With seating for up to 288 guests, the Finnair Schengen Lounge at Helsinki Airport caters to passengers en route to countries such as France, Germany, Italy, Poland and Sweden, along with domestic travellers jetting within Finland.
It's a vibrant space spanning 850 square metres with distinct zones for working, dining and kicking back, joined by plenty of natural light to help keep your jet lag in check.
There's even a 'secret room' within the lounge if you know where to look, in which you'll find the most comfortable seats and a quiet atmosphere even during busy times.
Location & Impressions
You'll find Finnair's Schengen Lounge near gate 22 – simply take a right after clearing security and ascend the stairs or take the lift. (If you're flying in business class, on a 'Pro' flexible economy ticket or hold Silver, Gold or Platinum status in Finnair Plus, be sure to use the priority security lane on the far left.)
You're greeted by an overall colourful design with nods to both modern and retro styling (below), and while we arrived during peak hours with a queue to enter, we were inside within moments.
- Finnair and Airberlin business class passengers
- Travellers connecting to or from a 5+ hour business or first class flight with a Oneworld airline, even if the connection is booked in economy
- Qantas Gold, Platinum, Platinum One and Chairmans Lounge members prior to Oneworld flights, including with Finnair
- Finnair Plus Gold and Platinum members travelling with Finnair or another Oneworld airline
- Other Oneworld Sapphire and Oneworld Emerald frequent flyers departing on a Oneworld flight
- All other Finnair passengers can pay €48 (A$71) or 10,000 Finnair Plus points for entry (maximum three-hour stay)
Eligible Japan Airlines passengers bound for Tokyo may also visit this lounge under the Oneworld alliance rules, but we'd suggest heading straight for passport control and then relaxing in one of Finnair's non-Schengen lounges until boarding.
As of August 1 2016, Finnair Plus Silver members have no complimentary access to this lounge, but can still pay to enter – as can any other traveller.
As you'd expect, the food offerings here change throughout the day with warm breakfast items served between 5:30am and 10am and a salad buffet (pictured) with soup appearing between 10am and midnight. That's pretty basic by Australian standards for an international-grade lounge, but you have to remember that passengers here are all taking relatively short flights within Europe sans border controls, and some even to domestic destinations across Finland.
Between 3pm and 5:30pm when a bank of European flights depart, the menu gets a bit more substance with roasted potatoes joining chilli con carne with rice, proving very tasty if not a little plain to photograph: You can enjoy your meal at a number of small tables... ... or at the long benches within the communal dining area: That's also where you'll find a second food and beverage area with wine and simple spirits... ... self-serve tea, coffee and refreshments throughout the day... ... plus soft drinks and both beer and wine(!) on tap: But with this lounge being relatively full during that peak afternoon window, we like that drinks can be found elsewhere, too – such as in the far right corner close to reception for travellers making only a quick visit... ... while a further coffee machine and juice pourer greet you at the entrance, avoiding the busier buffet area: We also appreciate the splashes of colour in these areas with Marimekko designer table runners and coffee mugs a nice change from the plain whites... ... but colourful or not, it's disappointing that with all coffee cups the same size, the espresso machines haven't been programmed correctly and require you to make two coffees simply to enjoy one.
The lounge's facilities for business travellers have been better-planned, beginning with a line-up of Apple iMac computers: each with a semi-transparent curtain behind for a little extra privacy... ... joined by an array of working benches for travellers packing their own tech, both looking backwards into the terminal... ... and out over the tarmac: The communal benches within the dining area are too suited to laptop work with power points under the covers below, although remember that this area is the busiest (and therefore the loudest) during busy times: You're also covered if you forgot to pack your phone charger or left it at your last hotel, thanks to these nifty AirCharge wireless charging discs found at many of the window-side benches: Simply attach your smartphone to the appropriate connector (micro USB for most Android devices, Lightning for newer iPhones and the older 30-pin adaptor for older Apple devices), and rest the black magnetic disc over the white surface to start charging: It's a great idea if you won't be using your phone while it's plugged in, but you'll need to either connect headphones or remove the phone from the charger if making a call.
Speedy wireless Internet also blankets the terminal so Finnair directs passengers to use this instead of providing its own network – a justified move given that downloads measured at a speedy 23.38Mbps, uploads at 45.97Mbps and ping speeds at 3ms during our visit.
All that's missing here are dedicated USB power outlets and multi-country AC adaptors for ease of use by international travellers, although we'd wager that most high flyers still travel with the relevant AC and European power adaptors.
Just stepped off a long flight from Singapore or Hong Kong and flying onwards within Europe? Make a beeline for one of two private 'shower cabinets' near the centre of the lounge... ... or wait nearby with a magazine or newspaper if they're already occupied: Wherever you sit, many of the comfy seats also offer easy access to power, allowing you to charge your phone or tablet pre-flight without being confined to one of the working zones... ... while these ball seats from Finnish designer Eero Aarnio provide a touch of privacy within the otherwise-busy space: But there are two zones in this lounge you'll want to seek out – the first being a small kids room over in the far right corner for travellers with families: easy to miss if you don't know it's there... ... and the other being a great 'room within a lounge' that feels like a private VIP space – and can serve as one too at Finnair's discretion with closing and locking doors on standby.
Walk toward the rear windows, turn left and then follow the path to the far end of the lounge to uncover this hidden gem: Not only does it have the newest and most comfortable furniture, being so far away from the entrance and the buffet zones also make this the quietest place to sit. We set up here during the peak afternoon period and while the rest of the lounge was bustling, only three other travellers entered this space during the two hours we spent here.
You'll also find these comfy seats with leg rests at the back of the room, too: It's a real shame that Helsinki Airport is built around fast, 45-minute transits as opposed to longer layovers as there's so much to like about this lounge, both in the design and the overall relaxing feel that comes from having no boarding calls.
If you're in a hurry to reach the likes of Paris or Rome, then by all means choose the quickest connecting flight – but for a more leisurely journey, opt for a later connection, freshen up in the shower cabinet and sit back with a refreshment in the 'secret room': you'll be glad you did.
Chris Chamberlin travelled to Helsinki as a guest of Finnair.
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