Finnair E190 & A319 Business Class Review Helsinki – Moscow SVO, Plus A321 London to HEL
Updated: May 20
Another review from a few years back (2018). Unfortunately, I just realized as I was copy and pasting this review that I had updated this review in 2019 on a flight from LHR to HEL aboard an A321. The service and meal was the same as this review, but the A321 has Wi-Fi (30 minutes free for Business Class passengers or Finnair Plus Elite Members and unfortunately, not available over the North Sea) and access to a moving map on your own device. The A321 seats had a device holder on the seat back like American Airlines has. I will include a few photos from this flight as well as some updates on the Moscow route (I have flown on the E190 a few times since this review).
Originally, I was just going to review Finnair's Embraer 190 Business Class between Moscow SVO and HEL from a flight I took earlier this year (May 2018). At that time, they had two flights a day, both operated by Nordic Air using E190's. However, when I went to look at their current service, I saw that one of the flights is back to an A319, which I flew in May 2017 from HEL to SVO. The flight time is only 1 hour & 30 minutes between the two Capital's, so the service is basically the same and for the most part so are the seats (unless flight is full, and then a big difference). Further, I am sure that the service on these routes is the same to other European destinations Finnair services from Helsinki. So, I thought I would review both flights.
Finnair flies out of Sheremetyevo Airport despite their Oneworld partners operating out of Domodedovo (DME) airport. They codeshare on several Aeroflot flights to and from HEL so I would imagine this is the reason for them choosing SVO. I first flew out of SVO in 1998 so it is always nostalgic for me departing Moscow from here. Both Sheremetyevo and Moscow have changed a lot since then (for the better) and is now a modern airport like any other European Capital. Aeroflot dominates SVO and because Finnair is not a Skyteam member they had a separate check-in area. Check-in is always quick using the priority lane and passport is not nearly as bad as it was in the past. SVO actually has a separate passport lane for Business Class. After security you had your choice of two lounges. Either Aeroflot's Jazz or Blue's Lounge (**Lounges have new names - I think
Classic and Galaktika - I have always flown out of Terminal D or E to Helsinki, but SVO has several lounges). There is no difference in lounges, just reversed in their set-up. In
Helsinki, I also checked-in using the priority lane (I was only person in line) and used the Finnair Lounge. The Aeroflot Lounges are ok, with lots of food options and the Finnair Lounge is one of my favorite Lounges in the world. Since this review they have updated both their Non-Schengen Business & Platinum (Finnair Plus Platinum and Oneworld Emerald) Lounges at HEL and are even better than before (photo is from Platinum Lounge Oct 2019) Lounges have great food & beverage choices, plenty of seats, several computers, and a bowl of Fazer Chocolates at the entrance. The Platinum Lounge even has a Sauna.
As I said, there are many similarities between flights and aircraft. On all flights a pre-departure drink was not offered nor was a hot towel given after take-off (hot towel was given on flight from LHR). In addition, none of the flights had WiFi (except A321) nor power ports at the seats. Each flight had one flight attendant focus on Business Class (they did help out in Economy as well - A321 had several flight attendants in Business) and in all cases they were very friendly and professional. Announcements were only in English & Finnish.
While there were many similarities, now that I go back and read my notes and look at some photo's there were actually a few differences between the flights and seats (should be as one of the flights was operated by Nordic Air). My A319 flight was a morning flight out of Helsinki and boarding was very quick using the Business/Priority lane. Most flights out of HEL use bus gates, but our plane was actually at a gate. I was seated in 2F which is a bulkhead window. On the left side of the aircraft there were four rows with three seats (bulkhead row 1) and on the right, three rows with three seats. Like most other European carriers, the center seat is blocked and left free for additional space (but no table attached to the center seat - just an empty seat - same on A321 - A321 had 8 rows in Business - not sure of bulkhead as I sat in row 3, but I think armrest also does not move). There were only four passengers in Business, so space was not an issue and there was plenty of room in the overhead for my roller bag. As I have stated in several other reviews of Intra-European flights, flying Business Class and sitting in an Economy seat is always a little bothersome to me. But in most cases this lack of space is offset by the Business Class cabins being less than full. The bulkhead did not provide that much more leg room (maybe more knee room). In fact, you couldn't stretch your legs at all. Also, the tray tables are in the armrest making them immovable, thus reducing the seat width (the outer armrest in the window seat is normal - providing a little more room). In addition, sitting in the bulkhead reduces the benefit of having the middle seat free as you cannot encroach into that seat. Now it is still way better not having someone sitting next to you and the seat does provide an area to place your personal items. This comes in handy in the bulkhead as the seatback pockets are a little smaller than the other rows.
There were pillows left between the seats that were to be occupied. I had both a blanket and pillow at my seat (maybe others did too). I will say this was only flight I took that had pillow and or blanket at seat. On all other flights you could request either a pillow or blanket. There was overhead screens that played the safety video and had a moving map for the beginning and end of the flight. In-between it played Charlie Chaplin comedies with no audio. Since these are from the 1920's and were silent it didn't matter that there was no audio at each seat. Breakfast was served shortly after takeoff. The only option was a plain omelet served with potatoes, and some spinach concoction. The omelet was simple, but tasty, as were the potatoes. Can't say the same of the spinach. The fruit was also disappointing, but the roll, croissant and jam made up for that. I was finished eating 30 minutes after take-off.
The E190 was a late evening (20:30) departure from SVO. I was one of the last to board, but having flown out of SVO before I am sure that Business Class & Priority boarded first (they did and all flights I flew out of SVO were boarded at a gate with a jet-bridge). There was only one row of Business Class on this flight and I was seated in 1F, a bulkhead window. Like other European Carriers, Finnair can adjust the number of rows in Business based on load factors. Again, as with the A319 (and their entire narrow body fleet), the seats in Business Class are the same as the seats in Economy. However, on the E190 or E170 (which Finn also flies) with the 2x2 configuration there is no free middle seat option and potentially making for some cramped seating. I was aware of this before I booked my ticket and was counting on this flight not being very full. I guessed correctly and was the only passenger in the cabin. Like the E170 & E175, the E190 is the most comfortable of the regional jets. The overheads are large enough to fit a carry-on suitcase (sideways), ceiling is high enough that most will not have to bend as they walk down the aisle, and the windows are nice and big (if you like to enjoy the view). The bulkhead had very good leg room and these seats had a clever way the tray table was stored. It was not in the armrest, rather alongside it. This provided a touch more seat width. If given the option, sitting in the bulkhead is much more comfortable than any rows behind.
Unlike the other flight, there was no pillow or blanket on the seats (it was on another flight) and there wasn't any form of entertainment. But, to my delight, a hot meal was offered. Only one choice again (2 choices on longer flights - like LHR), but luckily for me it was a very appealing Chicken dish with Green Beans and Potatoes. The meal was served all at once with a beverage, rolls and a small piece of Fazer Chocolate. I was very pleased with the meal; hot and very good. Dessert could have been more than a single piece of candy, but it's probably best I eat less sweets, The Flight Attendant did come back and offer coffee or tea.
On two subsequent flights from Moscow to Helsinki the cabin was once again less than full. I again sat in the bulkhead and also was only offered one meal choice. However, on my most recent flight from HEL to SVO (May 2019) Business once again only consisted of one row, but this time all four seats were occupied. The flight was 100% booked and my guess is this is the only circumstances this will occur (I would hope they would expand the Business Cabin if Economy were not full), but I must say it was a very disappointing Business Class experience. While there is plenty of leg room in row one, the E190 is still a regional jet and with someone sitting next to you it is very cramped. Further, they once again served an impressive hot meal on a 1.5 hour flight (Lufthansa should take note) but it was hard to eat in such a confined space. Luckily my seatmate didn’t eat (if he did would have probably made it even more uncomfortable). Also, with the four passengers there is not enough overhead space. Fortunately, this is a short flight and again, I think they try not to fill both seats. I flew on the E190 from SVO to HEL a month earlier and the first three rows were designated as Business Class and there was one passenger for each seat pair.
The seat pitch on the A321 is 31 inches but felt like more. The one interesting feature the A321 has is a clever device holder on the seatback. Many US carriers are installing these, but I had never seen this on a European airline. The Wi-Fi (Nordic Sky) cost was 12.95 Euros for streaming (no IFE included) or 6.95 for browsing. I accessed my free 30 minutes internet session in a non-coverage area (North Sea) and only was able to use 5 minutes or so. Moving map and some other services were at no charge. The service from London is slightly different than the short flight between SVO & HEL. A warm towel is handed out after take-off, a small bag of flavored pretzels was given with drinks prior to the meal and there were two choices for dinner: Salmon with Pasta or Beef with Mushed Peas (had same meal from SVO to HEL a month earlier). The cabin was full as this flight was originally on an A330. I was looking forward to flying the A330 which obviously has a much more comfortable seat, but the disappointment of the change of aircraft was offset by the fact I was able to visit four Lounges at LHR Terminal 3 (4 hr layover). As a Oneworld Emerald Member I visited the Cathay Pacific & Qantas Lounges, BA’s Galleries First Lounge and American’s Flagship Lounge. Finnair Business Class passengers also have access to The No 1 Lounge in Terminal 3 at Heathrow.
Overall, while Finnair doesn't overwhelm you with their short-haul Business Class I definitely was satisfied with most of my flights. The experience is similar to what you would find with most European Carriers, but I was more impressed with their meals than most other airlines I have flown within Europe, plus the Finnair Lounge is awesome. Helsinki is also a great airport to connect to and from Asia or North America and their long-haul business class fares are very competitive. I have flown their long-haul Business Class on the A350 from Bangkok, Phuket and LAX ( ) and was also pleased with those flights.