Finnair may be the first European airline to fly the Airbus A350 but its sights are set firmly on Asia, which is where the A350s will be pressed into service starting from Shanghai in late November 2015 and followed by Beijing, Bangkok, Singapore and Hong Kong.
Those long routes will be the perfect way to experience the Nordic airline’s new flagship and its latest international business class.
But before you can even settle into that seat, you’ll be wowed by the sense of space in the Airbus A350 immediately when you walk onto the plane.
The aircraft’s wide cabin footprint, high ceiling, sculpted lines and lack of overhead luggage bins for the middle seats conspire to make this seem more like a large room than a confining metal tube.
Fortunately there’s plenty of room in the luggage compartments over the window seats.
(The middle bins return in economy class but there’s still a similar sense of space overhead of the aisles.)
Finnair’s A350 business class seats will be immediately familiar to most business travellers: they’re from the same Zodiac Cirrus family adopted by Cathay Pacific, American Airlines and Air France, among others.
Finnair chose this specific model after extensive trials which included its own Finnair Plus frequent flyers, and it certainly ticks most of the boxes.
You get a reasonably wide seat which folds into a fully-flat bed...
... with plenty of legroom...
... and a 1-2-1 layout so that every passenger has easy access to the aisle.
Each of the slate-coloured seats is dressed with a bright pillow and blanket from Finnish design house Marimekko, whose iconic patterns also appear on Finnair's tableware, amenity kits and slippers (although there are no Marimekko pyjamas, not even on those long overnight flights).
The space beneath the footwell can be used to stow your shoes...
... while this handy nook has room for a water bottle.
A triangular recess under the armrest affords extra space for your amenity kit, headphones, reading glasses and other small items.
The side bench has room for other oddments.
Finnair's A350 business class seat includes the now-standard AC and USB ports...
... although the USB socket is capable only of recharging smaller devices like smartphones. Tablets require more juice and their battery won't be recharged from that USB socket, so you'll want to bring along an AC adaptor to keep your iPad or similar topped up.
The table has ample space for most laptops.
It neatly scissors out from the bench and can remain in a half-size mode if you need only perch a drink or snack on it.
Another little touch we appreciate: an armrest located on the side of the seat away from the aisle.
The pointy end of Finnair’s Airbus A350 has a total of 46 business class seats, split between a main cabin and a smaller secondary cabin.
The window seats (A and L) are steeply angled away from the aisle, and partner with the seat's wrap-around shell to give you an excellent feeling of privacy.
The two middle seats (D and H) angle towards the cabin's centreline.
So how's the privacy if you're in one of the paired middle seats?
It's surprisingly good.
A slim partition extends between the side-tables of each seat, although it's fixed in place...
... it doesn't slide back to allow easy chatter with your seatmate, nor does it slide further forward for an additional slice of solitude.
You'll really need to sit forward and crane your head around a bit to easily talk to the person next to you, and once you recline the seat it becomes quite the cocoon.
In fact, if you're travelling with a companion and want to chat mid-flight, you could be best off choosing adjacent seats on either side of the aisle.
If there's any potential issue with choosing a middle seat, it'll be that when your neighbour's video screen is 'docked' to sit flush with the seat shell, it remains well within your own line of sight.
Because the screens swing out to face each passenger, there won't be an issue if the person next to you is watching a movie.
But if the screen remains turned on when pushed back into the seat – especially if it's cycling through inflight video clips – this could prove distracting while you're trying to watch your own screen, or even if you're just reading.
As to those screens themselves: they're large (16 inch) lush HD panels.
In addition to the usual library of content and moving maps there are two camera views from the A350's tail and undercarriage...
... and a 'journey manager' screen which shows the meal schedule, duty-free shopping time and other inflight activities on a timeline from departure to arrival.
The screen also supplies a code for access to Finnair's inflight Internet service, which is free for all business class passengers as well as top-tier Finnair Plus Platinum and Gold frequent flyers (and their Oneworld Sapphire and Emerald equivalents) travelling in economy.
Finnair supplies Bose noise-cancelling headphones in its A350 business class.
One of the four business class lavatories is nominally reserved for female travellers.
It's the same size as the other three but is stocked with a selection of perfumes and other amenities.
Finnair says the ladies-only loo will be made available to high-flying hommes in the event that there's a higher than usual proportion of men to women in business class, but as a rule it'll be reserved for women.
At various stages during the flight you'll be treated to some of the 24 LED lighting schemes designed by Finnair to illuminate the cabin.
These gradually change to suit the time of day, the phase of the flight and the destination, along with some special themes such as one which mimics the Northern Lights.
Those range from a default crisp blue which sits well against the cabin's white, blue and silver/grey colour palette...
... to a slightly warmer shade...
... and a golden 'sunrise' for early morning arrivals.
In short, Finnair has put plenty of consideration and effort into making the most of the A350's canvas and created what looks to be one of Europe's best business class experiences.
David Flynn flew as a guest of Airbus and Finnair.
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