Finnair family experience NYC to HEL
We welcome to the Globetrotters Blog today Elaine sharing her family’s experience flying long-haul with Finnair NY to Finland.
I generally prefer to fly European airlines. Most of the big ones still deliver those nice customer service extras that the big U.S. airlines have given up on. So, I was really happy when Finnair was a sponsor of my recent trip to Helsinki and Rovaniemi. It gave me a chance to try both Finnair’s business class and economy service, internationally and within Finland.
This post is part of our Family Airline Review series – pop on over and see all of our flying with kids articles
Before You Leave – Booking flights with Finnair
As with most airlines these days, pay close attention when you’re booking your economy ticket. If you book economy light you have to pay extra for checked luggage, even on overseas flights.
Make sure the airline has all your details including your passport number and TSA precheck number ahead of time. This way you can do at least part of your check-in via the app and save time when you arrive.
I downloaded the Finnair app to manage my flights and check-in. The check-in feature is very simple and fairly easy to use.
Finnair Seating Policy for Families
The airline guarantees that all children will be seated next to a parent (or other adult traveling with them). But you have to pay extra to choose your seats and prices vary by which seat you choose.
My flights between New York City to Europe were on your typical wide-body plane with three seats together on each side and rows of four in the middle. I’m fairly certain that parent-child pairs who don’t pay to choose their seats have a good chance of getting stuck with the two seats right in the middle.
I didn’t want to be hemmed in by strangers on either side on my seven-hour economy flight home, so I paid extra to get an aisle seat in one of the side sections. If you’re a family, someone is always going to get stuck with a middle seat, but the middle of three is better than the middle of four.
Finnair gives you several opportunities before and during check-in to buy meals for your flight, which made me concerned that they don’t serve meals on trans-Atlantic planes. Don’t worry, they serve a meal and even comp the first beer or glass of wine. They also provide a light breakfast on the overnight flight going to Europe and a small sandwich before you land on the way back.
You can order a kids’ meal before you leave—a standard one that’s included or an upgraded one that costs extra. Finnish food is pretty simple though—literally meat (or fish) and potatoes much of the time. I wouldn’t worry about arranging for a kid’s meal unless I was traveling with very young kids who might find it easier to eat than a regular meal.
Checking In for Finnair & the Airport
Checking in for on both of our international flights was smooth, with an employee checking luggage. But the terminal for the internal flight to Lapland was small and very busy. Economy passengers self-check their luggage here.
Self-checking meant making our way to kiosks to print out luggage tags, then going to machines where you scan your bags and put them on a conveyor built. It was pretty easy, but it can take time to orient yourself and move around with bags in a crowded airport. Give your family plenty of time.
Helsinki, like many European airports, has a well-market family security line. It was short and moved fast once we got to it.
Economy tickets other than “light” include one checked back per passenger, plus a carry-on and a smaller item. Lap babies don’t have a checked or carry-on bag allowance. Business travelers get two checked bags and two carry-ons.
Traveling Finnair with infants?
I don’t have to travel with baby gear anymore (yay!). If you do, Finnair lets you check a stroller for free or carry it on board for free if it fits in the overhead (I wish they had compact strollers like this when I traveled with one!).
You can bring a car seat onboard, but only for babies under age 2 who have their own seats. It has to be rear-facing with a 5-point harness. A flight attendant might ask to see the tags on it to ensure it complies with the latest regulations.
Baby gear beyond strollers, including checked car seats, counts toward your checked-bag limit.
The Airports – JFK & Helsinki
Finnair is part of the One World Alliance with 12 other airlines including American, British and Cathay Pacific. It uses its partners’ lounges outside of Finland.
Since I was flying business class on the way over, I got to use the American Airlines lounge at JFK Airport in New York. It’s not an especially kid-friendly lounge. A small playroom has a tv and some computers but no toys. The lounge does have a lot of food, including a table with candy and little snacks. And there are windows for watching the airport activity.
In Helsinki, anyone flying Finnair can pay a day rate for access to its lounge. But unless you have a very long layover you don’t need to. It’s a fairly kid-friendly airport with two play areas.
The airport in Rovaniemi is very, very, very small. If you’re flying to Lapland, make sure you save some books, activities and snacks for that leg of the journey.
In the air – comfort & customer service on Finnair
The good thing about the Finnair economy seats is that they seem to recline a bit more than seats most other airlines I’ve flown recently. This helps a bit with resting up on the flight.
But the plane also had the least legroom in recent memory. When my daughter was very small I used to let her play a bit on the floor in front of her seat when she needed to move a little, so a bit more room between seats would have been nice. It made me extra glad I paid for that aisle seat.
They still give out pillows and blankets, and about halfway through the flight, the attendants walked around offering Fazer chocolate nuggets (Fazer is Finland’s main chocolate brand). Younger kids usually get a surprise delivered to their seat during the flight (and it’s often a Moomin).
All these little extras—blankets, chocolate, wine— make flying more civilized and they’re what I miss when I fly “full-service” U.S. carriers.
The onboard entertainment system plenty of TV shows and movies to choose from, including some smaller, lesser-known movies in the grown-up options.
They had plenty of movies and TV shows for children, including episodes of the Moomins, the Finns’ favorite cartoon. They also had a few selections for younger teens, like “Miss Peregrine’s Home for Peculiar Children,” which I particularly appreciated. It’s hard entertaining tweens.
Business Class on Finnair
Business Class on Finnair offers flat-bed seats, and they’re big enough that a little one could curl up with you. I didn’t sleep as well as I thought I would because you feel the turbulence more when you lie down. But I did rest better than I often do on night flights.
The food was nicely presented and I got to try Finnish blueberry beer with dinner on top of a welcome glass of champagne when I came onboard. It was what you expect from a premium inflight service these days. If it’s in your budget or you can get an upgrade, you won’t be disappointed.
Overall experience with Finnair
My only real complaint was the skimpy legroom in economy, and all the other pluses more than countered that. If prices are comparable I’d choose Finnair again over other airlines. And might even pay a bit more for it given all those little civilized perks.
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