Recently I was fortunate enough to be asked by Finnair to fly to Beijing, China’s capital and write about my experiences. This first article covers the plane journey, the comfort afforded by their business class lounges, the level of luxury on board and the super quiet flight I experienced.
The first part of the Finnair business class experience has to be their well-appointed lounges. I visited London, Helsinki and Beijing all three were spacious with a cool modern Scandi vibe. Needless to say there was plenty to eat and bubbles to drink should you feel the need before the flight. In fact if you want to get into the mood you can even have a sauna in Helsinki. Imagine getting off the plane from London walking into -19c (so cold that your hair freezes) and then melting away for an hour or so in a sauna. This is luxury Finnair style. The reclining armchairs in the lounge face out giving a perfect view of the sky while you sip your drink. Forgotten your charger, no problem they will loan you one (they seem to have every conceivable variety made since the early 90’s). There is a premium lounge as well, which offers upscale food and more space. An ultra modern light programme changes the colour ‘mood’ gently as you relax, rather hypnotic after a while.
Flying the northern route across the top of the world to Beijing from Europe has some clear advantages. The main one is using Finnair and their brand new A350 XWB a marvel of a plane that provides the ultimate in style and luxury. As well as the very comfortable seat that becomes a bed at the touch of a button the most noticeable aspect of being on board is the quiet air travel. Finnair claim that the ambient noise has been reduced by 25%. Couple this with the over ear Bose headphones that all business class passengers get and you’re in heaven, well about 35,000ft closer than you are on earth.
Being in business class (there is no first class) means you turn left when you enter the plane. It’s a first class experience in all but name. The flight staff can’t do enough for you. Food kept on arriving, an amuse bouche with a glass of Nicholas Feuillas Champagne served in special commemorative glasses with a design from the late 1960’s then a splendid cannelloni with hare stew filling, tomato and vegetable sauce. Later I enjoyed reindeer followed by some artisan cheeses with a glass of port. This really is living the high life.
On this inaugural flight there was a frisson in the air (literally) and you could feel the pride in the cabin as the staff went about their duties with constant smiles. The seating is a central herringbone pattern with individual window placings, so only four seats across an already wide plane. Privacy is easy as you can pull up a small divider to separate you from the world. The chairs convert to totally flat beds that I could lay full length in (I’m 6ft tall) and a duvet and pillow is provided.
The problem you might face is that you don’t want to sleep at all. The swipe screen on your personal media station is so crisp and large that you’ll be glued to one of the box office latest releases. In conjunction with the superb Bose headphones it is easy to forget where you are.
After my sleep I was woken up with a smiling face and a glass of fresh orange juice. As I slowly got my bearings and with the press of a button I partially sat up and enjoyed breakfast in bed, why not, an omelette, sausage, spinach and fresh fruit and yoghurt and a large cup of Earl Grey tea. You can of course have any number of things that might have been more health conscious but I was in a luxe mood and fancied pushing the boat out. All this was served on fine bone china (appropriately as I was flying to Beijing) and joy of joys full size cutlery. No more playing dolls tea party with ‘toy’ forks and spoons.
My eight hours literally flew by. I managed a few meals even more drinks a couple of movies and some sleep. As the rest of the plane wake up and we prepared to land at Beijing airport I started to wonder about the following days in China. A planned visit to the Great Wall has enthralled me since I knew I was going and a guided tour of the Forbidden City with its history of empire and luxury has always fascinated me. On my screen I noticed that I could view the flight from the outside. Two options presented themselves a view from the tail looking forward with the plane’s size and length in the foreground and another from the underbelly of the craft facing forward. I favoured the later as it gave me an uninterrupted view of the fantastic terrain that is China. We passed over snow-capped mountains, frozen lakes and then as we neared the country’s capital with 23 million people bustling around the plains turned to buildings and roads. Watching the landing with the cameras is a brilliant experience, a bit like being a pilot without the responsibility but all the exhilaration.
This was been a unique experience, everything went smoothly and Finnair should be proud of the new member to their expanding fleet. I barely noticed as we touched down had I not been looking at the screen I think I would have missed it. I gathered my belongings remembering to put my shoes back on that had been so kindly put in my own shoe-bag at the beginning of the flight, swapped for slippers of course. As the cold air of Beijing hit me I left the plane looking forward to the experiences ahead but secretly wishing I could spend another eight hours enjoying the luxury that I had become so quickly accustomed to.