December 30, 2001
Departure (scheduled/actual): 08:25/08:30
Arrival (scheduled/actual): 10:20/10:01
Captain Handberg, F/O Hyttinen
Photo © Florian Kondziela
My dad dropped me to Helsinki Vantaa international airport at around 7 AM and I proceeded to departure hall 2 to collect my tickets at Finnair's ticketing desk. The lady told me I can check in at any of the economy class counters and probably thought I was an idiot as I went directly to the Business class side. I then presented my AAdvantage Gold card and received a boarding pass in a minute with exit row window 10A reserved for me. No security questions or other stuff was asked. The agent was very friendly and told me the middle seat would be left empty and wished me a happy new year.
After check in I went to the small viewing area next to the Fly Inn restaurant and witnessed two LH 737-300s, one ARJ-85, KLM 737-400 and a Crossair ERJ-145 as well as loads of Finnair planes. At 7:30 I went through security - it took around 30 seconds with no lines whatsoever. Nobody checked my boarding pass or passport. Departure gate today was 31 in the non-schengen area so I needed to go through passport control later. There were quite a few passengers in the schengen area just before passport control, a 757 cattle truck with 229 seats was just boarding as AY2601 to Tenerife.
The gate area for gates 31 and 32 was more or less empty and I knew my flight would have a rather light load today. Boarding for AY861 started at around 8:00 the around 40-50 pax were quickly aboard. I had row 10 all to myself. We were soon surrounded by de-icing trucks and the rather friendly crew welcomed us onboard in Finnish, Swedish, English and German. All announcements on both flights were in these four languages including the ones made by the flight crew.
At 8:30 we were ready for pushback and the safety video was playing on the overhead LCD-screens. The cabin of x-ray bravo was spotless and the seats were comfortable with adequate legroom. A ten-minute taxi to runway 04 (soon to be 04R after the parallel runway (04L/22R) opens) and full thrust was applied at 8:40. We were climbing steeply and the runway lights quickly disappeared from the screens (nose wheel cams were on). A very steep left turn followed and we were soon heading towards the city of Visby in Gotland, Sweden.
Flight time today was 2h25min and our cruising altitude was 39000ft. Airshow was on for about half an hour before the short subjects started (Just for Laughs and an episode the Simpsons). There is no audio on these Airbuses so it was pretty boring to watch those. There was Finnish text for the Simpsons though. Airshow was on between the programs and for the last 30 minutes of the flight as well.
As soon as the seatbelt sign was switched off, the crew started the service. A hot breakfast consisting of pancakes, chicken and vegetables was offered along with warm rolls and youghurt. These were flushed down with orange juice and coffee. Later another round of warm rolls and more coffee was offered. All in all it was pretty tasty and everything was on a regular tray with metal cutlery and a real glass.
From Visby we continued towards MMX and CPH, then over HAJ and STR towards Zürich Kloten. Around half an hour before landing, a full bar service was offered, I had a Diet coke and a Baileys as usual. We soon started our descent and the mountains were visible. Flight attendants prepared the cabin for landing and the nose cam was switched on again. With beautiful views from my window, the approach lights of a runway were soon in sight but a steep right turn followed and suddenly we were approaching another runway (16). OH-LXB touched down smoothly at 10:01AM, 19 minutes early. On the left I saw the new terminal being built as well as the Swissair MD11 parking lot. What a sad sight. All gates in terminal B were occupied though and we had a ten minute wait before reaching the gate at 10:15, still five minutes early. Next to us was OE-LAE, a Lauda B767-300ER.
I deplaned quickly and our purser and captain were thanking us at door 1L. There was a bit of a wait at passport control but they opened a third counter and the lines quickly disappeared. My bag was already on the belt, I cleared customs and headed towards the viewing deck. It is just awesome, especially the heavies taking off from runway 16. I saw a bunch of SR/LX planes and the following:
AA 763 N373AA
AA 763 N374AA
AC 762 C-FBEG
DL 763 N188DN
MH 772 9M-MRD
SQ 744 9M-SMY
TG 744 HS-TGZ
Adria CRJ S5-AAE
And of course a bunch of Euro visitors including EZY, KLM, SAS, BA etc. My mate Luftaom took some shots via the webcam which was fun! Thanks Bradley! After a couple of hours and three rolls of film I proceeded to the train station and headed to downtown Zürich.
My stay there was great, the city was very nice as well as the Marriott where I stayed.
January 1, 2002
Departure (scheduled/actual): 19:15/19:08
Arrival (scheduled/actual): 23:00/22:50
Captain Keränen, F/O Tiitinen
Photo © Alan Moss
I left the Marriott at noon and walked a bit around the city before heading back the airport for some more spotting and my flight back home. I first checked in for my return flight (5 hours early). The Swissport check-in agent was ok, not too friendly though. No security questions asked and as I gave her my passport she said "it's ok". It was kind of strange not to check one's passport especially after 9-11.
After that it was time to head back to the spotters paradise. Saw the two 744 takeoffs (TG/SQ) as well as a Swissair MD11 go-around just before 4PM. It was at a fairly high altitude approaching runway 16 and suddenly started a climb towards the left just to come back 15 minutes later. The aircraft was HB-IWC and taxied directly to the SR hangars after landing so I wonder if this was a training/test flight.
Also SAS sent in a DC9-41 (SE-DAS) which was loud as hell. That thing taxiing was much worse than a 747 on takeoff but still a very nice surprise. At sunset I took some last pics, SR A330 (IQB) on takeoff and a JAT 737 (YU-AND, all white) arriving. After those it got dark and I went to take a look at terminal A. What a sad sight - half of the SR counters closed and the rest had around 10 people checking in. I bought a LX Embraer RJ-145 model there as well.
Next stop was the shopping mall to spend the rest of my Swiss Francs - got some chocolates to take home. I then proceeded to terminal B again and noticed my flight was expected to depart 10 minutes early at 19:05. On the screen there was also TG7101 with the destination of BKK at 20:45. What is this flight? Maybe an MD11 that was in for maintenance at SR? Other interesting departures included JJ8071 to FRA and GRU as well as the South African flight.
I went through passport control and security check to gate B36 allocated for AY864 this evening. No lines at either point and no bag searching. B36 is one of the gates in the large gate lounge at the end of the concourse, other flights there included Virgin Express to BRU, IB to MAD and SR to Athens. At the Athens gate there was a Balair 757 HB-IHR though. Finnair 863 arrived 15 minutes early - OH-LXB again, bugger!
Three Swissport agents were working at the gate and they were ready for boarding at exactly 18:40 as indicated on the boarding pass. Boarding was by rows, I was in the first group as I had 21A. Finnish newspapers were available as well as Swiss ones and a very good looking brunette was greeting us at the door. Business class was five rows today with just a couple of passengers. Economy was surprisingly full considering it was January 1, maybe 100 passengers. This was the only flight though instead of the usual two dailies.
Boarding was complete at 19:00 and I was happy to have 21 ABC all for myself. The safety video was shown again and we were pushed back at 19:08. South African's B747-200 ZS-ZAN was next to us on the other side (Balair being on my side). We started our taxi to runway 28 and the nose cam was on. On our way we passed a lot of SR/LX machines including two Swissair MD11s. OH-LXB entered runway 28 at 19:15 and a powerful takeoff followed. We then made a very steep left turn and flew over Kloten airport again before heading towards the north. Our routing was the same as two days earlier in the other direction, over STR, MMX and Visby. I had a good view of the STR area lights.
Video programs today included Airshow, Only Joking and a documentary about Finland. A cold meal was served as soon as we reached our cruising altitude of FL390. It was very good - four thick slices of chicken, potato salad, a roll and some sort of cake for dessert. Real cutlery and glasses again. I had two cokes, some water and a Baileys with my meal. Flight attendants in Economy included that stunning brunette, a very friendly blonde and another blonde directly out of some sort of bitch training school.
Soon we were only about an hour away from Helsinki and another round of full bar service followed. Feeling thirsty, I had another coke and a Baileys. After the drinks we already started our descent into Helsinki Vantaa where the weather was just terrible - very windy and it was snowing heavily. The crew soon collected the rest of the cups and prepared the cabin for landing. We had the usual approach for runway 04 past Hobby Hall etc, but it was very bumpy. A rough landing on the snowy runway because of the horrible weather followed at 22:50. A quick taxi to the terminal and we were parked at gate 31 at 22:52, eight minutes early. I deplaned and quickly made my way to passport control. Finnair 097 to BKK-SIN was boarding at gate 32 with OH-LGA operating it.
Passport control was a breeze but I had to wait 10 minutes for my bag - very unusual at Helsinki. I was out of the terminal at 23:10 and met my dad who picked me up. All in all it was an excellent trip and I must say I enjoyed Finnair this time - very different from the 36 domestic flights I took last year.
Hope you enjoyed the report!