Every now and then, a disruptor comes along in the business class seat industry. British Airways did this when it launched the first lie-flat bed with Club World in 1995. Now you’d be hard-pressed to find a major airline without business-class lie-flat seats on long-haul flights. Qatar Airways was the first to launch a business class suite with their QSuite in 2017. Now major airlines have followed by adding doors to their seats, including British Airways and Virgin Atlantic.
The next level of innovation has come from Finnair with its Air Lounge seat on the Airbus 350. It’s not a suite, but it’s very private. Along with Singapore Airlines, it is one of the largest business class seats in terms of width. However, this is not what makes it unique. The concept is something that some flyers are trying to imagine – the seat doesn’t recline.
Lack of stretch does not mean no flat bed. Finnair’s business class product has a large flat sleeping area. The difference comes when the passenger is resting in the seat. Usually, we are used to pressing a button to recline while watching a movie or reading on board. However, while at home, very few people have a sofa or reclining chair.
Many great innovations come from trying to solve a problem. Within the airline industry, there are a number of airlines struggling with a slew of broken premium seats due to supply chain issues. Most business and first class seats need a powered mechanism to move the seat, leading to more chances of failure. Finnair keeps these parts to a minimum, with the relative simplicity of the mechanism ensuring durability. Hopefully, this means there’s less chance of you dealing with a broken seat.
The way the reclining seat works is simple but effective. The only mechanical part with power is the footrest which can be controlled independently. You then lie down as you would on a couch. To help with this, Finnair offers two cushions of different sizes and firmness. In fact, the seat is so big that you can sit sideways with your legs out to the sides if you want. The possibilities for getting comfortable are as endless as sitting on the couch at home. When it’s time to sleep, a small pad is maneuvered into position with a lever by the passenger to create a large flat area. The seat is on the firm side, as is Qatar’s QSuite, but you get a mattress topper for sleeping on long flights.
Finnair also revamped its long-haul business class offering with new menus and items. The airline collaborated with Iittala and designer Harri Koskinen to develop the new Kuulas tableware range found in Business Class. Marimekko once again collaborated closely with Finnair to refresh the on-board textiles with its distinctive style. The new menus are modern, with two small starters, a main course and cheese and dessert. The wine and drink list is heavily focused on Finnish specialties that people might not be aware of, such as a dessert wine and some great Finnish gins. The good news for those who prefer a soft drink is that Finnair’s Blueberry juice drink is available in all cabins. You might imagine this might be too sweet, but like the blueberries themselves, it has just the right balance of sweetness and flavor, making it a refreshing drink.
All of this may seem like it would be very expensive in today’s world of high airfares. Surprisingly Finnair offers some very attractive fares to Asia from many countries in Europe. Their business model was built on being a fast way to Asia in terms of a connecting airline. With the problem of not being able to fly over Russia, they are now facing more competition from Middle Eastern airlines as well as national airlines that fly direct. To keep costs down even further, if you’re flexible, you can look at departing from another city, as there can be big price variations across Europe.
For those on a smaller budget, there is a way to try this seat or one of Finnair’s other short-haul business class seats. Their A350 seats are also modern in a 1-2-1 configuration and the aircraft features some fun ambient light settings like the Northern Lights. Finnair flies their A350s once a day from London to Helsinki in the winter and usually operate them on long haul routes twice a day in the summer from Heathrow. On short haul you won’t get the full long haul service, but you’ll still enjoy a hot meal and a choice of drinks.
If this means a slightly longer connection in Helsinki, it will give you enough time to try out the new Finnair lounges. The business class lounge has the signature Finnair Nordic style with its range of wooden, deep navy and gold furniture. The cocktail bar is the most elegant area of the lounge, where you can sip Joseph Perrier champagne or enjoy a Finnish-style gin and tonic. If you have status with Finnair as a Platinum or Platinum Lumo member or have a oneworld emerald, you can access the new Platinum lounge, which even has its own sauna. The must-try item on the a la carte menu is definitely the delicious venison burger served with blue cheese and lingonberry mayo.
You can use British Airways Avios to buy tickets on Finnair with business class tickets to Helsinki costing 33,000 Avios + $101.09 (£83.61). Another option if you collect American Express Membership Rewards points would be to transfer them to the Finnair Plus loyalty scheme to either buy a ticket outright or use them to upgrade to business class. Cash fares start from £546 return to Helsinki in business class from London.