Reported by Enrique Perrella.
Had I ever thought I’d be on a Finnish A330-300, departing out of Miami (MIA), minutes before midnight, mesmerized by a simplistic, yet elegant and modern flowery livery and entirely fascinated by the whole ordeal?
No. But here I am, sitting inside a brand-new Airbus crossing the Atlantic under the shy light that some stars reflect on our white airliner.
When the word Finnair comes to mind, the first thing I remember is their magnificent McDonnell Douglas MD-11. They were the last airline to retire the great tri-holer from service.
Finnair has been on the cusp of coolness, both because they operate under heavy frozen winter conditions and because their appeal is that—cool.
Finnair’s direct link to Miami was launched in December 2014. With only three weekly services, the Helsinki-based airline adds up to the immense list of international carriers that visit MIA on a daily basis.
The appeal of this route is indeed catchy. Flying from a hot, tropical and swampy environment, to one of the northernmost countries in Europe is a contrast worth experiencing. Adding the fact that Finnair’s overall service is rather attractive, I decided to give it a shot.
With my flight booked, I noticed the SDT for the MIA-HEL flight is 22:55. Brilliant.
Why? MIA is known for its congested hallways and long TSA queues. But at 22:55, only Finnair passengers are lingering around the terminals, which makes the whole situation quite desirable.
Check-in was quicker than ever. In fact, I was the first passenger to check in at 19:30. With my beautiful, design-oriented boarding pass in hand and my bag on the speedy belts, I left the airport again and went for a quick bite with my father at a nearby restaurant.
Back at 21:20, I paid a visit to the American Airlines (AA) Admirals Club located at the entrance of the Concourse E gates. The old lounge is also used by British Airways (BA), Air Berlin (AB), Qatar Airways (QR) and Finnair (AY).
The empty lounge was a little unsettling. After a few minutes trying to spot my airplane outside the fogged windows, it was time to reach the departure gate and board.
The late departure time was a significant determining factor in the terminal’s overall ambiance, as all passengers gathered around the gate calmly and quietly.
Boarding was called at 22.20, and Business Class passengers were invited to proceed to the airplane first.
I was the second passenger to reach the aircraft. Upon entering, a crewmember welcomed me on board and invited me to my assigned 5L seat, on the right side of the cabin.
Finnair’s light palette of colors makes lovely contrasts with the selected pillows and covers, which are yellow and generate an unusual combination.
Each seat awaits its passenger with a pillow, a cover, and a small plastic-wrapped amenity kit, which varies in color depending on its location. Noise canceling headsets and power ports are also available.
Even though no music was being played while passengers boarded, the ambiance was quite inviting.
Each seat offers 60 inches of pitch and when in full flat position, the airline advertises that the pitch increases to 6’7″.
The business class cabin is configured in a 1-2-1 staggered layout.
Each seat offers universal power and USB ports, an ethernet cable port, and the customary reading light.
The In-flight entertainment offers a range of 80 movies and over 100 TV Series—more than enough for a 10-hour flight.
The Amenity Kit, albeit small and austere, offers the regular face creams, lip balms, toothbrush and eye shades. A short note indicates that socks, slippers, mouthwash, hairbrush, and a shaving kit are also available upon request.
Five minutes after the Business Class cabin filled up, one of the senior flight attendants arrived with a tray of drinks. The airline’s signature Blueberry drink, along with adequately chilled champagne and water.
The delicious Champagne was perfect for the 15-minute wait we had to endure before the chief purser announced that boarding was completed.
At 22:50, five minutes ahead of SDT, our Airbus A330-300 pushed back from the gate, turned engines on and slowly taxied to MIA’s Runway 09.
As we reached the runway and the airline’s safety video was shown, the captain announced the imminent departure and the total flight time of nine hours sharp.
Our A330 lined up with the Runway and powerfully, yet blissfully, became airborne over the bright and beautiful Miami skyline.
Climbing over Downtown, we joined international airspace and turned northwest towards Eastern Canada, Southern Greenland, Iceland, and Norway before reaching Finland.
Rapid midnight service
Minutes after departure, the FAs rapidly began prepping the cabin for service. At 23:40, menus were distributed, and dinner orders were taken.
The neat menus, beautifully designed in a thick, silky paper stock, showcases in a simple layout the different options for dinner and beverages.
Each page carries a piece of history of the item being offered, adding a nice touch of detail that’s often left on a side in today’s ubiquitous airline industry.
The chief purser then arrived at my seat and wrote down my choice for the night. Out of a Roasted Salmon with Provençal Crust, a New York Strip with a caramelized onion demi-glacé, and Linguini with Pumpkin and Arugula dish.
I went with the beef option, which was available upon my request.
To drink, an impressive menu of beverages shadows the preceding dinner menu, with numerous pages carefully describing each drink available on the flight.
Finnair proudly presents its ‘Signature Drink’, appropriately named ‘Blue Sky.’ Made with Lapponia Blueberry Liqueur, Champagne, and real Blueberries, this fruity delight is served chilled on the elegant Finnair glass, which composes a gorgeous china that Finnair advertises in all their in-flight magazines. I could not let it pass.
The ‘Blue Sky’ was happily prepared by one of the FAs, who also cared to present the liqueur bottle before pouring it into the glass.
The drink is quite delicious indeed. The same FA then came back to check if I had liked the beverage—showing that they take pride in their sole cocktail.
After easily sipping the entire glass of Blue Sky, the cabin rapidly filled up an aroma that emanated from the galley’s ovens located on the rear section of the Business Class cabin. The front section is where all beverages are located, so food was served from the back, while drinks were served from up front.
I appreciated the fact that the FAs took the time to offer the aperitif well ahead of dinner. Other airlines often expedite service and end up serving drinks together with the meal, which blocks the aperitif effect and forces one to mix wines with other liqueurs.
Thirty minutes past midnight, I had both my new drink and dinner on the table; much appreciated given the late night time and my body begging for some sleep.
The dinner cart arrived with pre-served plates wrapped in aluminum foil. My dish was well wrapped, and when opened, unveiled an airline-food-looking piece of beef, accompanied by the typical mashed potatoes and roasted brussels sprouts.
Sadly, the beef was too overcooked and tough to cut—typical of average airline food. The mashed potatoes, tasty thanks to small chunks of bacon, surrounded the saucy piece of meat and the steamy sprouts. It was all tasty but quite ‘cheap’ from the Business Class service perspective.
Side dishes were a greens salad with another American-made vinaigrette, and a Vitel Tone dish, which was tasty and fresh.
A bread basket followed with over three types to choose from. I was advised by the kind FA to chose the thin, Finnish kind of bread. I gladly obliged and also asked for the typical wheat bun. Both pieces of bread were placed on the tray, as there was no bread plate available.
One additional piece of evidence that this meal was 100% cooked and conceived in Miami, the butter was American made—not a European version of any sort.
Finished with dinner, I decided to get some sleep as we had a little less than seven hours of flying left and my body was begging for some rest.
Time to Sleep
The comfortable seat, aided with the cozy pillow and cover allowed me to fall asleep for almost seven hours. I was awakened by cabin noise and chatter a little over 40 minutes before arriving into Helsinki.
The kind FA offered me some coffee and fruits, as there was no time left to serve me the full breakfast. My biological clock was at 07:15, though Helsinki local time was past 14:00 hours, so this light snack would be more than welcome.
Takeoff, Landing under Dark Skies
At this point, I was feeling super refreshed and ready for a full day in Finland. Or maybe not. According to the IFE Map Display, the sunset was already approaching our latitudes, so in theory, we departed and will arrive in dark conditions.
With 35 minutes left of flying time, the Captain announced an on-time arrival into HEL with dense fog and a temperature of +4C.
The IFE screens began showing a ‘Welcome to Helsinki’ video, which featured a Finnish crew member telling how “you can get to your connecting gate within 35 minutes with no hassle.” The video then showed off HEL’s new project, which by 2020 should accommodate 20+ million passengers per year.
Following the neat film, an unusual promotion followed. Finnair offers its customers the possibility to pre-order their duty-free shopping for the next flight. According to the airline, whatever you order will be waiting for you on the return flight.
With both videos finished, the front camera turned on, and a somewhat relaxing music was playing on the cabin’s speakers. Our A330 entered into heavy IFR conditions, and at 15:12, we touched down on the heavily lit HEL runway until smoothly coming to a full stop.
After a few minutes of taxiing, we reached the gate and disembarked rapidly into the modern terminal. A lengthy walk followed until we reached the modern, automated passport control system (for EU citizens), which processes passengers in less than 25 seconds.
Later on, the neat baggage carousels at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport delivered the semi-frozen bags, and I was on my way to Downtown Helsinki.
Finnair made sure that throughout the whole flight, I felt welcome and well taken care of.
This is an airline that’s not pretentious and doesn’t step into the boundaries of luxury and exaggeration, keeping its product spot-on and straightforward.
We departed out of a relaxed MIA and arrived into an even more relaxed HEL. My experience on board was hassle free, our FAs were gracious, welcoming, and always looking after me.
Our departure and arrival were within 10 minutes of the on-time frame, and the fact that I had a smile on my face after disembarking is substantial enough evidence that the flight was great.
This overnight Atlantic crossing was a delightful one. I had never departed so late and arrived in such good shape the following morning.
Finnair indeed takes pride in its fleet, especially the Airbus A350 which joined the airline back in 2015.
In all their in-flight magazines, and including both beverage and meal menus, they ‘celebrate’ the arrival of the new airliner, as it allows them to serve the flying public better.
I found this to be quite amusing. It’s great to see an airline taking pride in what they do.