To many people, the thought of a 13-hour, two-flight trip from Dublin to Tokyo is a daunting prospect. Last week though, members of the Irish travel trade participating in the Wendy Wu Tours fam to Japan saw that it’s not so bad – thanks to a sterling experience in Business Class, courtesy of Finnair.
The airline is renowned for its European service, having been recognised by Skytrax’s World Airline Awards as Northern Europe’s best airline for the past nine consecutive years. However, its Asian routes are also blossoming, and the airline is now operating 41 weekly flights to five destinations in Japan – Tokyo, Osaka, Nagoya, Sapporo and Fukuoka – as well as 42 to China.
With Japan anticipating an influx of Irish and European visitors ahead of the Rugby World Cup, set to take place between September and November of this year, Finnair reinforced its status as one of the quickest and most convenient ways to travel to the country by giving last week’s fam participants a taste of its current offering.
Following a swift three-and-a-half-hour journey from Dublin to Helsinki, the group breezed through the airport for the connecting flight: Helsinki Airport was designed with transferring between European and Asian flights in mind, meaning that all terminals and gates are located in the same building. The average waiting time between landing and taking off again is 35 minutes to an hour, so there is no need to spend hours killing time at the airport before beginning the next leg of the journey.
As for the nine hours and 20 minutes from Helsinki to Tokyo? The time flew in, undoubtedly eased by the luxury and comfort provided by the airline’s Business Class service. Complimentary drinks and first-rate entertainment offerings (new films onboard included the recently-released Captain Marvel and Glass) were supplemented by free WiFi for the first hour and a signature menu from Tommy Myllymaki, the Swedish chef who has put his name to a specialised onboard Nordic cuisine.
The three-course dinner menu overflowed with lavish, mouth-watering options: starters included the choice of rillette of pork and fennel mousse or glow fried salmon and smoked perch mousse; the main course, meanwhile, featured smoked rainbow trout with white wine sauce and summer potatoes, grilled pork marinated with ginger and soy, creamy cauliflower soup with curry butter and marinated cherry tomatoes (although this writer opted for the special of the day, meatballs). After this feast, there was just enough left for white chocolate cake with blueberries and Finnish organic JYMY ice-cream to top it off.
A sleepless night is often a given on an overnight flight, but not this time – Finnair’s full-flat Business Class seat transforms smoothly into a horizontal bed, which at 6’6” is spacious enough for the majority of travellers to catch a few winks onboard. With spacious but private pods – not to mention comfortable pillows and blankets, and quality headphones that effectively dull the sound of the aircraft’s engines – it couldn’t be a further cry from the experience of sitting restlessly upright in a futile attempt to fall asleep.
Breakfast is served a couple of hours before landing on Asian routes, with our flight featuring the option of asparagus soufflé, homemade roesti potatoes and veal sausage, salted salmon with egg atsuyaki tamago, lotus root and steamed rice, Japanese pickles and miso soup. Porridge, granola, yoghurt and sandwiches are also available on request.
Of course, culinary options are not confined to the menu and set mealtimes, with snacks available throughout the lengthy flight, including hamburgers, sweets and fresh fruits. If you feel like taking a walk, a full self-service bar is also provided in Business Class.
If the thought of the lengthy return trip back to Dublin was particularly onerous, it proved a breath of fresh air with Finnair. Travelling in Economy Class this time, the group enjoyed complimentary drinks (including beer or wine), access to its extensive entertainment offerings (films, TV shows and games), and two hot meals – dinner and breakfast – on the Tokyo-Helsinki leg of the trip. Before they knew it, the group was waiting to board the plane for the final flight back to Dublin.
It is often thought that some of the main drawbacks to visiting Japan and Asia from Europe are the length of time it takes to get there and the arduous journey. With its ease of access, convenient connectivity, and ample in-flight offerings – in both Economy Class and Business Class – Finnair shows that that doesn’t have to be the case.