That said, I love the fact each Finnair A330 has both a nosewheel camera and a downward-facing camera installed. Unlike some airlines, Finnair isn’t scared of piping the live feed from the nosewheel camera direct to your seatback screen to let you watch both the take-off and the landing from an even better viewpoint than the pilots get.
While the nosewheel-camera feed is only turned on for take-off and landing, you can watch the view from the downward-facing camera at any time – a nice thing to do when you’re flying over Iceland, Greenland and down over Canada and Maine towards New York.
Each Finnair Business Class seat is equipped with a personal entertainment system which includes a satellite phone (which doubles as the in-flight entertainment controller) and offers 34 films, 16 games, 100 TV shows, 24 music channels and 60 albums. You can create your own playlists.
However, I found the choice of in-flight entertainment somewhat uninspired – particularly in terms of films – and for most of my Helsinki-New York flight I watched the map display or looked outside at the glorious views I could see of Iceland and Greenland as the aircraft passed over them.
Each seat also has an electricity socket, allowing you to charge your laptop or your music player. No adaptor is required. But it’s well worth putting your computer down for a while when the crew serves lunch.
I chose a Mediterranean antipasto as a starter, followed by grilled spring chicken with port wine sauce and chèvre risotto. I rounded off my meal with Black Gouda and Brie cheese and fresh fruit.
Everything was good, particularly the antipasto (for which I’m a sucker) and the bread selection. This included Finnish dark-rye crispbreads, which make a satisfying snappy sound when you break bits off. However, I was just a little underwhelmed by the chicken-and-chèvre-risotto entrée, which was a wee bit blander than I had expected.
But the wines made up for it. I think Finnair’s sommelier did an excellent job of selecting the wines for the airline’s 2011-2012 wine list. Comparing two European airlines with similarly high stands of Business Class service, I reckon that while Swiss International Air Lines has an admirable policy of reflecting its roots by offering Swiss wines on its flights (or almost exclusively so), Finnair’s cosmopolitan offering provides a more notable and more differentiated wine selection.
After quaffing a glass of dry and delicious Joseph Perrier Cuvée Royale Brut Vintage 2000 champagne as a welcome-on-board drink, I stuck with white wines for my lunch. I sampled first the Hardys Nottage Hill Riesling 2009, from Clare Valley and Padthaway vineyards in South Australia; this wine was not bad at all.
Then I moved on to the Pierre André Chassagne-Montrachet 2009 from the Côte de Beaune area of Burgundy. According to the tasting notes in Finnair’s Business Class wine menu for the flight, this 100%-Chardonnay wine has a nose featuring “notes of fresh apricot, yellow fruits and white flowers, with a touch of vanilla”.
While I couldn’t quite believe that all white flowers have a generic smell, I certainly agreed with the comment that the wine’s flavor “opens on more toasted notes stemming from aging in oak barrels”. The tasting notes also had it right in saying the wine was “full-bodied and creamy” and was generally “well-balanced”.
I usually hate Chardonnay wines which have an oaky flavor – I find such wines have a very chemical-like taste and consider them a waste of good alcohol. But I must say that this Pierre André wine balanced oaky smokiness with the sweet fruitiness of the grape absolutely beautifully, with just a slight and not-unpleasant hint of oak permeating through.
My first glass left me intrigued to try a second and a flight attendant duly obliged.
To round off what overall was a really nice lunch, I treated myself to the Niepoort Colheita 1998 tawny port on offer as one of two dessert-wine options. (The other was a Lenz Moser Prestige Berenauslese 2008.)
This brick-red-and-orangey-brown port proved an ideal way to end my meal. So sated was I that when a Scandinavian open roast-beef sandwich, bread and fruit were offered as a light meal about two hours out from landing, I had to decline with thanks.
To make an already-memorable flight even better, I found the U.S. Customs and Border Protection (CBP) Inspection Facility at New York JFK Terminal 8 nearly empty after we landed and I was the first person through the U.S. Green Card holders’ line.
When I had last landed at JFK, going through Terminal 4 after flying Business Class with Swiss International, the CBP agents held Green Card holders back until all U.S. citizens and most foreign citizens from our flight had been processed. It took me nearly an hour to get through Immigration and into the Customs Hall.
This time, I was outside Terminal 8 and at its Airtrain station within 15 minutes of landing and home in Manhattan via the Airtrain and ‘E’ train – at a total cost of $7.75 for the 20-plus-mile journey – within 75 minutes of getting off the plane. That can’t be bad. I’d recommend Finnair Business Class to anyone.