A month ago, Finnair announced a brand new – and different – Business Class seat which will roll out on its entire long haul fleet by the end of 2023.
This came as a big surprise to the industry which had only been expecting to see the launch of Premium Economy.
Last Friday I was invited to try out the new seat, which had been specifically rostered on the Heathrow to Helsinki route for the occasion. David Kondo, Finnair’s design head, was with us.
Rhys wrote an in-depth piece on the new Finnair seat here. He knows far more about seat design than I do, and I don’t intend to repeat his thoughts here, so I recommend you read that piece alongside this one. His article has the smart PR photographs in it whilst this one has rough and ready real life images. The only PR picture here is the one above.
To summarise the seat:
- it’s very good – ignore the fact it doesn’t recline, ignore the lack of a door. It’s a practical, cosy, private seat which is well ahead of the current one (which itself is well ahead of BA Club World).
- I think that it may prove more popular with women than men, to the extent that it works best in the seating positions that women are more likely than men to adopt for anatomical reasons
This is what you see as you walk down the cabin. It looks a bit like the British Airways business class ‘cradle seat’, which readers over 50 may recognise:
It’s a 1-2-1 layout. Each row is identical – you don’t have any sort of staggered layout as you get with SWISS, Finnair (old seat), Aer Lingus etc.
Let’s take a closer look at the seat:
The first thing to note is how wide it is. Here is a picture of the seat with me in it:
There is a huge amount of space here. You are in no way coccooned by the seat, which is good to the extent that you can move around (and very good if you are wider than average).
The seat padding is soft, but not as soft as I expected. It’s not sofa-style padding – not unsurprising for an aircraft seat, of course, but this seat is pitched as being more of a sofa-style experience than usual.
Here is a view looking forward:
You have, as you’d expect, a high quality display screen. If you look under the TV you can just about see a foot rest which flips up and locks into place. There is a separate rest under the seat. When both are extended, the entire area you see below is one flat space:
The reason the seat doesn’t recline is that it doesn’t need to. You are meant to lie down on this flat area. I am 6 foot 2 and as you can see here, my toes were nowhere near the end of the foot hole when I was in a sleeping position:
As this was a 3 hour flight, we were not given pillows, duvets or blankets. It was impossible to get a proper impression of how the seat would work for sleeping, but I was convinced I would get a decent night on it. We also didn’t get proper headphones, just cheap earbuds, so I can’t comment on the sound quality available on a long-haul flight.
Whilst the seat has no door, you get a lot of privacy. Putting on a door means narrowing the seat by a few centimetres, and this is a trade off that Finnair was not willing to make. This was the view from my seat:
You can’t, realistically, say that you are lacking privacy here. The seats are far higher than British Airways business class seats.
If you are in the centre pair there is a divider between the two seats which can be placed up or down as you can see below. This clearly isn’t as private as being in a window seat, however.
Other seat features
Let’s look at some of the other features. The tray table is excellent. It swings out and then, if you wish, folds out to double in size. You can push it back easily if you need to get out of your seat during the meal service.
If you look to the far left of the picture above, you will see a tiny cross. This is a wireless phone charging pad. At last!
This is how the table looks when unfolded. The meal below – pasta and prawns – is Finnair’s typical short-haul food and is not representative of how a long-haul meal would be presented.
The storage unit comes with a bottle of water in its own special compartment. The thin rectangular slot is designed to store a laptop safely.
There is also a storage unit built into the seat, under the reading light. As well as storing the TV remove control, there is a USB C charging socket (a world first apparently) as well as enough space for spectacles, phones etc:
Our aircraft had wi-fi. As this was an older A330, I assume that the entire long-haul fleet must have it. Business Class passengers get 1 hour of free wi-fi and you can pay for additional time.
My only criticism is that the process for connecting is not clear. I initially thought it was turned off because, whilst I could see the network on my phone, it wouldn’t connect. What I didn’t know until I went to the wi-fi page on my IFE screen is that you need to scan a QR code or type in a specific URL to activate it. It is not automatic, and your device will not automatically divert to the registration page.
Once I was connected, it worked well. That said, with only seven passengers using it concurrently at the time I was on (you are told the number when connecting) it was not representative of a long-haul flight.
Does the lack of seat recline matter?
As you can see from the pictures, the seat back is not fully upright. There is a gentle slope which should be fine for sitting and eating. The issue is whether you extend the seat base and essentially curl up on it, or put your feet on the floor. I tried both and, if I’d had a blanket, would probably have gone for a curled position whilst watching TV.
What is interesting about the seat is that there is almost nothing mechanical about it. The only automated thing is the flap under your seat. This should keep maintenance costs down and presumably makes the seat lighter.
A three hour day flight to Helsinki isn’t, clearly, the same as a 12-hour overnight flight from Asia. Let”s start with that caveat. I also didn’t get to experience the food or service you would get on a long-haul flight, although my short-haul crews were excellent.
However, I can tell you with certainty that this is a comfortable, well designed, surprisingly large, surprisingly wide and surprisingly private Business Class seat.
It is well ahead of the current Finnair Business Class seat, which I was always positive about. It’s ironic that Finnair is ripping out seats which are only 5 years old in some cases and which are far better than the seats other airlines are still flying.
I can say for sure that sleeping in the new seat will not be a problem, given the length and width of the seat. I know that it is perfectly fine for sitting and working, because I tried it.
The key issue is whether you can find a comfortable position for sitting whilst reading or watching TV for extended periods. I think it would be fine, although I’ll need to try it to be sure.
Finnair has always offered a good Business Class product for flights to Asia. As regular HfP readers will know, it has also historically offered excellent value for money, especially in sales.
As Finnair is in the oneworld alliance, you earn Avios and British Airways Executive Club tier points. In fact, you earn more tier points than you would earn on British Airways, since the short-haul connection to Helsinki gets you a further 80 tier points in each direction in Business Class.
Finnair also runs a number of weekly flights from Heathrow with long haul aircraft, for cargo reasons. This means that, if you pick and choose your flights, you can fly Business Class to Asia with a flat bed on all four flights.
Finnair also flies from Manchester, Edinburgh and Dublin. If you don’t live near Heathrow then the rationale for flying it to Asia becomes even more compelling, because connecting in Helsinki is no harder than connecting in Heathrow.
Thanks to David Kondo and his team at Finnair for inviting me. If you are heading to Helsinki, I can recommend ‘Shelter’ restaurant on the harbour – website here – which attracts a young and buzzy crowd but also delivers on the food front, and where David’s team took us.
PS. Don’t miss our review of the new Premium Economy seat
If you found this article interesting, click here for our review of Finnair’s new (and first ever) Premium Economy seat which is being added to the same aircraft.
Head for Points made a financial contribution to the Woodland Trust as part of this trip. The Woodland Trust creates and manages forests in the UK in accordance with the Woodland Carbon Code.