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The Light Fantastic: Inside the New Finnair A350

During my tour of the new Finnair A350 from Hamburg to Helsinki, I was especially struck by the capitalisation on light against a neutral canvas.

Natural light from the A350's large windows and programmable mood decorate the understated Finnair Economy cabin./FCMedia
Natural light from the A350’s large windows and programmable mood decorate the understated Finnair Economy cabin./FCMedia

The walk through reminded me of another, way back when, working on the new image program for USAirways, when they changed out their interiors to a silver-grey. I originally thought that design might be dull, but it turned out to be a glorious capitalisation on natural light entering through the windows.

That was over fifteen years ago, and we’ve learned a lot more about cabin design principles as an industry since, we’ve added technology features to the cabin we couldn’t have imagined back then, become far more sophisticated in use of space and materials and light.

A rainbow decorates Finnair A350 Economy cabin/FCMedia
A rainbow decorates Finnair A350 Economy cabin/FCMedia

Fast-forward to today and it’s easy to see the light gains from the A350’s larger windows. Add to that Finnair’s mood lighting, with glowing effects programmed into a cool Northern Lights display and a Warm Asia theme, add the opalescent effect of the aircraft’s light grey-white structures, and the Finnair A350 interior positively glows.

Finnair A350 Aurora Borealis light show./FCMedia
Finnair A350 Aurora Borealis light show./FCMedia
Finnair A350 Warmth of Asia light show./FCMedia
Finnair A350 Warmth of Asia light show./FCMedia

Space is generous inside an A350, and the Finnair cabin design optimises all that room, ensuring passenger comfort.

Finnair A350 Business Class Seat/FCMedia
Finnair A350 Business Class Seat/FCMedia
Finnair A350 Business class seat footwell and IFE/FCMedia
Finnair A350 Business class seat footwell and IFE/FCMedia

The airline’s CEO, Pekka Vauramo, told reporters that Finnair hopes to deliver a Nordic experience to passengers from the moment they come onboard, and the airline has succeeded.

The simplicity of this A350 design is sophisticated elegance, in the best tradition of Nordic aesthetic. But details reflect Nordic whimsy and a love of nature.

IMG_0266
The mood lighting was programmed, but the rainbow was a gift./FCMedia

The fabric used for dress covers is of a high-quality weave. The stitching and fit of covers is impeccable. The airline even sewed in a logo label, for a nice branding touch.

Fabric weave and Finnair tag detail on Economy seat dress covers, Finnair A350./FCMedia
Fabric weave and Finnair tag detail on Economy seat dress covers, Finnair A350./FCMedia

In the past, I’ve been critical of these, because passengers love to pick at things. It will no doubt lead to dress cover damage and earlier replacement. Still, that Finnair chose to do it means that the airline is committed to ongoing maintenance.

Quality fit and stitching on Finnair's A350 economy dress covers./FCMedia
Quality fit and stitching on Finnair’s A350 economy dress covers./FCMedia
Quality fit and stitching on Finnair's A350 economy dress covers./FCMedia
Quality fit and stitching on Finnair’s A350 economy dress covers./FCMedia

Using light neutral tones and white structures throughout the cabin sends the same message of a commitment to maintenance and hygiene.

Inflight on the Finnair A350 headed for Helsinki, with Aurora Borealis light show on display./FCMedia
Inflight on the Finnair A350 headed for Helsinki, with Aurora Borealis light show on display./FCMedia

To complement this, there is the colourful Marimekko used in food service and amenities, which incorporates Finnish arts and crafts tradition.

Marimekko amenities in the Finnair A350 Business cabin./FCMedia
Marimekko amenities in the Finnair A350 Business cabin./FCMedia
Finnair brings Marimekko design to service items, even in the Economy cabin./FCMedia
Finnair brings Marimekko design to service items, even in the Economy cabin./FCMedia

There is a very clever introduction of Finland’s lush green nature with a calm forest image in a galley screen, which I found was an attractive detail. It helps the cabin feel fresh, quieting the disturbing visual noise of galley equipment. It’s really a very simple thing, but Finnair took the time to consider it, which speaks volumes about everything else.

Finnair A350 forrest scene galley screen/FCMedia
Finnair A350 forrest scene galley screen/FCMedia

There is ample room for luggage with the A350’s roomy bins.

The A350's large capacity overhead bins make luggage look small. Finnair Aurora Borealis mood lights on display./FCMedia
The A350’s large capacity overhead bins make luggage look small. Finnair Aurora Borealis mood lights on display./FCMedia

The in-flight technology with Panasonic IFE, and Wi-Fi connectivity is the final touch ensuring passengers in all cabins can enjoy the journey as they like: relaxing, being entertained, or productive. The user interface on the IFE was simple and responsive, and I found Wi-Fi worked well, similar in performance to a 3G mobile connection on the ground, once you got on the server.

There were a couple of hiccups signing up, but I think that was an issue of the server coming online at the beginning of the flight and my rushing to log-in. Once log-in was resolved, I was able to share both images and video from the sky on social media–which, to be honest, blows my GenX mind.

Finnair A350 Economy cabin, view of IFE and warm Asia themed mood lighting program/FCMedia
Finnair A350 Economy cabin, view of IFE and warm Asia themed mood lighting program/FCMedia

The Finnair A350 is clean and modern.

We talk about modernity in design, but modernism dates back to the early 20th century: and that’s what’s good about it.

Modernity is timeless, enduring, eternal. Modern is forward-facing optimism, not backward-looking melancholy.

It reflects aviation’s true nature, and technological prowess. Modernity looks up at the skies and takes off to new horizons. Finnair brings that modernism where it’s most at home: in the clouds.

Through images and sensations, Finnair declares, “We are the future.”

With the launch of this new A350, it is easy to believe them.

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