Airline review: Finnair economy class, Tokyo Narita to Helsinki

Forthright in manner and bursting with national pride, they're almost frighteningly efficient.

THE PLANE

Airbus A330-300; Finnair has eight of this medium to long haul aircraft in its fleet, with three cabin levels – economy, economy comfort and business.

THE ROUTE

Tokyo (Narita) to Helsinki

LOYALTY SCHEME

Finnair Plus is free to join and, like Qantas, part of the oneworld alliance.

CLASS

Economy, seat 26G

DURATION

Nine hours and 20 minutes; we land in Helsinki 35 minutes early.

FREQUENCY

Twice a day, code-sharing with Japan Airlines.

SEAT

I'd chosen seat 26G thinking it would be an aisle seat as it had been on my previous connecting flight on the same aircraft, but with a different airline. Alas, it turns out to be a middle seat in the middle section; it's a 2-4-2 configuration and there's no "F" seat this time. At least there are two armrests between me and my middle-seat neighbour, which gives us both more shoulder and leg room. Each aqua-coloured cloth seat is 18 inches wide (45 centimetres) with a pretty generous 32-inch pitch (81 centimetres), a bendy headrest and a cloth pocket large enough for my reusable water bottle.

BAGGAGE

For flights to and from Japan, economy passengers are allowed two pieces of luggage instead of one, weighing no more than 23 kilograms, plus up to eight kilograms of hand luggage.

COMFORT

In economy we get cute, soft Marimekko lime green pillows and lime-and-white fleece spotted blankets. No amenity kits (you have to upgrade to Economy Comfort for those, and for noise-cancelling headphones), but you can buy a Marimekko one for €23 onboard. Before the meal service, an on-screen message asks us to return our seats to the upright position, which must help reduce air-rage over reclining.

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ENTERTAINMENT

The touchscreen is small by today's standards, there's a remote control in the armrest and viewing options are limited to the safety video and Finnair service announcements about duty free shopping and using the Nordic Sky Wi-Fi portal until after takeoff. It takes me 20 minutes to locate my "headset", thinking the cabin crew must be handing them out, only to find a pair of earphones so tiny I hadn't realised I was sitting on them. When the entertainment system finally starts, I find 83 movies (listed alphabetically, no categories), 101 TV episodes (but sadly no Nordic Noir such as Trapped or The Killing), 25 shows for kids, plus music and games. There's also a copy of the Blue Wings inflight magazine.

SERVICE

The flight attendants are blonde amazons of all ages, forthright in manner and bursting with national pride. When the entertainment system in my row malfunctions, they deal with it with almost frightening efficiency, resetting the system, which restarts 10 minutes later. They also make gate announcements for connecting flights from Helsinki before landing, always a thoughtful gesture.

FOOD

Meals get the Marimekko treatment, too, with cheery lime-spotted paper napkins. For lunch, I have the chicken with rice, which is simple but tasty and comes with salami, a potato salad, orange cake, a slice of cheese and a bread roll. Dinner before landing is pasta carbonara served with a slice of pound cake and a Kit Kat. In between, flight attendants hand out banana ice-cream in little tubs, though it's so deep-frozen we have to wait a while before digging in with our little plastic spoons.

THE LAST WORD

Because this was just one flight on a long journey to Iceland, I didn't prepare as well as I should have: to make sure I had an aisle seat, for instance, or pre-order vegetarian meals. Nevertheless, it was a comfortable flight with excellent service.

Tested by Louise Southerden, who flew courtesy of Lindblad Expeditions.

OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE: 4

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