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I flew on Finnair's Airbus A350 between New York and Helsinki in economy. It's now one of my go-to airlines for crossing the Atlantic.

A view of the Finnair A350 cabin with blue mood lighting.
I flew on Finnair's A350 from New York to Helsinki and loved the experience.Taylor Rains/Business Insider
  • I recently flew between New York and Helsinki on Finnair's Airbus A350-900 in economy.

  • I found the recently upgraded seats extremely comfortable and the meals filling and tasty.

  • Finnair is now my go-to for long-haul flying despite an inconsistent weight policy for carry-ons.

I recently traveled all the way from New York City to Finland's northernmost municipality of Utsjoki for a chance to see the aurora lights.

When researching flights, I quickly realized Finland's flag carrier, Finnair, is really the only good option leaving NYC that doesn't require an overnight layover or more than two plane rides to get to Lapland.

The nearly $1,000 roundtrip economy fare was several hundred dollars more expensive than the cheaper Scandinavian Airlines (which required two stops), but I'm happy I spent the extra money.

Granted, Finnair proved to have a stricter-than-expected bag weight policy, but I'd easily book the airline again for long-haul flying.

My Northern Lights tour was in Utsjoki, Finland, and Finnair was the easiest option for getting there.

The author standing on snow looking at green northern lights over mountains.
I finally checked the northern lights off my bucket list.Aurora Holidays

The tiny village sits within the Finnish Lapland, which is 280 miles north of the Arctic Circle.

I successfully saw the lights with the help of a tour company called Aurora Holidays.

I had never flown on Finnair before last month and was eager to try a new airline, which offered a one-stop from NYC to Lapland via Helsinki.

The check-in signs for Finnair at JFK.
Finnair is part of the Oneworld alliance.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

My entire itinerary was New York-JFK nonstop to Helsinki, where I got a connection to Ivalo, Finland.

I then drove two hours to Utsjoki in the Arctic Circle, which was a crisp -8°F during my first night there.

My trip started at New York-JFK's Terminal 8, where the international Oneworld alliance has congregated.

Qatar Airways check-in at JFK.
Oneworld partner Qatar Airways' check-in counter at New York-JFK's Terminal 8, taken during Christmas last year.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

Oneworld members American Airlines and British Airways became "roommates" in late 2022 when both consolidated operations at JFK's T8 to streamline their partnership.

Other alliance partners, Finnair, Qatar Airways, Spanish flag carrier Iberia, and Japan Airlines, among others, also operate out of the terminal.

While I only had a carry-on, I first went to Finnair's little check-in corner because I needed to add TSA PreCheck to my reservation.

The economy check-in counter for Finnair at T8.
The economy check-in counter for Finnair at T8.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I forgot to include my KTN number when I checked in on the app, but it thankfully didn't take long to add it at the counter.

I didn't realize this meant the agent would take the opportunity to weigh my carry-on. I knew there was a limit, and I quickly learned how strict.

My bag was 9.6 kg.
My combined bags (my suitcase and a backpack) weighed 9.6 kilograms.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

My fare did not include a checked bag, only a carry-on and personal item that weighed no more than eight kilograms (about 17.6 pounds) combined.

That is bumped up to 12 kilograms (about 26.5 pounds) for business class travelers.

Both of my bags fit within the size dimensions, but they were about three and a half pounds overweight.

The Finnair size-checker.
The carry-on could be a maximum of 22in x 16in x 9in, while the personal item could be up to 16in x 12in x 6in, according to Finnair.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I've flown on many European carriers and know the bag weight limits, but I have never had them actually weighed before, so I typically just take my chances since I don't like to check a bag.

I was slightly surprised about the strictness, but I was fully prepared to pay whatever fee — I'll never argue with the employee.

The agent said I couldn't bring my carry-on but could check it for free. Not ideal, but I was just happy I didn't have to pay anything.

The author holding the Finnair boarding pass and her passport.
Security took five minutes, thanks to TSA PreCheck. Looking back, though, I should have just left it alone.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

This was the only snafu I had with Finnair, but they didn't charge me.

I'm 99.9% sure I didn't have a checked bag included in my fare, so I would say that's pretty good customer service.

I could skip check-in counters on two of the three other Finnair flights, which seemed to help avoid it getting weighed again.

The author in a green jacket in front of a Finnair plane in the winter.
Getting off the Finnair plane in Ivalo, Finland, which was a two-hour drive from my final destination of Utsjoki. Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I got my boarding pass on the app for both domestic flights and could skip the check-in desk. My bags weren't weighed at the gate, though, but I did see some people pulled aside to check the size of their carry-on.

For my return flight to New York, I did have to go to the check-in counter to get my boarding pass in Helsinki. But the agent there didn't weigh my bags, so I'm unsure if the strict weight was just a New York thing.

My flight to Helsinki was scheduled to leave at 10:55 p.m., and we started boarding about 45 minutes before departure.

Boarding gate 12 with people standing around.
The same boarding schedule was experienced on the return flight.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I didn't have lounge access, so I killed time before the flight at Bobby Van's Grill in Terminal 8. I got a free $28 with my Priority Pass membership and used it for dinner and a beer.

Certain loyalty members and business class passengers with access, however, can take advantage of the new co-branded Greenwich lounge offered by American and British in T8, according to Finnair.

On both legs to and from Helsinki, I flew on Finnair's nine-year-old Airbus A350-900 aircraft, registered OH-LWA.

The Finnair Airbus A350 at the gate in Helsinki.
The Finnair Airbus A350 at the gate in Helsinki.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

According to the aircraft-tracking website FlightAware, the widebody plane has been flying back and forth between New York-JFK and Helsinki for a few weeks now.

The outbound was a red-eye and landed around 1:15 p.m. the next day. The return from Helsinki left at 4:55 p.m. and landed back at New York-JFK around 7 p.m. the same day.

The plane has 251 economy seats. I prefer the aisle when flying long-haul and paid an extra $38 to reserve seat 33J in the last row of the section.

View from seat 33J.
The view from seat 33J.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

Although the proximity to the lavatories annoys many passengers, I don't mind the last row because I can recline my seat as far back as I want to without worrying about what the person behind me will do.

This avoids the "should you recline your seat" game.

One look, and I knew the seat would be comfortable. It looked well-padded with a headrest, seatback pocket, and big television.

The seatback pocket with a water bottle and Kinde inside.
The seatback pocket wasn't huge.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The seatback pocket had a small water bottle waiting for me, and it easily fit my own bottle and my Kindle, though there were a few other slots on the seatback for smaller items.

I didn't have an issue organizing my things, and there was no annoying inflight entertainment box under the seat in front blocking my foot room.

According to Finnair, it has recently upgraded its A330 and A350 economy seats with memory foam cushions, and I could feel the difference.

View looking down at the seat.
The seats were configured in a 3x3x3 layout.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

"Memory foam is becoming more and more common in aircraft interiors and seating cushions," Finnair's senior manager for customer experience and design strategy, David Kondo, said in an October 2022 press release discussing the economy enhancements. "It helps with posture and ergonomics support."

The new seats also feature 18 inches of width and 31 inches of pitch, which I think is easily enough legroom for my five-foot, three-inch tall self.

The view of legroom.
Can you tell I have dogs?Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I'm short, so I don't need much space on airplanes.

Finnair also has extra legroom seats in the economy section that cost more to reserve.

There is also a 12-inch seatback screen with a USB port, though I noticed it did not adjust up or down when the seat in front was reclined.

The seatback screen with plan for flight.
There was a lot to be explored as far as entertainment, but the lack of tilt could impact viewing.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The television also had external cameras that showed the aircraft flying, as well as information about things like speed and altitude.

Moreover, the service schedule was displayed on the home screen, including meal times, which I found helpful.

Given this was a red-eye, I didn't spend too much time awake and took advantage of the seat's deep recline.

The reclined seats.
The flight attendants asked people to sit upright during meal times.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The flight had a strong tailwind that propelled us from New York to Helsinki in just seven and a half hours.

The flight was on time to leave and landed half an hour early — and our gate was ready for us when we got there, thankfully.

In fact, I slept for about six hours on the outbound. The recline, cushion, blanket, and headrest helped.

The blue blanket on the author's lap.
Finnair did not provide a pillow.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I was not expecting to be so comfortable on Finnair, and the recline easily won brownie points.

Plus, I didn't feel cramped when the person in front reclined, though I think it's most comfortable if everyone reclines during non-meal hours. This solves the TV and space issue.

For the longer return journey, I did pay an extra $15 to reserve an "economy comfort" seat so I could experience both options.

The economy plus seat.
The economy plus seat on the return flight.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

Since I was flying on the same plane to and from Helsinki, I figured I'd try different seat locations. The extra legroom seat cost about $52.

I often look to SeatGuru for advice on new carriers, and I saw the extra legroom seat of 22C was uniquely positioned without a seat in front.

The unlimited legroom of seat 22C on Finnair.
The unlimited legroom of seat 22C on Finnair's A350.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The seat map shows row 21, an exit row in the front of the first economy section, with two seats. The row behind that has the standard three seats.

However, only the two seats closest to the window are aligned, leaving the aisle in row 22 almost on an island.

I didn't need the endless legroom, but I think this is a great seat option for people needing extra space.

Viewing down at the seat with Kindle on cushion.
The aisle-side armrest could make someone feel cramped, however.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I did notice the flight attendants sometimes hit the seat when maneuvering their galley cart around me, but it wasn't bothersome.

Passengers will give up a proper seatback screen and pocket, however. This was OK on my flight because the middle seat was open.

View of row from aisle seat.
There was a USB in my screen, but you can't use it during takeoff and landing, so I just used the middle seat's.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I used the middle seat as my storage space for my return flight, but if that spot is taken, then the aisle seat passenger will not have access to any pockets for things like a water bottle or headphones.

Moreover, the tray table is in the armrest and the seatback screen must be stowed for takeoff and landing.

The TV flipped up.
Finnair provides wired headphones for the TV.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The angle of the screen positioned up may be awkward for some travelers, but I didn't find it that bothersome.

I didn't use it much, though, preferring to binge the Traitors UK on my Kindle instead.

While Finnair's improved economy seats were particularly pleasing, I was more surprised by the quality of the food.

The side dish on the outbound.
The side dish on the outbound journey.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

Both long-haul journeys offered one free meal an hour after takeoff and another drink service within the last two hours before landing.

This was different from carriers, like United Airlines and Air Canada, which have offered me two meals between Europe and the US, including a lunch/dinner and breakfast.

On the outbound, I had a beef dish with rice and veggies. Everything was very tasty.

The dinner meal on the outbound with beef. rice, and veggies with a carrot on top.
The main course on the outbound.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The meat was perfectly cooked and well-seasoned. I was also impressed with the flavorful veggies, which I typically find on airlines to be more bland.

The return dinner of meatballs, mashed potatoes, and carrots was just as delicious.

The meal on the return.
The meal on the return.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The return was my favorite meal of the two, reminding me of a home-cooked meal. And the side of coleslaw, bread, and chocolate was nice and filling.

I had soda and blueberry juice with my meals.

While the food was great, I did notice a lack of choice.

Blueberry juice in a cup.
I ordered this unique blueberry juice with my meals. It was also served on the domestic flights.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I'm used to the flight attendants asking something along the lines of, "Chicken or pasta?" — but I was just handed a tray in Finnair's case.

The airline does have special meals available, which I noticed were served first.

Overall, I had no issues sleeping or getting comfortable in Finnair's A350 economy cabin thanks to the filling food and padded seats.

The Finnair A350 cabin viewed from back to front.
The Finnair A350 economy cabin.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I wasn't expecting to enjoy Finnair's economy so much, and I could have easily survived several more hours onboard.

Even the Airbus A321 flights between Helsinki and Ivalo were nice and comfortable.

The views over Finland from the plane.
The views over Finland when flying from Helsinki to Ivalo.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

The Airbus planes I flew on within Finland were fit with an all-economy cabin. The flights were only about an hour and a half, so we got a complimentary drink but no snack.

I did appreciate the tray table having a little holder for a phone or tablet since the seats didn't have any inflight entertainment (though I didn't expect them to for such a short flight).

In fact, I am planning a few trips to Europe this year that will require a one-stop, and I plan to book Finnair — even if its more expensive.

The cabin of the Finnair A350 with blue screens showing.
The cabin of the Finnair A350.Taylor Rains/Business Insider

I plan to go to the Baltics in May and need to fly into Tallinn, Estonia, and out of Vilnius, Lithuania. There are no nonstops, but there are a few one-stop options from New York-JFK, including SAS, LOT Polish Airlines, Lufthansa, Swiss, and Finnair.

Although Finnair is one of the more expensive options, I plan to book it again because I know the seats will be comfortable.

Even if I'm on an Airbus A330 and not an A350, Finnair is upgrading all of its widebody cabins to the same design — making the consistency across its fleet even more favorable for customers.

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