On the best of business class flights, it feels like you’re being treated like royalty. Well, what better way to fly like a king or queen than to sit in a throne? That’s how I felt on a trip from San Francisco to Helsinki on Finnair, when I scored one of the business class cabin’s “throne seats.” With no neighbors, tons of table space on both sides, miles of elbow room, and a view out the window, it’s one of the most stylish ways I’ve crossed the Atlantic. It also gave me a great chance to learn about Finnair and its unique Finnish touch. And now that I’m back on the ground, it’s time to spill some details.
Read on for plenty of photos, videos, and thoughts from my long-haul Finnair business class A330 flight from San Francisco to Helsinki. And then decide for yourself whether it’s an experience fit for a king!
Fun times at the gate for the launch of United’s daily, direct service to London Heathrow (LHR) on a 787-8 Dreamliner. Photo: Kevin P Horn
United Airlines has been aggressively expanding its Denver hub over the last few years. Despite operating 471 flights a day and carrying 42% of traffic, the international routes have been limited to a few flights in Canada, a few south of the border, and the daily Dreamliner to Tokyo. Starting on March 24th, United re-launched, after a hiatus of a few years, seasonal, daily service to London Heathrow on a 787-8 as UA 27 and UA 26.
We were there for the inaugural flight and celebration for this exciting new route. This flight makes for three carriers serving London at once, with Denver’s biggest airline continuing expansion at the airport.
A Virgin Atlantic 787-9 at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport – Photo: Colin Cook
On a recent trip to Europe, my girlfriend and I had the opportunity to fly in two different premium cabins to compare different products. The first story covered the British Airways First Class experience on a 747-400 from Seattle to London. This second part reviews the Virgin Atlantic Upper Class (business class) product on a 787-9 from London back to Seattle.
The flight in BA First Class set an extremely high bar for any future flight to exceed. Simply put, it was the best flight I’ve ever experienced, both from a hard and soft product perspective. I was interested in comparing the premium cabin experiences on aircraft that are generations apart in technology. While the 747 will always be the Queen of the Skies and helped to open many international travel routes, the 787 is very much the future of air travel.
On the night prior to our flight, we discovered that Virgin Atlantic offers Upper Class passengers a premium car service from central London to Heathrow. Unfortunately, we were evidently not eligible for this perk, as we were traveling on an award ticket. We also discovered that when you are arriving by a car service (we took an Uber), there is a special airport entrance, the Upper Class Wing, for which you can register. Once I requested the Uber on the morning of our flight, I had our hotel call Virgin Atlantic to register the car’s license plate, which allowed us access to the private check-in area for Upper Class passengers. Now that’s classy.
Our ride, looking sleek in red and blue – Photo: Manu Venkat | AirlineReporter
SAS Scandinavian Airlines has a lot of history under its belt — over 70 years’ worth, in fact. It was first to offer a regularly scheduled transpolar flight way back in 1954. More recently, it was a founding member of the Star Alliance. It continues to make big moves, expanding its US route network into Miami and Los Angeles to solidify its status as the airline with the most flights between the US and Scandinavia.
But as of a few years ago, SAS’ business class on its long-haul A340 and A330 fleet was stuck in the past, with a 2-2-2-across layout and only angle-flat seats. The airline ordered a few A350s but deliveries aren’t expected until late next year. In the meantime SAS needed to do something to keep its existing fleet from aging out of relevance. So starting last year it launched a massive effort to reinvent its flagship premium cabins.
We got a chance to experience SAS’ reimagined business class for ourselves and we found a lot to like — all documented in this trip report. And as suckers for aviation nostalgia, we’re glad that travelers will have the chance to fly the classic A340-300 for a while longer, and won’t have to sacrifice on style or comfort to do it.
Read on and join us on a Scandinavian adventure for the ages!