During my trips to Estonia and Finland, I flew trans-Atlantic on Finnair. Having no prior experience with the airline, I had little idea what to expect. The trip over would have been close to five stars, while the trip back closer to three stars. I guess I have to average that out.
The first thing I noticed about Finnair (going both directions) was that they were late to begin boarding both directions. The boarding process was very cluttered and clumsy. These are large planes that hold nearly five hundred people, so maintaining an orderly boarding process becomes important. Loading up at JFK, there was initially only one person checking tickets for boarding. With five hundred people to board, this was obviously not going to work. Another employee eventually meandered over to assist. I experienced a similar process on the return trip, although there ended up being four employees taking tickets that direction, which sped up the process significantly. Both of my flights arrived late.
Each of my tickets were coach class, near the back of the plane. On the trip over, I was in a decent area on the left side of the plane. I had an aisle seat, with my wife at the window. In coach, the plane has two seats on the left, five in the middle and two on the right until you get to the last few rows, where the plane narrows a bit, losing some of the middle seats. The first thing I noticed was that the armrest does not go all the way up. When you are sharing seats with a family member, it is always nice to move the armrest out of the way, since you don't mind touching them. It provides that minimal but important extra two or three inches of space. The legroom was adequate and the overhead storage was plentiful. There was extra space in the overhead bins, which is something you don't see in some planes, especially the smaller local route aircraft.
The staff on Finnair did not seem overly friendly to me. They were professional and courteous, but often came across to me like Stepford Wives. Maybe that is a cultural thing. They were efficient at preparing the plane once we got past the initial disruptions with boarding. The pre-flight checks and safety briefing were quickly conducted with ample time before take off. We pushed back from the gate when we were supposed to (both directions) which seemed unlikely to me. So they did manage to overcome the delays.
The in-flight entertainment was pretty good. Each seat has a personal entertainment selection. A set of cheap ineffective earplugs come in the pocket of each seat. They plug into the armrest to provide sound for whatever entertainment selection you make on the touch screen. The entertainment included dozens of free movies, some cheap games (Mahjong, Suduko, Snake, etc), that might hold your interest for a few minutes. There were also television programs to choose from. In addition to entertainment, the aircraft has nose cameras that allow travelers to watch the aircraft take off with a "pilots view." That was kind of neat.
The meal service surprised me. We had herbed chicken and a cornmeal cake along with vegetables on the way over and something reminiscent of chicken stew on the way back. Both meals were tasty. The meals came with plenty of extras like cheese, crackers, dessert, water and coffee service. On the trip over, the service was impeccable. On the trip back, Finnair ran out of Coke Light (Diet Coke) before they arrived at my seat on the first drink service. By the time we got to the final service, they were pretty much out of everything. It seems they were completely unprepared in terms of beverages on my second flight.
The flight over was fairly comfortable. I cannot sleep on an airplane, so I tried to watch a film. The sound quality in the provided ear buds was impossible. I could only hear small snippets of the dialogue which frustrated me to the point that I stopped my movie in mid-stream and didn't try again. Luckily, I brought a book to read. I normally travel with good earphones on longer flights but didn't have them on this trip. I believe that was the primary problem. The buds did not eliminate the other aircraft noises enough, and may even have picked some of that up in interference.
The flight back was less comfortable. I think I was in aisle 53 or 54, in the same two seats on the left side of the aircraft. These seats might be the worst on the aircraft. This is the point where the aircraft narrows the most, with the seats thinning out half a row behind where my seat was located. Looking at the aisle, you can see the tapering of the pathway right where my seat was located. This was a choke point for the equipment, and I had to be careful whenever anyone passed not to get bumped. The narrowing made the area feel very claustrophobic. In addition to the narrowing aisle, there was a mechanical device under the seat in front of me that prevented me from placing both feet under the seat without "stacking" them. In other words, I would have to put one foot on top of the other to place my feet under the seat in front of me. Lucky again, my wife allowed me to place one foot under the seat in front of her! If I were traveling alone, this would have been a miserable situation.
Finnair has attractive aircraft that feel clean. I guess that is important. The food is good, even though my second flight failed to bring enough beverages on board. The storage space for carry on luggage was more than adequate. The in-flight entertainment provides an excellent selection, but travelers would be well advised to bring their own headphones if they actually want to hear the dialogue. The staff was professional but a bit sterile. The seats were comfortable, but legroom is limited in seats that have that mechanical component. They would also be far more comfortable if the armrest between the seats were modified so it can be pushed out of the way for families that are traveling together. I would consider flying Finnair again in the future, but would likely consult Seatguru to determine the best seats (or at least avoid the worst seats).
All photos, screen captures and video come from the Finnair website in conjunction with Fair Use.