It’s not often I get the chance to sample two generations of an airline’s long-haul Business Class service within 30 months, but on June 11, 2012 I was able to do so upon stepping aboard a Finnair Airbus A330-300 at Helsinki-Vantaa Airport.
In late 2009, my wife and I had flown Business Class from New York JFK to Helsinki on one of the first Airbus A330-300s Finnair had received, not long after the airline took delivery of the twinjet aircraft.
The Business Class Seats on that aircraft (registered OH-LTM) reclined to form full-length, or near full-length, beds but didn’t recline anywhere near 180 degrees.
Each Business Class seat row was in a 2-2-2 configuration and there were 42 seats in all, 30 in a forward cabin and 12 in a mid-fuselage cabin.
Those seats were very comfortable and the cabin service terrific. Apart from anything else, the flight gave us our first opportunity to sample the lovely Lapponia cloudberry and lingonberry liqueurs from Finland, which come in distinctive circular bottles with long necks. However, the angle of the seats at full recline was noticeable and (for me at least) not conducive to sleep.
Finnair’s first four Airbus A330-300 widebodies (OH-LTM, LTN, LTO and LTP) and all seven of its four-engine Airbus A340-300s still have those seats, in 2-2-2 seat rows.
According to Finnair, these are Recaro CL6510 seats. If you’re flying in Business Class on one of those 11 aircraft, you’ll probably have a very relaxing flight and thoroughly enjoy the in-flight service, as we did.
However, Finnair’s other four A330-300s (its four youngest of the type) feature both a new Business Class seat – this time a lie-flat seat which angles down to become completely horizontal – and a new seat-row configuration.
Like Swiss International Air Lines, whose long-haul Business Class cabin features a very similar arrangement, Business Class in these four Finnair A330s is configured with alternate rows of four and five seats, in 1-2-1 and 2-2-1 seat rows. All seats are upholstered in restful shades of light gray and pastel blue.
Three of the four aircraft which have the new lie-flat seats – OH-LTS, LTT and LTU – have only the forward cabin dedicated to Business Class and the cabin has 32 seats. The fourth aircraft, OH-LTR, also has a Business Class section in its mid-cabin area, where there are another 13 seats.
The alternate-row arrangement provides loads of room for working and relaxation, offering large, flat spaces next to each seat where you can put drinks, books or other stuff you need during your flight.
It also offers a considerable degree of privacy and comfort and I have no hesitation in saying the new Business Class cabin lay-out is better than the older one.
For one thing, depending on the cabin configuration of the aircraft in which you’re flying, only four or five seats don’t offer direct access to an aisle – and these are usually the last seats to be booked, so you are unlikely to end up with no direct aisle access.
If you’re sitting in one of the single seats – usually the one on the left side of the cabin – in the 1-2-1 rows, the seat offers a big side table on each side. These seats are usually the first ones booked, because they offer the most working room and the most privacy.
On my June 11 flight from Helsinki-Vantaa Airport to New York JFK, I was seated in the single seat on the right-hand side of one of the 2-2-1 rows, seat 5L, and I felt I had oodles of space and enough room to work.
I flew in OH-LTU, Finnair’s youngest A330-300, which has 32 Business Class seats and which I think may have been dedicated to the New York route at the time.
(I flew out to Helsinki on the same aircraft, but in Economy, which offered pretty decent service as far as Economy-class flying goes.)