A few weeks into the global airlines summer schedules, an interesting message appeared on the equally interesting airlineroute.net website:
BRU’s Finnair service to HEL sees normally a mix of A319/320 and Embraer 190 aircraft so the addition - or rather replacement - of the midmorning service by one of their longhaul A340-300 aircraft was a nice and welcome surprise. Needless to say I started fare hunting and itinerary puzzling right away!
This particular flight being operated once a week on Thursday made the search for a suitable itinerary quite challenging. There was 1 day that suited my schedule best, being Aug 15th as this was an official holiday in Belgium - and Mother’s Day as well in the region of Antwerp where I live - and the start of a long weekend off.
After quite some trial and error I found a matching hit and booked a BRU-HEL-OSL/ARN-HEL-BRU open jaw on Finnair’s excellent website, costing me a reasonable € 212. To fill in the gaps, an additional OSL-BRU-FRA-ARN open jaw was booked on Expedia. This deducted another € 211 off my VISA card. All in all, 8 legs booked, for about € 55 each which is decent value in my books! There was of course also the addition of 2 new airlines to the log - Finnair and FlyBE - and another intra-Europe widebody flight.
BRU-HEL on Finnair A340-300
HEL-OSL on Finnair (operated by FlyBE) Embraer 190
OSL-BRU on Brussels Airlines Avro RJ-100
Note: This report will only feature the Finnair flights as I’ve already reported a few times on Brussels Airlines and the Avro RJ100.
Here are the flights featured in this report on a map (thanks to the excellent Great Circle Mapper, copyright Karl L Schwartz):
Of course my itinerary wouldn’t be complete without 1 or 2 challenging connections: connecting time in HEL was scheduled to be 0h40 and connecting time in OSL 1h10. Fingers crossed so jet’s go!
Brussels Airport - BRU
My trusty motorbike delivers me in due time in the underground parking at the airport. I obtain the Finnair boarding passes from the SSK and the Brussels Airlines one is being sent to my phone, so I’m all set for the day. Security is no big deal so pretty fast I’m where I ought to be, gate A45 in terminal A.
OH-LQB has already landed on schedule at about 9h00 and lots of bins are waiting to be loaded.
It definitely is not a Jumbolino:
The ground time for this flight is about 2h40 so there should be plenty of time to get all the cargo loaded in time for departure. So one should think...
It’s another 20 mins before the scheduled boarding so I do my usual walkaround to look for some interesting machinery. Beside the countless Brussels Airlines planes, there’s not much around except for this duo from competing alliances:
The demography of people at the gate shows quite some pax of Asian descent, most likely connecting to the Finnair longhaul network. The load seems decent as well and will turn out to be around 50%.
BRU to HEL
Airbus A340-300 OH-LQB
Photo © Mikko Haajanen
Hurrah for BRU’s glass gate bridges! This is however not the most flattering angle for this otherwise nice machine:
The first encounter with the crew is so and so. An older female FA takes a quick look at my boarding pass and shows my way to the first aisle on the right. No ‘welcome onboard’ nor a (genuine) smile... The cabin crew appears to be all female and composed of a mix of ages. There’s 1 particularly joyful FA working my aisle while the others tend to be more reserved. But that might just as well be a part of their Finnish nature?
I settle into my seat, window last row and the first impressions are not bad: seating comfort is good with ample legroom and winged adjustable headrests.
The IFE box is not too large and not bothersome
Furthermore, the seat is equipped with well-sized touchscreen PTV’s:
The control unit is tucked away in the armrest which I find a clever idea:
The cabin itself features grey, beige and blue colours and modern seats with hard shell backs.
Finnair is celebrating it’s 90th birthday this year:
Overhead panel featuring individual air vents:
Overhead stowage space:
So we are all seated and ready to go but unfortunately nothing happens for a while. I hear some rumbling down below which obviously indicates that the bins are being loaded right now. This is confirmed by the captain, who comes on the blower and informs us all that ‘loading will take another 5 to 10 mins but we should be able to arrive in HEL more or less on schedule with a flight time of 2h10’. I start to worry a bit...
25 mins later we are still in idle mode and now I really start to get a bit anxious about my connecting flight in HEL. Why does the loading of those oh so important cargo bins has to be done on the very last minute despite the plane being on the ground for 2h40? Beats me...
Finally a loud bang! indicates closure of the cargo door and a few minutes later we finally push off
We drive past 2 good looking Jetairfly Jungle Jets:
Let’s not forget about SN’s longhaulers...
and BRU’s liquid gold station:
Our army’s C-130 fleet:
Due to renovation works on 25R, it’s a single runway operation today - 20 is in use - so this means another wait for arriving traffic.
Finally, 45 mins after schedule we turn onto the runway.
Taking off A340-style!
Crossing the Brussels-Leuven railway line:
After a hard right turn, we find ourselves facing north, next stop Helsinki Vantaa Airport.
Some climbing statistics:
Too bad the city of Brussels is partially hidden from sight although the Atomium was clearly visible.
Finally underway it’s time to explore the contents of the seat pocket.
Close up of the menu.
Finnair’s catering concept is more or less the following: free coffee, tea, water, soft drinks, snacks and alcohol for sale. As I’m going through the snack items to make a choice, the crew announces that the ‘service will commence soon including a barbeque chicken sandwich and hot and cold drinks of choice’. Excellent!
Headphones are distributed as well. I guess they are for 1 time use only and it shows, the sound quality is abominable!
I explore some of the features of the IFE. A good selection of movies, music, games,... is available and the touchscreen is fast responsive. Such a shame of the bad headphones though... But in the end, there’s usually 1 important item in this category and that’s of course the inflight map:
Lunch is served as promised and comprises a bbq chicken sandwich that is washed down with some apple juice and tea and lemon.
I ask the FA serving the food if I will be able to make my connection she thinks. She says that probably yes and will come back to me when she has more info on the connecting flights and their assigned gates.
Let’s not forget about the classic winglet shot!
Somewhere over Denmark.
After all those drinks, it’s time as well to go and explore the lavatorial facilities. There’s some funky lighting installed but it’s a bit of a mess inside...
This is how the back galley looks like:
My seat en detail:
I’m just seated again as another FA - the purser obviously and a very friendly woman - comes to my seat.
‘Yes, that’s me’
‘Regarding your connection flight, I have some more information for you. It will depart from gate 30 but I cannot promise you that you will make it. If you don’t mind packing your belongings and follow me to the front so that you’ll be able to exit the plane as the 1st passenger. I hope this will help you to make your connection’.
‘That’s really good, thank you very much’
I grab my stuff and follow the FA to the front, through the Y cabin, into the second (empty) C cabin.
’Please have a seat here and place your belongings in the overhead bins as wel will be landing soon’
‘I will, thank you for your assistance’
With a big grin on my face I’m now seated in a bulkhead business seat. Sadly I don’t have time to explore the seat in detail as the fasten seatbelt sign is already on.
Now that’s a whole lotta different view and much appreciated!
This part of the C cabin only features 2 rows of seats:
There’s one large screen on the panel which later on showed all the connecting flights info. A bit worrying was that for my connection it said: ‘Contact transfer desk’
And indeed, we are very near our destination. We fly east of the city of Helsinki and with today’s nice weather and some fluffy clouds, the views are quite nice.
That’s HEL for you!
And this is HEM for you as well!
How I love these engine views...!
Our vessel graciously flares over the runway threshold of 22L before touching down firmly on the asphalt. Welcome to HEL!
Lots of white fuselages around!
I hope and pray for a finger gate but that hope pretty soon melts away as this follow-me car urges us to follow-him. By now it is already 15h48 and my plane is scheduled to depart from the gate in 0h05 from now As it turns out, the plane waiting for me is the 2nd from the right, next to the Finnair A330...
We taxi all the way to the other end of the apron and make a final stop at a hard stand.
As the seatbelt sign goes out, the purser comes forward and beckons me to step into the galley and wait for the door to open. ‘Knock knock’, stairs are deployed and I’m on my out, thanking the purser for her kindness and good service.
A bus is waiting but it fills up rapidly which gives me just enough time for some last shots. An apron deboarding from a widebody is always cool but I’m not in the mood to appreciate it right now
Helsinki Airport - HEL
I look at my watch and what follows is the fastest connection I have ever had the privilege to undergo. The full bus drives off and stops at the beginning - or the end - of T1. I run up the stairs into the departure area and then all the way to almost the very end of T2, carefully dodging a multitude of travellers on the way. Meanwhile I hear my name resounding through the intercom, which is actually a good sign, I still have a chance! Thankfully, the gate is still open and exactly 8 minutes after disembarkation I’m already in my seat for the next flight. And it’s a full one.
HEL to OSL
Embraer 190 OH-LKK
Photo © Senior
My female seat mate is still happily munching away a salad that she bought at one of the shops in the terminal and in the business class cabin there is a Russian (?) man happily having a phone call in broken English, as far as I can understand about an item he has lost on his way somewhere. As the plane is ready to leave, an FA stands besides the man urging him to end the call but the man keeps on talking. Suddenly the captain comes into the cabin and the call is ended quickly, what a show! I guess he was holding up the flight...
Despite some ignorant man delaying our departure (it wasn’t me!), we manage to pushback only a few mins after schedule. The next connection in OSL is 1h10 which should be sufficient and comes with a ‘satisfaction guaranteed or full refund’!
It’s all white and wide to our right...
with some occasional red thrown in!
The active departure runway 22R is quickly reached. Here we are seen crossing 22L:
Turning left now for immediate departure:
Our medium sized E-Jet trundles down the runway and in little time we lift off from Finnish soil. See you in Nov HEL, hopefully in a more relaxed fashion then!
We establish cruise and I’m feeling much more relaxed now Some music on, a large window to look through...
some clouds, but not too much...
and a shiny winglet, what does one need more?
A safety card perhaps?
Nah, just give me a cold drink please!
Non alcoholic drinks are on the house, snacks are for sale. The cabin is attended by 2 younger females, 1 serving the business cabin and the other 1 serving the peasant cabin.
Hmm, I’m starting to dislike this curtain in front of me. Not only is it obstructing my view but it is plain ugly as well. Note the peephole to enable you to see the overhead signalisation.
There’s not a single word from the cockpit during the flight, just a ‘cabin crew landing in 5 minutes’ as we are on finals for runway 01R at OSL.
The approach is quite scenic here as well:
We land 5 mins ahead of schedule in another SAS-land. Lots of construction works are ongoing at OSL as a new terminal facility is being built.
We taxi into this seemingly improvised stand. Dust and debris from the construction works is freely kicking up in the air, that must not be doing any good to all those aircraft engines!
Apparently, some impatient people feel the urgent need to unclick their seatbelt and get up, with the plane still slightly moving forward, because suddenly one of the FA’s comes on the intercom in a not to be messed with voice: ‘Sit down and switch off your mobile phones!’. Hey, it wasn’t me!
A bus is waiting and it is nice and warm outside. Soon we are whisked off to the terminal building.
See anything familiar CaptainRed?
Oslo Airport - OSL
The transfer procedure is fast and efficient and with about half an hour to go before the next flight, I find myself in the international departure area of OSL.
As I already mentioned, I will not go into much detail on the Brussels Airlines flight. The old and tired Avro was almost full, scorching hot inside - it got better once we were airborne and I had forgotten about the nasty draft in the window last row seat on the 2-seater side. Never again that seat! Oh, and by the time the cart came by, the sandwiches were all sold out, grrr... On a positive note, the flight was on time, the crew the best of the day and the takeoff from OSL very scenic.
Although the connection at HEL was a stressful one this time, I really did enjoy my first set of flight on the Finnish national carrier Finnair. The BRU-HEL flight on the A343 was a nice and unique opportunity to sample what the airline has to offer on it’s longhaul flights. The hardware is very good: the cabin is nice and the IFE up to date. What I did miss however were some extra seat amenities, like a power socket or a cup holder. Also the crew lacked that extra bit of charm that you’d appreciate but overall the service level experienced on the flight was not bad at all. Finnair promotes itself as the fastest route to Asia; if the price is right I’m sure they make a good alternative to head east.
Thank you for reading and I await and will answer your questions, thoughts and comments.