Finnair from JFK to Helsinki

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Admittedly, it was a relatively last-minute purchase. I knew I would be traveling the exact dates I needed because my friends’ wedding was scheduled a good 5 months before, but I’m a lazy traveler and didn’t book my flight until the last minute. Thankfully, I was able to find a decent flight to Berlin in October from New York City that wasn’t over $1,500; it just meant a connection via Helsinki and flying on Finnair.

I’ve flown Finnair a handful of times and it’s always been a great experience. In fact, when I flew Finnair to Bangkok (from Berlin), it was a highlight of my trip! Lots of amenities, the famous blueberry juice on-board, and great entertainment.

But this time, flying from JFK to Helsinki, my Finnair flight experience was a bit different.

Here’s my review of FinnAir Flight AY6 from JFK to Helsinki …

Flight Booking & Baggage Rules

I booked my flight using my AAdvantage miles through the American Airlines website. Looking for flight deals with my usual suspects such as Google Flights, Expedia, and Kayak turned up very expensive results.

But earlier in the year I had signed up for a new credit card which got me tens of thousands of flight miles. With those and my existing miles from my Citibank AAdvantage MasterCard, I decided for a last-minute flight booking, using miles was the way to go.

It was the best deal I could find at the last minute: just 60,000 AAdvantage miles and a fee of a few hundred dollars for a flight in less than a week from my booking.

Because I use an American Airlines branded credit card through MasterCard, I also knew I would get 1 free checked bag. Upon looking at the FinnAir website, though, my basic economy seat would not have included a free checked bag. Without the benefits of my credit card, the cost of checking a bag would’ve made the flight a little less desirable.

The Economy Experience on FinnAir

The seats on international FinnAir flights are surprisingly thin. Having flown transatlantic routes on Delta, United, American, AirFrance, KLM, Norwegian and many others, the in-flight amenities, entertainment, and even seats vary drastically from airline to airline.

I was surprised to find how thin the FinnAir seats were, and the lack of a moveable headrest. Other international airlines have more supportive headrests for similar routes. Normally, I’d pay for a seat upgrade to economy premium, but there were none available on the route (though an on-screen notification during boarding said business class seats were still available to purchase).

Three hours into the red-eye, overnight flight and the overhead lights were still on. Announcements were still being made to sell duty free products. Overall, the in-flight experience was fine, just uncomfortable enough to not really be enjoyable.

I’m perfectly happy to give airlines a lot of leeway in their economy seats and offers, but this flight was far more of the budget experience than I was expecting from a high-rated Scandinavian carrier.

FinnAir in-flight Entertainment

Usually, even if the on-board experience is nothing special, the in-seat, in-flight entertainment is enough to make up for the experience! Again, my experience on FinnAir was just…not that great.

The seatback screen was fine, but I was surprised by the limited choices. For an 8-hour overnight flight, there was no way to save or favorite your entertainment choices for referring back to later. It’s a small thing, but noticeable for such a long flying time when you might want to refer back to the entertainment throughout the night (and morning).

Finnair food in-flight

Sitting in the last economy section toward the back of the plane, my preferred dining option was no longer available by the time the flight attendants reached my row. So I was stuck with a pasta with pesto dish. It wasn’t awful as far as in-food dining goes, but I definitely would opt for a different option in the future.

On the recommendation of a friend who had flown FinnAir recently, they’d also suggested I bring my own snacks/food because “the food wasn’t that great.” I’m glad I took their advice!

The highlight of any FinnAir flight experience, though, is the blueberry juice served on board. Every FinnAir flight includes coffee, tea, and juices, but it’s the blueberry juice which has become iconic. It’s not actually a blueberry juice, it’s bilberry—a European variety of blueberries popular in Finland.

The juice was the perfect wake-me-up after a rough sleep on the overnight route. It’s refreshing and cool, plus healthy. A lot of airlines have signatures, and the bilberry juice served by FinnAir is their’s—and it’s excellent.

Overall, my flight with FinnAir was fine. Though we arrived late, I was still on time to make my connection to Berlin with little stress. (That’s because the Helsinki Airport, though a bit of a maze, is pretty well set-up for transfers and connections.)

Would I book with FinnAir again? Yes, though it’s not my preferred transatlantic airline. If the price is right and the transfer times work, it’s still a good option. But if you can, I’d suggest booking a more premium seat—especially for these red-eye overnight routes.

Adam Groffman
In 2009, Adam Groffman quit his job as a graphic designer in Boston and went on a 15+ month trip around the world. The life-changing journey took him to places like North Africa, the Middle East, India and Southeast Asia. Since 2011 Adam has been living in Berlin—Europe's most hipster city.

Travels of Adam is a hipster travel & lifestyle blog for sharing his personal experiences and alternative & indie travel tips from around the world. He also is the editor of My Gay Travel Guide—a gay travel website written by gay travelers for gay travelers.
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