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Finnair A330-300 economy class
CHECK-IN I checked in online the night before for my flight (AY042) and accepted the window seats I had been assigned (24A and 10A for the onward leg to London) and printed my boarding pass at the Link@Sheraton business area in the lobby of the hotel I was staying at in Songdo. The following morning I took a taxi to the airport, which cost 45,000 won (£25) and took 20 minutes. Finnair's check-in area was in Zone 9, with desks J one to eight assigned to check-in and bag-drop. There were no queues so my case was processed immediately and I was issued with two boarding passes, including one for my onward journey from Helsinki to London.
I then walked the short distance to international security, where there was a snaking queue. Laptops and liquids came out as usual and I was through in about 20 minutes. Immigration was immediately after but there was no wait for this so I was straight into airside departures. From here, I had to take a couple of escalators down to where a shuttle train took me to another departure terminal, where my gate (125) was located. This only took a couple of minutes and I was upstairs in the duty-free area by 0920. I stopped at a deli to buy a salad and a couple of bottles of water, as I had been warned the food in economy on Finnair is not very good. After this, I headed straight for the gate, about four minutes away.
BOARDING The flight didn't appear to be busy as there weren't many people waiting at the gate, despite boarding being scheduled to start at 0935. The process began at 0945, with business class passengers called first, followed by those sitting in rows towards the back of the plane. I was in my seat by 1000, after a short wait to board via an airbridge.
THE SEAT I was in window seat 24A, over the wing, and as pleased to find no one sitting next to me. Economy class on this aircraft is configured 2-4-2 (A-C, D-E-G-H, J-L) and seats were upholstered in pale blue patterned fabric. There was also a lime green plastic-wrapped blanket and a small pillow provided, along with a set of in-ear headphones. Seat-back screens were connected to an audio-video on-demand system with remote controls in the left-hand armrests, and also had a credit card swipe system for payments.
Fold-down tray tables were of a decent size and supportive for working on a laptop – however, if the person in front reclines their seats suddenly, you are at risk of the screen being bashed, so I was nervous about having it too close to the seatback, which meant I had to fold the screen down at an awkward angle. The seat was comfortable enough but felt a little claustrophobic when the person ahead fully reclined their seat, and if someone had been sitting next to me it would have been impossible to get out without them moving.
WHICH SEAT TO CHOOSE? The IFE box was under the seat in front of me, which restricted the amount of space I had for luggage/my feet. This was also the case for D seats, the other H aisle seat and L seats. I was happy with my window seat near the front of the cabin but if you are looking for extra legroom, opt for seats A-C and J-L in row 22, middle seats in row 21, or those in row 41. Business class is in the cabin ahead so if you like being near the washroom it's better to sit nearer the back– perhaps row 31 or 32 (but not so close though that you have people queuing by you or the smell of the washrooms). Avoid row 34 for this reason.
THE FLIGHT The aircraft pushed back at 1015 and took off shortly after at 1025. A trolley service of free soft drinks, wine and beer started at 1100, once at cruising altitude. Those who wanted spirits or champagne needed to pay (€5 for a gin and tonic, for example.) I was immediately served my special pre-ordered vegetarian meal. (The regular options were chicken with noodles or bibimbap.) This consisted of a tiny egg salad, three small slices of fruit, a stale roll, a cup of water, and a vegetarian lasagne, which was okay. Thankfully, I also had the salad I had bought at the airport, so ate this a little later on. There was the option of going to the galley at the back for refreshments throughout the flight, and I did this once. Helping myself to a cup of water and a tomato juice. In terms of snacks, all there was were pretzel Skybites.
I watched a couple of films but was a bit disappointed by the lack of choice and how the handful of movies they did have listed were lumped in various categories (“comedy, “drama”, “action” and “classics”) to make it seem like there were more. For example, Little Fockers, Master and Commander, and Shutter Island, were in classics, as well as comedy, drama and action. At 1800 the trolley came back around with a second veggie meal – a variation on what I had eaten earlier, yet less palatable – a soggy bunch of spaghetti with a dollop of tomato puree on top, and a side of rubbery steamed mushrooms, thick wedges of courgette and aubergine. I could barely eat any of it despite being hungry.
ARRIVAL The plane landed in Helsinki at 1945 (1345 local time), with a short taxi to the stand and only a couple of minutes' wait until disembarkation began via an airbridge. As I was transferring on to London, I followed the signs that brought me to security, where liquids and laptops came out and boarding passes were checked. After ten minutes, I was into departures.
VERDICT The food was pretty bad on this flight and the choice of films disappointing, but at least it was audio-video on-demand. I was also pleased to have the seat next to me free, which made a real difference. The crew were amenable, though didn't bring much round in terms of refreshments on this nine-hour-plus flight – water was only offered once outside of the meal services. An averagely good long-haul economy class experience.
PRICE Internet rates for a return economy class flight from London to Seoul via Helsinki in December ranged between £694 and £1,426 depending on flexibility.
CONFIGURATION 2-4-2 (A-C, D-E-G-H, J-L)