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Review: Trying Out the New Lie-Flat Seats Being Installed By Finnair

May 30, 2014 at 1:45 PM | by | ()

We’ve previously talked about Finnish carrier Finnair because of the continuing upgrade of its business class to (frosty blue) lie-flat seats and our first-hand experience of the latest product to and from Asia.

During a recent trip, we were able to see just how big a difference the upgrade is going to make once complete, spending one overnight flight in the newest seat and one in the very, very old one you see above. And despite the solid progress of phasing out the remaining angled lie-flat seats (more on that in a second), we expect this particular seat to be around for a while, as three of the airline’s oldest Airbus A340s will not be upgraded at all, remaining in the fleet until replaced by Airbus A350s, arriving from 2015 onwards.

The business class cabin is configured 2-2-2 across over five rows for a total of 30 seats, all between the first and second doors of the aircraft. We were one of the last to experience the seat on a flight between Hong Kong and Helsinki, with the route going full-flat from June 1st. Key routes like New York and Tokyo have already made the transition, but Helsinki to Singapore flights will be relegated to these seats until the A350s start arriving. Whether the new A350s will be fitted with the same seat as the current upgrade is installing has yet to be confirmed by the airline.

Our flight AY70 left Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok International Airport at 00:20am, arriving in Helsinki nearly 11 hours later at 06:10am, which is why the second we could, we reclined the seat, availed ourselves of the eye mask and ear plugs provided in the environmentally-friendly brown paper bag, and tried to catch some sleep. Reclining the seat is an interesting experience as the bottom of the seat comes up and goes forward before it goes down, giving you the sense that you are catapulted out of it.

We were lucky not to have a seat mate, which allowed us to spread out a bit more (the seats have virtually no storage) and contributed greatly to nearly 9 hours of uninterrupted rest. We did love the green & white Marimekko pillow and blanket, which were stylish and very comfortable. With the aisle seat fully reclined, you’d have to revert to an upright position and then jump over the person next to you to get out of the window seat.

Comparing it to our overnight flight a few weeks earlier in the above "throne seat" is like night and day: The new seat reclines fully flat, and the level of privacy in these particular single seats is fantastic.

Our run-in with the decidedly vintage-feeling seat and cabin showed us how far business class has come in the last ten to fifteen years. We can’t wait for Finnair to be able to guarantee full-flat seats across its long-haul fleet, especially with return business class fares to Asia from a number of European cities continuing to be decent value, regularly appearing at about £1,200 / €1,500 / $2,000.

[Photos: JasonD]

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