On my way back from Slovakia to Japan at the end of last year, I decided to book Finnair business class from Vienna to Tokyo Narita via Helsinki.
I booked the flights using Finnair miles. I bought those during the airline’s Christmas promotion where it offered enough miles for two business class roundtrips between Europe and Asia/America and enough status miles for Finnair Gold (Oneworld Sapphire) status for just a little over 2,000 EUR.
Continue reading this review to see what the first of the two flights – Vienna to Helsinki onboard an Embraer E190 – was like.
Check-in, Lounge & Boarding at Vienna Airport
When I got to the airport, the check-in counters for my flight were still closed. They opened shortly before 9:30AM – about two hours before the flight’s scheduled departure. There were two check-in counters – one for economy class and the other one for business class and status holders. Getting into the priority lane, it took about ten minutes before I got checked in.
With the boarding passes for my flight to Helsinki and onward flight to Tokyo in my hands, I headed through security. Luckily, I was able to skip the fairly crowded main queue by going through the priority lane. That one was empty and so I was through in no time.
Airside, I headed into Sky Lounge which Finnair invites its business class passengers to. The lounge can also be accessed with Priority Pass. The last time I visited the lounge, I was only given a to-go pack of snacks due to COVID-19 restrictions – as such, I was glad to see the lounge back in regular operations this time.
I left the lounge around 10:45AM, fifteen minutes before boarding was scheduled to begin, and headed to gate F09. Outside, the E190 was being prepared for the flight. Inside, the gate area was quite crowded as there was limited seating due to it being tucked away behind a restaurant.
Boarding started at 11AM. After having my boarding pass scanned, I followed two passengers that were ahead of me in the line and headed down the jetway. Following a brief wait at the jetway so that passengers needing assistance could finish settling in their seats, we were invited to come on board.
Finnair E190 Business Class Cabin & Seat
Like most other European short-haul aircraft, Finnair’s Embraer E190s are not equipped with proper business class seats. Instead, economy class seats with empty seats next to them are used as business class seats. Among other things, this configuration allows airlines to change the size of the business class cabin depending on each flight’s demand.
In my case, the curtain dividing business class and economy class was installed after the second row. As such, of the 100 seats on the aircraft arranged in a 2-2 layout, eight (four seats, each with an empty seat next to it) were dedicated to business class.
Considering that I was the only business class passenger on the flight, that was more than enough.
Having sat in 1A, a bulkhead seat, there was more than enough legroom. That came with the disadvantage of not being able to store any luggage under the seat in front, though.
It’s also worth noting here that the aircraft was equipped with individual air vents.
Finnair Short-Haul Business Class Pre-Flight Service
As I got on board, I was welcomed by one of the flight attendants and, as is quite usual these days, handed a “clean kit” containing sanitizing wipes. Once I settled in my seat, another flight attendant came to welcome me. She also handed me a bottle of water and a blanket. Considering that it was a fairly short flight, I found the latter to be a nice touch.
At this point, I also checked the seat pocket which contained the usual safety card and waste bag. Rather than being branded as Finnair, the safety card featured the Nordic Regional Airlines (an airline that operates the aircraft on behalf of Finnair) brand.
After quite a few “tervetuloas” (welcome in Finnish), boarding was completed at 11:15AM. In total, there were 47 passengers including one infant on board. As mentioned earlier, I was the only passenger in business class. Shortly after that, one of the flight attendants made a welcome announcement mentioning that our flight time was expected to be 2 hours and 10 minutes.
At 11:22AM, the aircraft doors were armed and a manual safety demonstration was performed. We were pushed back a minute later (seven minutes ahead of schedule).
Once we got to the entrance to our departure runway 29, the captain welcomed us onboard and, in addition to mentioning our expected flight time, said that we had to wait about two minutes to receive our take-off clearance.
We took off at 11:33AM and shortly thereafter were offered amazing views of Austria’s mountains.
Finnair Short-Haul Business Class Lunch
The seatbelt signs were switched off less than five minutes after take-off. At that point, the curtain between business and economy class was closed and the flight attendants started to get ready for the in-flight service.
In economy class, complimentary water and blueberry juice were provided in addition to a selection of items from the buy-on-board menu. In business class, a light lunch was provided.
The service started at 11:45AM, twelve minutes after take-off, with a (burning) hot towel. At that point, we also crossed our paths with an Emirates A380.
A couple of minutes later, I was served the meal. It consisted of a salad with salmon, a warm bread roll, and a couple of chocolate candies. For drink, I decided to have some blueberry juice – after all, there are not many (if any) airlines offering it.
While serving me the drink, the flight attendant offered to take out the tray table of the seat next to me to create some more space. I found that to be a nice touch. Especially considering that Finnair doesn’t install drink tables on its European business class seats like those on Lufthansa’s E190.
The meal was great. It was light but filling and the piece of salmon was not only large but also tasted excellent. The bread roll was good too. The only thing that the meal missed was a proper dessert – considering the time of the day and flight duration, it was not a big deal, though.
Once I was done with the meal, the flight attendant came to clear the tray and offer hot drinks. I decided to have some green tea and also asked for an extra glass of blueberry juice.
Both were brought within a couple of minutes.
Overall, the meal service was adequate to the length of the flight and time of the day. While unrelated to the taste of the meal, I should also note here that I love the look of Finnair’s Ultima Thule and Marimekko glassware.
Cruising and Arrival at Helsinki Airport
For the remainder of the flight, I relaxed and did some planning for 2022.
At 1:47PM Finland time, the co-pilot made an announcement saying that we were flying at 39,000 feet and had about an hour of flight time left. He also mentioned that we would be arriving about fifteen minutes before our scheduled arrival time and that it was -1 degree Celsius and cloudy in Helsinki. Lastly, he wished everyone on board a Happy New Year.
Around the same time, I asked the crew for some water. I was served a bottle a minute later. The crew partly opened the bottle before handing it over – I found that to be a nice touch.
The seatbelt signs were switched back on at 2:21PM at which point we also started our descent.
Flying on December 31, I was happy to see the last sunset of the year from my favorite place on earth – from an aircraft. The views were amazing throughout the descent until we entered the clouds.
We landed at 2:39PM on Helsinki airport’s runway 22L and reached gate 18 four minutes later. With Finland having reinstated border checks even for Schengen flights, instead of using the jetway, we got off the rear stairs and were taken to the terminal by bus.
While waiting for the bus to come and economy class passengers to get off (I was the last to get off since we were using the rear door), I briefly chatted with the flight attendant who mentioned she would be headed to Paris next.
I finally reached the terminal about five minutes before 3PM. As I still had quite some time before catching my connecting flight to Tokyo, I headed to Finnair’s new lounge. More about that in the next article, though.
Finnair E190 Business Class Summary
The flight was on time, the meal tasted excellent and was the right volume, and the crew was kind and professional.
While the seat was just an economy class seat with the seat next to it blocked, it was still more than comfortable enough for the short flight. Plus, it is more or less impossible to find aircraft equipped with proper business class seats flying on European short-haul flights these days anyways.
As such, all in all, I enjoyed the flight. More than the flight itself, though, I enjoyed watching the last sunset of the year from the aircraft.