Oneworld carrier Finnair, which currently operates four times weekly quarantine-free flights from Helsinki to Singapore as part of the Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) programme, has revealed a brand new Business Class cabin product for its Airbus A330 and A350 fleets.
The Nordic airline has become the launch customer for the Collins Aerospace ‘AirLounge’ concept, with the new cabins set to be retrofitted to all 25 of its existing long-haul Airbus A330s and A350s, and on two further factory-fresh A350s from Airbus, arriving in 2024 and 2025.
The concept for the product, which takes the form of a 3D shell inspired by residential lounge furniture, was by design consultants PriestmanGoode, who worked on the Qatar Airways Qsuite, and Tangerine, who revamped Finnair’s international lounge at Helsinki.
The EUR 200m (S$306m) product investment will also see the airline launch its first ever Premium Economy Class cabin on these long-haul aircraft, while Economy Class also benefits from lighter seats with improved connectivity and entertainment systems.
The rollout is expected to be completed by the end of 2023.
‘AirLounge’ Business Class seat
The biggest innovation from Finnair in this product reveal is undoubtedly its new AirLounge Business Class concept, which the carrier says “is not a traditional aircraft seat, but takes inspiration from lounge furniture”.
“Enjoy furniture-like comfort with our entirely new Collins’ AirLounge seat that amplifies your personal space and freedom to move with its innovative contoured shell design. The seat offers you the best-in-class sleep comfort by turning into a spacious lay-flat bed with a proper mattress pad and exclusive Marimekko design textiles.”Finnair
The revamp will first be apparent at the main aircraft entrance for all passengers (Door 2), with a reimagined reception area incorporating a bar counter for in-flight refreshments, designed for Finnair by AIM Altitude Aerospace.
On the Airbus A350s there will then be 30 seats in the forward cabin section in a 1-2-1 layout, with seven rows of window seats and eight middle pairs.
A further 13 Business Class seats are located in an intimate three-row mini-cabin behind the mid galley on some A350s configured with a more premium-heavy configuration.
At first glance the question you may ask… “where is the seat?”
The strange (or should we say ‘innovative’) thing about this product is that there is no traditional reclining seat as such – the padded shell itself is the seat.
This is designed to allow you to position yourself at a wide variety of different angles, rest your feet on the ottoman or use extendable infill panels to create a large flat surface. Pillows are provided to offer support in various seating positions.
“By doing away with complicated seat mechanisms and using 3D curved shells, we’re able to provide a larger flexible living space. This allows you to move more freely and take up different positions that traditional aircraft seats do not allow.”David Kondo, Finnair Customer Experience
It’s certainly a different concept which we look forward to trying, but it reminds us of the difficulty we always had finding a comfortable seating position in Singapore Airlines’ huge 2006 Business Class seats, which have now been retired.
Let’s see how this one compares once we manage a trip.
For couples, the middle seat pairs in Business Class (‘D’ and ‘H’ seats at each row) look to offer a sociable experience, without having to lean too far forwards to have a conversation with one another, like you do in the current Finnair Business Class seat.
Don’t worry too much though – middle seat pairs can be effectively segregated with a full-height extendable divider, providing your own cocoon in case you’re flying alongside a stranger in one of the ‘D’ or ‘H’ seats.
Privacy in all Business Class seats is enhanced with high seat backs and side wings.
Business Class bed
In bed mode, a key feature for travelers on long-haul routes, things start to become more conventional with seat panels raising to form a fully flat surface, with a mattress and duvet provided.
A ‘do not disturb’ light is available if you don’t wish to be interrupted while sleeping.
The downside of the bed? Well rather like the Singapore Airlines long-haul Business Class seats, this one looks as though it forces you to sleep at an angle, with your feet in a small cubby hole in the corner, which extends beneath the side table of the seat in front of you to allow better cabin density.
Some people find this uncomfortable, and crucially Finnair has remained silent on the actual bed length (or any Business Class seat dimensions, for that matter!).
Business Class storage and entertainment
As you’d expect, the new Business Class seat has a variety of storage options for your personal items, with the airline boasting permission for these areas to be used during all stages of the flight.
“The various storage options within the seat include spaces for personal items, laptop, and all pillows and blankets; all certified for taxi, take-off, and landing, so customers can settle in right away and have their essential items conveniently at hand right from the start of the journey.”Finnair
A large fixed side table is built into each seat, with a control panel at the lip and an extendable dining table that extends from beneath.
Also included is one of the latest Business Class trends – a wireless charging pad for keeping your mobile devices on the go without the need for plugs and cables.
Each seat also comes with USB-A, USB-C and PC power sockets. Though they are not photographed in the press release gallery, these are in the storage cubby behind the door under the reading light.
In-flight entertainment gets an upgrade with a personal 18-inch TV screen for each Business Class passenger, with “a new more user-friendly, customised interface”.
This compares to a 16-inch screen in the airline’s current A350 Business Class. All of Finnair’s long-haul aircraft are also equipped with Wi-Fi connectivity.
Here’s Finnair’s promotional video of the new AirLounge Business Class seat, which also illustrates some of the storage options more closely.
Business Class amenities and food
Finnair is also adding a new meal concept in Business Class as part of its product enhancements.
“Business Class customers will enjoy renewed meal and beverage offerings, including an up to six-course meal in modern bistro-style and another lighter meal. In between meals customers can enjoy the stunning new refreshment area located at the main entrance of the aircraft.”Finnair