First impressions of Finnairs’ brand new ‘non-reclining’ business class seat

May 6, 2022

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Airlines announcing news business-class seats are a routine occurrence in the aviation industry and something that always grabs our attention at TPG — but some announcements can be more exciting than others.

Committing to a new product for years to come is a big investment for an airline, so many carriers choose an ‘off the shelf’ product that has already been tried and tested elsewhere. They may make minor customisations and switch up the colour palette to fit their own branding, but often you can notice little physical variation between airlines.

For example, the new Etihad A350 business-class seat is the Collins Aerospace Super Diamond, the same seat British Airways has also chosen for their A350 business-class seat.

What is infinitely more exciting is when an airline introduces something entirely unique that is not flown by any other airline, like for example, a new business class seat that doesn’t recline.

At all.

Finnair is the launch customer for the unusual new AirLounge seat designed by award-winning seat manufacturer Collins Aerospace and the only airline flying currently this product.

Related: Finnair launch new business class seat and first-ever premium economy

This week I flew on a new Finnair Airbus A350-900 in business class on the short hop from the carrier’s home in Helsinki (HEL) to London (LHR) to try out this unique design and satisfy my own curiosity — was a non-reclining seat in business class brilliant or awful?

Here are my impressions of Finnairs’ new business-class seat.

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Photo by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy

In This Post

The seat is huge

You’ll notice in the new Etihad/BA seat above there is a fixed curved ‘shell’ at the back of the seat, and then a separate cushioned seat just in front of the shell. The new Finnair seat does away with the seat altogether and instead makes use entirely of the shell by adding padding to what would otherwise be a hard surface.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The first impression on entering the cabin was just how much space each seat takes up. Arranged in a 1-2-1 layout, each of the 32 seats has a huge fixed curved shell that feels oversized and makes the aisles seem tiny in comparison. Finnair was wise to forego overhead luggage bins for the centre of the cabin as it would have made the cabin feel quite claustrophobic.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The benefit of each seat taking up so much cabin space is that it provides a great deal of personal space and privacy to each passenger when seated. I loved the high curved cocoon wrapping right around my head in my 4A seat — it was cozy and inviting and the navy blue colour scheme felt both warm and cool at the same time.

The seat doesn’t have a sliding door that many other airlines have introduced in business class recently, but the massive seat shell meant I couldn’t see any other passengers while seated.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

I had selected a window seat — if you are in one of the middle pairs there is a divider that raises up, giving you plenty of privacy if you don’t fancy getting to know your seat neighbour.

Related: Finnair is waving goodbye to face mask requirements on select flights

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

There’s also a large and long foot cubby that would easily store a full-sized cabin bag.

Storage is as expected

One of the great innovations in business-class seats in the last decade is the increased amount of personal storage. This means passengers can store most, if not all of their personal belongings within easy reach of their seat without needing to get up to retrieve items from the overhead.

The storage in the AirLounge seat is what you would expect from a leading product. There is a compartment next to your torso where the remote control and charging plugs are found, another small bin under the window and a small shelf under the footrest for a pair of shoes.

Simplicity is its strength

With no complex machinery, the seat is lightweight and easy to maintain, a real benefit to the bottom line of any airline. For passengers, it is incredibly easy to operate as there are so few settings and getting from lounge to bed mode is relatively straightforward and intuitive. There’s a thin padded rectangular block that raises up via a lever on the aisle side and then a button to raise and lower the main leg rest to meet it.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

There are some basic lighting controls too, but that’s it.

You are very unlikely to lose your phone in a seat mechanism or struggle to retrieve a seatbelt buckle or strap.

On the topic of seatbelts, there is a cleverly concealed extra belt at the top of the leg rest to buckle yourself in when lying flat.

Related: Finnair resumes Helsinki-Tokyo flights, but they’ll take almost four hours longer

The bed is nice and long

I’m six feet tall and there was plenty of space to lie down and stretch out — this is one of the only business-class seats I have been in where my toes did not touch the start of the seat in front at the end of the footwell.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The footwell becomes fairly narrow, so if you regularly roll over in your sleep you may find this tight but this is a common issue in many staggered and reverse-herringbone cabin designs.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The metal pole next to your feet is unfortunate however and sticks out both physically and figuratively as a clunky feature of this otherwise very sleek seat design.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

I wish the IFE screen was adjustable

It’s not a perfect design. While the IFE screen was a large 18-inches and crisp and responsive, it does not adjust at all. The left side of the screen in my window seat stuck out into the foot cubby slightly which means its sharpish metal edge could cause a banged knee if you try and sit up too quickly when waking up.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The issue I found was when you are in lounging mode, the screen is fixed facing up higher than it perhaps needs to — at least for me, anyway. Being able to tilt the screen down would have made for a more comfortable viewing experience.

In bed mode, it is even worse.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Charging your phone could not be easier

My favourite feature of the new seat was the small black lightning bolt symbol on the flat surface next to the window. I assumed this was a charging spot but doubted my phone would automatically charge when placed on there — surely there would be some sort of permission requirement prompt, or it wouldn’t work with my (very non-iPhone) Pixel phone?

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Sure enough, a mere second after placing my phone in the bolt area, it automatically started charging.

This is so much easier and quicker than fiddling around with USB ports and charging cables. The seat also comes with traditional USB A, USB C, PC and power points.

Cushions may not be enough

Two plush cushions were awaiting me on my seat — one more of a pillow and the other a sofa cushion-style and these were supposed to compensate for the lack of recline in this unique seat.

Together, they did allow for some different positions to lounge around in but doing so for just 30 minutes on this short flight I felt tension on both my neck and the back of my head. The seat is comfortable when sitting fully and laying fully flat but you might struggle to comfortably watch Lord of the Rings lounging in a position somewhere between the two.

A third cushion or pillow may be required for proper lounging.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

The moving map is incredible

My flight featured the coolest IFE moving map I have seen in my travels, we’re talking: standard map views, landing cameras and cockpit views, as well as what the map view was looking out of the left and the right window.

What was more interesting was that at different parts of the flight, the map would highlight which cities the plane was flying over, no matter how obscure.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

My favourite part however was the ‘Pilot’s HUD’ view option showing some live flight instrument gauges including airspeed, altitude, and heading. This is a really cool #avgeek feature that I had not seen on any other aircraft passenger IFE before.

(Photo by Ben Smithson/The Points Guy)

Bottom line

I was really impressed with the new Finnair business-class seat and on a short flight within Europe, it was positively opulent having that much personal space — something valuable on an aircraft in any class. I found it comfortable in both seated and lying fully flat mode on that lovely long bed, though I only had time for a few minutes of test shut-eye. Considering you are sitting on a padded seat shell rather than a traditional seat, it was more comfortable than I expected it to be and it’s clear an enormous amount of thought has gone into this design.

No instructions from the crew or an instructional card were required to understand how to operate the simple seat adjustments — there is one up and down button next to your hips and a manual level next to the aisle, that’s it.

When attempting to lounge with only a few cushions to support your neck and back it’s not ideal and less comfortable than a traditional seat that reclined in various positions to become fully flat. I still think Qatar Airways’ award-winning Qsuite is a better overall seat concept thanks to the high walls and sliding door which create your own mini apartment on the plane.

Nonetheless, the new Finnair AirLounge business-class seat is excellent and it’s great to see true innovation in this space.

Featured image by Ben Smithson / The Points Guy

Editorial Disclaimer: Opinions expressed here are the author’s alone, not those of any bank, credit card issuer, airlines or hotel chain, and have not been reviewed, approved or otherwise endorsed by any of these entities.

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