At short notice an opportunity had opened to visit Japan for some days – something my wife and I had been planning for years and never got around to. Even though the trip was over easter, airfares were affordable and we could even ad flying with highly rated Japan Airlines on their brand new 787 Dreamliner to the experience. Due to a very narrow timeframe the return trip, however, had to be on Finnair via Nagoya and Helsinki as no JAL flight was available.
Getting to Tokyo Haneda Airport Early in the Morning
This rotation involved an early domestic flight from Tokyo Haneda airport to Nagoya Centrair wich was somewhat out of the ordinary so organising the airport transfer took some time.
While Haneda is connected to central Tokio via an airport bus service, operations start too late for early morning flights. The front desk staff at our Cracery Ginza hotel could not provide us with options other than „take a taxi“, always a ruinous experience in Tokyo, so we did some research at the nearby Higashi-ginza underground station and a friendly and very patient clerk there assured us that taking the first Asakusa-Line train from Higashi-ginza towards Nishi-magome (via Daimon and Mita) and changing in Sengakuji for the JR Keikyu Airport Express to Haneda Airport would get us to the airport with plenty of time. This indeed worked out beautifully onthe next morning. (Journey planner available at rome2rio.com)
Check-in, Departure Airport
Our itinerary started with a domestic flight on JAL so we duly reported to their domestic check-in desk which lead to some confusion and lengthy discussions between several agents and a supervisor who in the end politely directed us to international check-in. Not a big issue but we were sure glad that international departures is located in the same concourse.
Haneda was not very busy at a saturday morning so security and boarding took just minutes.
First Leg Inflight
The JAL Boeing 737 was very lightly booked and took us to Nagoya in less than an hour. We were treated to spectacular views of Mt. Fuji’s elegant snow-covered cone en-route. Apart from the view and a tray of sweets before take-off the perfectly groomed F/As did not offer any other services.
Transfer at Chubu Centrair International Airport, Nagoya
Nagoya Centrair is a bright and modern airport with lots of daylight and great tarmac views. „Birds“ to be spotted include Boeing Dreamlifters
Main Leg Inflight
Waiting at the gate was a white Airbus A 330 with Finnair’s deep blue Logo. Originally this leg was sheduled to be operated by an A 340 and I was a little disappointed as these elegant, if inefficient, aircraft are being gradually retired. The A 330 however featured a redecorated interior and a newer IFE, so I did not complain long. The clean and fresh cabin was dotted with light green, grey and blue dots typical for Finnish design house Marimekko wo created a facelift for Finnair in 2012. Blankets and pillows were provided on every seat.
The F/A were professional and while not unfriendly rather tight-lipped and reserved – an almost comic impersonation of clichés about Finland.
We ware seated in Economy Comfort which offers about 10 cm of extra legrom and some extras (amenity kit, noise-cancelling headphones) but unlike Lufthansa’s or JAL’s is more of an enhanced economy product rather than a separate premium cabin.
Food and beverages on asian routes tend to be a bit better than on transatlantic ones even on European carriers and Finnair is no exception.
Lunch service got started with comprehensive offers from the bar trolley that featured typical Finnish blueberry juice and a very nice vodka.
The lunch tray came with a Japanese fish dish, udon noodles, a small cake, crackers, and cream cheese with a soft roll. Again a full bar service was available and the crisp Finnish Karhu lager went very well with the asian flavours.
There were few walk-through with water after the main service (could have been a little more frequent).
Inflight entertainment choices were nowhere near JAL or Singapore Airlines but sufficient for this one-way flight.
Drinks and hot towels were distributed about 2 hrs before landing in Helsinki followed by a hot dinner of japanese noodles served with fresh fruit and crackers. A really nice light and fresh meal towards the end of a long flight.
Transfer in Helsinki
As it was the end of the easter holidays in europe Helsinki airport was cramped like crazy and completing immigration took some time. All seats were taken in the departure area so we got coffee at skyhigh airport prices and sat in one of the cafés to wait untill our flight to Munich was called.
Third Leg Inflight
The connection to Munich was uneventful. Seats are rather cramped and the inflight service is reduced to tea, coffee and juice. Buy-on-board drinks and snack were also available but we passed.
Munich airport quickly delivered our bags an after a short train ride we concluded this long trip in the Munich Airport Novotel.
Finnair doesn’t always get the best reviews yet this flight was perfectly pleasant. Upgrading to Economy Comfort is highly recommended for long flights as seat pitch in regular economy is very limited. Finnair even throws in some extras such as a well-stocked amenity kit. On connecting flights in Europe, however, Finnair feels more like a LCC with cramped seating and almost nonexistent inflight service.