Windbag Miles is a blog about points, miles, credit cards, travel, and general windbaggery.

Route obsession of the day: London to Helsinki on a Finnair A350

The plane I most want to fly on is the A350, and the cabin in which I most want to fly on it is Finnair's business class. This is partially because I'm overly enamored of all things Scandinavian, and also probably because Finnair's interior design kind of reminds me of an ice hotel, which is on my bucket list of travel experiences. Here, see if you can tell which one is the airplane and which one is the ice hotel: finnair-biz

ice hotel

The problem is, aside from a brief window during which Finnair flew their A350 from New York to Helsinki, they're primarily used on routes between Europe and Asia. Right now, I don't have any plans to travel to Asia in the first place, and I have even fewer plans to travel between Europe and Asia. That means that I probably won't get to try Finnair's A350 anytime soon - especially since Finnair is especially strong between Europe and Asia and is focusing there for the bulk of their future growth.

Except... turns out they fly the A350 once a day between LHR and HEL for whatever reason. This doesn't seem to be a temporary thing, either, since it's officially announced as an A350 route on their fancy A350 hype page (although they do include a caveat that equipment swaps are always a possibility). Since I do want to go to Finland sometime in the next couple years, this piqued my interest - especially since I want to go in winter, when Finnair doesn't operate a direct flight to SFO. That means I'll have to break my journey at some point, and flying BA first class to LHR and then picking up Finnair business to go the rest of the way would be a pretty great itinerary.

Unfortunately, it may not be that easy. However, just looking at the LHR-HEL leg, availability is pretty good, at least for the random dates I checked. Searching on American (since Finnair is a Oneworld partner), I saw availability on this particular flight for around half the days in September.


I guess 22,500 AAdvantage miles is kind of a lot for what's probably around 2 1/2 hours in the air, but I'd do it in a heartbeat if it made sense in the context of my overall travel plans. Because I don't actually like flying that much (I'm more interested in premium cabins in a kind of asperger-y way), I think a couple hours in Finnair would be enough to quench my thirst. Aside from something like Emirates first class, where there's an elaborate 75-course meal to eat, $5000 cognac to drink at the bar, and minutes upon minutes of showering to shower, I don't really know that I'd ever want to spend more time in a plane than is necessary. Even in relative luxury like SAS or Swiss business class, I still just wanted the flight to be over after a few hours. So, what I'm saying is, I don't feel like I'd be disappointed in not getting the "full" Finnair experience by taking this flight.

Of course, the better option than shelling out 22,500 miles would be to tack it onto a transatlantic award for free. I was able to make a sample itinerary work in economy (SFO-LHR-HEL), but it was tougher in business. The reason is that BA business availability is pretty sparse over the periods when Finnair is open, and vice versa. BA has every-day availability in November, but Finnair doesn't have a single day in November with business availability on this particular flight. I don't know that much about general availability trends on either of these carriers, but it seems like Finnair opens space a couple months in advance, whereas BA has always been better the further out you book, in my experience. I'm not saying it's impossible to string these two flights together to book a single award, but there's definitely some luck involved.

Regardless, it does strike me as funny that you'd pay the same to fly in an industry-leading reverse herringbone seat on the most technologically advanced jetliner (is that true?) as you would to sit in BA's shitty 29" pitch "business class" with a blocked middle seat. Such are the little quirks of this hobby that make it worthwhile, I guess.

Bottom line is that I'm happy I may yet get a chance to fly on the A350. Although I may not ever get around to it, I just like knowing it's there (as long as I don't get equipment-swapped). Has anyone flown the A350 in general, and Finnair's version in particular? Feel free to make me enraged with jealousy by describing your experience in the comments.

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