Cloud Nine – SundayWorld.com

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Turning left on an airplane is exciting, but for someone as frugal as I am, it doesn’t happen very often. However, since the pandemic, the price difference between Economy and Premium cabins has narrowed. Now it’s much more attractive to pay a little more money for a lot more luxury.

This appears to be the case for many air passengers, as the airline industry sees a demand for more premium experiences now that travel is opening up. But customers aren’t just after the champagne and cosmetic bags that usually come with those fancy seats at the front of the plane. They are looking for extra space and fewer people in the cabin to minimize the risk of catching Covid compared to sitting shoulder to shoulder with strangers in the economy.

Therefore, Finnair, Finland’s national airline and the fifth oldest airline in the world, has perfectly timed the launch of their brand new premium economy cabin and refurbished business class on their long-haul aircraft.

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Melanie May tried out the luxurious new Business Class cabins on board Finnair

Melanie May tried out the luxurious new Business Class cabins on board Finnair

I tried the airline’s radical new business class seat on a three-hour flight from Helsinki to London. Why radical? Well, it’s missing the one thing that many business class travelers consider essential – recline. Yes, you read that right: Finnair has done away with business class reclining seats and replaced them with Collins Aerospace AirLounge seats.

Inspired by lounge furniture, these new-style seats have been designed to “maximize comfort, space and freedom of movement on a long-haul flight” and it is not surprising that the Finnish airline is the first to fit them on their aircraft, after all, Finland has long placed design at the forefront of its national identity, and its capital, Helsinki, is a UNESCO City of Design.

Good design is part of everyday life in this Nordic country and this philosophy also applies to Finnair. Water and wood are synonymous with Finnish style, which draws much of its inspiration from nature, and you will see this theme throughout the Finnair airport lounge and the new Business Class cabin. Nature expresses itself in many forms – the dark blue materials, the beautiful wood finishes, the gentle undulations and the new mood lighting inspired by the Aurora Borealis. It is a unique design language that expresses the airline’s Nordic roots.

As I settle into my AirLounge seat, I have to admit that I find it a little confusing at first. It’s unlike anything I’ve experienced on an airplane before. Thankfully, there’s a video tutorial for the 18-inch entertainment system that demonstrates how it all works. A member of the cabin crew also stops by to show me the new features, including the sash seat belt.

The curved, fixed bucket seat is like a large armchair and curves to create a private space. It doesn’t recline at all, but you can still lie flat by sliding the various seating elements to fill the gaps that create a bed nearly 200cm long. In this configuration I have plenty of room to sleep on my side and curl up in a ball. A mattress and textiles designed by Marimekko make the room particularly comfortable and cozy.

The flexibility of the seat means you can sit in all sorts of positions. For someone like me who has trouble sitting still, this is an ideal setup. I was able to sit with my legs tucked under me, stretched out, one leg up and one leg down and in the lotus position – handy for a bit of meditation.

In fact, the entire cabin is Zen-like, with its cool, soothing color scheme, mood lighting, and the quiet that comes with private seating and fewer people chatting and moving. I wouldn’t have a problem falling asleep without the help of the free alcohol you get in business class.

Speaking of which, the food and drinks also pay homage to the airline’s Nordic heritage, with a menu inspired by the natural ingredients Finland is famous for. Food is served in elegant Iittala china, designed by leading Finnish designer Harri Koskinen, and the large leaf table offers plenty of dining space and wireless charging for your devices. You really have thought of everything.

Overall, flying in Finnair’s new Business Class cabin was a joyful experience, mostly because it gave this fidgety fidget plenty of space and flexibility to get comfortable throughout the flight. The cabin immerses you in Finnish design – I was surprised I honestly didn’t find a sauna in the toilet – and gives you a taste of what to expect when you land in Helsinki. After such a cool, smooth and comfortable flight, you’ll arrive in Finland with a smile on your face – incredibly appropriate to visit the happiest country on earth.

Finnair’s first three long-haul destinations to receive the new cabins will be Helsinki to Singapore, Helsinki to New York and Helsinki to Dallas, with flights commencing in May.

TRAVEL FACTFILE

FINLAND
See finnair.com

■ MELANIE was a guest at Finnair. Return flights from Dublin to Helsinki are available from €155 in Economy Class and from €573 in Business Class.
■ Direct flights between Dublin and Helsinki operate up to nine times a week all year round.
■ For more information on flights and prices, visit Finnair’s website.

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