According to Finnair, the seats will gradually be installed in all Airbus A330s and A350s (i.e. the entire long-haul fleet). The seat in the A350 is probably a little more spacious (due to the wider cabin), otherwise, it should be identical.
The concept of the seat is indeed unique. British Airways considered a similar solution a few years ago but then scrapped it in favour of the new Club Suite. The most important thing you need to know about the new seat: It doesn’t recline. Instead, the backrest is rigidly installed. If you want to change the sitting position, you have to turn a little in the seat and/or use cushions.
That’s why there are two (rather small) pillows directly on the seat, in addition to the blanket and a small mattress pad. So, in theory, everyone should be able to find a suitable sitting position. However, I suspect that the development of the seat was also guided by other aspects: There are hardly any moving parts on the seat, which makes maintenance much easier compared to other seats with a hundred adjustment options. And having fewer engines certainly saves a bit of weight.
Overhead bins are located both in the centre and above the windows, making it easy to stow carry-on luggage. There is a compartment for the headphones directly on the seat, which also houses the remote control and USB charging sockets:
There is also a large storage compartment on the side where even a laptop can be accommodated without any problems. In the adjoining compartment, there is space for e.g. a charger, wallet and much more:
And if even that is not enough, there is still the permanently installed side table. It looks rather small in the photos, but that’s a bit deceptive. A laptop can be placed here without any problems. As is well known, this is not allowed for take-off and landing.
Various buttons for seat control are located on the side edge of the table. From left to right we have: A “do not disturb” light, an adjustment for the (very short) leg rest, controls for the reading light and overhead lamp, and a button to unfold the table.
The table is comparatively small, but it is completely sufficient for a laptop or the food tray. It cannot be pushed forwards or backwards, but thanks to the side arm it can be adjusted a little:
Below are a few impressions of the seats in the A330.
Chic seat, sufficient storage space – what more could you ask for? Oh yes, to sit and sleep comfortably. After all, that is the decisive factor in paying four times as much for your ticket.
And at the same time, this is, unfortunately, the reason why the new seat could not convince me. It starts right from take-off. The new design makes a shoulder strap mandatory, just like in a car. This isn’t a big problem in itself, but on the AirLounge this belt was particularly uncomfortable. With my height (1.98 m) it pressed uncomfortably against the neck. After turning in the seat a little, it got a little better. Nevertheless, the feeling remained that the seat belt would strangle me rather than help in an emergency.
Once the seat belt was off, things got a little more comfortable. However, my fellow passenger had the feeling of slipping further and further down in the seat. It didn’t feel that bad to me, but I could understand what he meant.
The longer the flight, the more I noticed how thinly padded the seat is. From the photo above you can already sense it a little bit and in reality, it was simply uncomfortable after two hours of flight time. I’ve tried a number of business class seats over the past few years – and they’ve always been more comfortable than Finnair’s.
Maybe that’s because I’m used to being able to lower the seat into a lounge position, i.e. an intermediate stage which is somewhere between the upright and lying mode. Due to the design, this is not possible with the Finnair seat. The only option is to move around the seat a little regularly so that it doesn’t become too uncomfortable. But that’s something that I know more from economy class, rather than from business class.
Incidentally, the legroom is also rather limited. In the photo, you can see quite well that e.g. in sitting mode there is not much space to cross your legs. Compared to the hard backrest, however, that didn’t bother me as much. At least as long as I didn’t try to extend the short leg rest.
At least the seat itself is very spacious. In contrast to the Jetblue Mint Class, for instance, I didn’t have the feeling that the seat would restrict me in any way. I would even go so far as to say it is one of the roomiest seats out there.
Finnair did not install doors and that doesn’t bother me at all personally. The layout of the seat ensures sufficient privacy towards the aisle anyway. A door would only mean additional weight and narrow the seat.
Since the seat cannot be reclined, the sleep mode works differently than usual. First, it is necessary to fully extend the leg support. Then a lever has to be turned by hand to complete the lying surface. I can imagine that this will be a problem for some guests because you had to pull it hard. But if in doubt, the crew will certainly help.
In the picture below you can see quite well how the seat is made into a bed:
You can also see a small, second seat belt on the right. This is designed to buckle you up while you sleep. The clear narrowing of the seat in the direction of the legs can also be seen. At least in row 1, I was able to accommodate my big feet (shoe size 47) quite well, so no point deduction:
The fact that the seat is so wide also benefits the sleeping comfort. As a side sleeper, I appreciate being able to turn around a little while sleeping – and that’s no problem here.
Even when lying down, however, it is noticeable how thinly the seat is padded. Side sleepers in particular will have problems with the hard lying surface. Since it was a day flight to New York, luckily it wasn’t that bad. I took a quick nap and then got back to work. However, these are not good conditions for a 13-hour night flight to Tokyo.
There is also a small seat cover at the seat when boarding. This roughly covers the area of the bed on which the upper body rests. A good idea in theory, also for reasons of hygiene. However, this piece of fabric is so thin that it barely stayed in place. So in the end I ended up lying on the bare seat. Finnair would be better off offering a properly padded bed pad. With a small investment, the sleeping comfort could be increased a little. Overall, lying down worked much better than sitting. But there is still some room for improvement here.
Food & Drinks
The onboard service started (as usual) on the ground with the welcome drink. You could choose between sparkling wine or, of course, blueberry juice. The latter is a kind of Finnair trademark – and in economy class in Europe the only choice besides water. If you can’t get enough of it, you can even buy it in Finnish supermarkets. Strictly speaking, with a fruit content of around 10%, it is not juice.
In any case, the welcome drink wasn’t my last serving of blueberry juice and I’m sure I drank more than a Tetra Pak over the course of the flight. There was no shortage.
Shortly after takeoff, a small portion of nuts was served. The presentation as a can seemed a little… cheap:
Shortly thereafter it was time to choose the meal. The food and drink menu was as follows:
For the main course, there was a choice between:
- Rainbow trout with potatoes, shiitake mushrooms and nori oil
- Roasted chicken with eggplant, shimeji mushrooms and rice
I opted for the trout, which was almost indistinguishable from salmon in consistency and taste. I noticed positively that the accompanying sauce was freshly prepared by the staff. More and more often I experience a tray being simply pushed into the oven and served directly in this form in business class. Finnish bread cheese (Wiki) with scampi was served as a starter.
The food not only looked appealing but also tasted very good. I could easily overlook the comparatively small selection – I’d rather have two delicious meals to choose from than three mediocre ones.
There were also two options for dessert: an apple tart or a black currant mousse. A small cheese platter was served with it:
Finnair has installed a small self-service bar in the cabin, offering chips, nuts, and other pre-packaged snacks and drinks during flight time. Definitely looks a little more professional than the typical buffet in the galley:
The crew also went through the cabin twice with a snack basket. The selection was the same as shown in the photo above. There were no real sandwiches, wraps or other salty snacks. But that’s not to be expected on an 8-hour flight.
As for the chronological sequence, I’m not quite sure anymore. But at some point a glass of fruit was offered:
A second hot meal was then served before landing in New York. At least in theory, because there was no choice and the avocado pasta didn’t really look all too appealing. Here I would have expected at least a second choice.
In a little chat before deboarding, the crew pointed out that we missed a new dining concept at Finnair by a hair’s breadth. Just one day later there would have been three main courses and three side dishes to choose from. More on Finnair’s website.
As for the service, there is nothing to complain about. While the crew could have come down the aisles a little more often, my blueberry juice was refilled regularly. I only had to press the call button once when I suddenly got hungry for chocolate.
While we were waiting for the door to open in New York, we also had a little chat about the new business class seats. And we learned a few details (as described above) about the new business class service that was introduced the day after our flight.
In the AirLounge seat, the screen is comparatively close to the seating position. Despite its average 13″ diagonal size, it looks relatively large and can also be used without your arms falling asleep.
Finnair apparently uses a specially adapted operating system on the entertainment system, which ran pleasantly smoothly. I liked a few details – such as the presentation of the service process including local time for Helsinki and New York:
Since the seat is new, there was also a small introductory video regarding the functions and operation of the same. But I wasn’t much smarter afterwards:
Otherwise, the IFE system is the typical standard. I didn’t count the films this time. But the selection looked okay. In the series section, however, it is noticeable that there are often only three or four episodes available per season. A bit pointless, but many airlines don’t handle it any differently.
And anything else? The flight map works smoothly, with various setting options. Of course, Angry Birds shouldn’t be missing from the games section (the developer Rovio comes from Finland) and if you’ve had enough of it, you can access one of the two live cameras. However, the video quality looks like you want to stream a YouTube video with an Edge connection. In other words, if you’re sitting by the window, you’d rather look to the left or right and do without the pixelated stream.
Bose headphones with active noise cancelling are available at every seat. I couldn’t find out the exact model, but they seemed quite high quality overall. And in contrast to American Airlines, they weren’t collected by the crew 30 minutes before landing.
Business class guests (as well as Gold members) get one hour of complimentary WiFi access. On long-haul routes, platinum members can even surf the web for the entire flight for free.
In order to be able to work a bit during the flight, I bought access for the entire flight. At €19.95, it’s a comparatively fair price and, above all, without an annoying volume limit.
The connection speed varied but was generally okay. Here is a result of the speed test:
In any case, I was able to use WordPress, Twitter, etc. without any problems and Spotify also worked. I didn’t try video streaming.
Finally, a few more comments.
Sockets & Charging Ports
Normally this section would be ticked off quickly. Each seat has a universal socket and two USB charging sockets (1x USB-A, 1x USB-C). There is also an induction charging pad on the side table, so ideally no cable is necessary.
However, there was a problem on our flight: all the charging options mentioned above were not working. When walking through the cabin, it became apparent that this was the case everywhere – because the green light as an indicator was not lit anywhere.
At our suggestion, the crew restarted the entire onboard entertainment system twice, but this brought no improvement. At least, at some point the power supply worked on a quarter of the seats. We were offered one of these seats as the cabin was only half full. However, sitting separately in the individual seat was not a great alternative. Well, the crew did what they could.
The amenity kit comes (as do the glasses, by the way) from the Finnish brand Marimekko. By the way, our plane had a special Marimekko livery.
The kit was handed out in a small cloth bag:
I would have liked to have presented the contents of the amenity kit to you at this point. However, I didn’t get a chance to take a look during the flight. And on the way back two weeks later, British Airways lost my suitcase – including the amenity kit. So far it doesn’t look like I’ll ever see it again.
Is the New Finnair Business Class a Step Backwards?
At the end of the review, I will try to answer the question from the title. That’s not easy, though, because I haven’t yet been able to fly the old Finnair Business Class in the A330 myself. So far, the Thompson Vantage seat has been used there – you can also find it e.g. at Swiss, Edelweiss or TAP. In comparison, the new seat is at least wider – but cannot be adjusted.
However, Finnair will also rip out the seats in the Airbus A350 and install the new AirLounge there. And there I can make a direct comparison (also because of the
LHR-HEL flight). Compared to the new seat, the old (Zodiac Cirrus III) offers:
- significantly better seating comfort
- comparable sleeping comfort (the seat in the Cirrus III is narrower, but better padded)
- less privacy
Since I spend most of the flight sitting down, I see a clear advantage for the old business class. So, in my view, replacing the old Cirrus seats on the A350 with the new AirLounge on the A350 is a mistake.
Of course, the question arises as to why it was even necessary to install new seats in the A350. I read the surprising answer to this on Twitter these days. No seat manufacturer agreed to design a new seat just for the eight A330s in the fleet. Only the inclusion of the A350 ensured that the order volume was large enough.
Still, I think Finnair would be better advised to leave the old seats in storage until they are needed at some point.
- Check-in & Boarding
- Sleeping Comfort
- Food & Drinks
- In-Flight Entertainment
It’s not that I was dissatisfied with the flight. However, when an airline presents a new business class seat, I expect an upgrade over the status quo. Unfortunately, that’s not the case and I’ll be happy if I can fly the old A350 Business again in the next few months.
Apart from that, however, almost all aspects can be rated at least “good”. The transfer in Helsinki is generally pleasant, the food was good (despite the old service concept), the crew was friendly and the WiFi also keeps what it promises. If there is a good deal, I will not say no to Finnair’s business class. Perhaps there is still a solution to increase the seating comfort.