Going for gold Over the Finnish line

The cabin services manager on this plane - well, one of them - has just given me a third bottle of champagne, without me even asking. I am taking that as my cue to get writing before I end up way too pissed to do it justice. Mind you, having read last night's post which was written while completely trousered I don't think I do that bad a job even in such a state. Nonetheless, here I go.

The journey back to Helsinki airport by train is the reverse of my journey there in the morning. That may sound obvious but actually there are two lines to the airport... sort of. There's a heart shaped route ploughed by routes P and I (who has lettered trains?), one clockwise and one anticlockwise. Had I not been running late I would have deliberately gone for the other direction just in case there was any scenic shit, but I was so I didn't and that's that.

Anyway, I was so tired I almost fell asleep.

Wait wait wait, time out, time out. There's stuff I know I forgot to mention from the earlier post and I want to address it here. First, I forgot to include one of my favourite photos from Suomenlinna (though the scaffold is pretty crap).

And, I forgot to reprise the hat story. If you recall, last night I failed to wear Helen's hat to the bar in the hotel having promised her I would take a series of photos of it enjoying the holiday. To repent, I spammed her to fuck with a series of photos of "hat and <x>" which made both of us laugh. Here, have a collage of selfies of me wearing Helen's hat.

Right, that's that done.

Back at the airport, I have to return to the hotel to retrieve my bag. Predictably this involves an extraordinarily long walk, slower than the morning's because it turns out that at 3.15pm the airport and everything around it is way more busy than at 8am. There's a sign to a scenic terrace which tempts me, but I resist.


Bag retrieved, there's just under 2 hours left until scheduled departure, more likely 2.5 hours until actual given the delay they won't catch up. BA depart from terminal 2 which, of course, is all the way back above the bloody train station. Security queues are enormous but I spot a sign and a small escalator pointing to fast track, which I assume I have access to.

I do not have access to fast track. Not really sure why. There are two gates and my boarding pass is rejected at one, causing the man to look at it and say "oh yeah, we don't have an agreement with BA. Use one of those", pointing to, um, two other oyster-esque gates 2 feet away. I go there and they work, decanting me into the exact same security queues as the fast track I was just denied. I have no idea what just happened, but whatever, I'm through.

Well, I'm almost through. Somehow the guy in front of me is managing to empty his hand luggage out into 4 different trays. But soon enough I am through, and surrounded by Japanese people. This is getting silly now.

As far as I'm aware, having looked up stuff on oneworld.com beforehand, I am allowed into 3 different lounges in this airport. There's a Finnair lounge in the Schengen area, a Finnair lounge in the non-Schengen area, and a lounge called "Almost@Home" which is co-branded with BA and also in the non-Schengen area. The fancy pants premium lounge, about which I have read great things, says it's only available to fancy pants card holders - the level above the card I hold.

The first accessible lounge is around 30 steps past security, and there's a queue just to go up the escalator. I decide to skip this one as it's likely the most busy. I don't know the timetables, but hope there aren't a huge amount of non-Schengen flights leaving soon so the lounges there may be empty - that said, surely some of these Japanese folk are going to Japan and not onward to Europe...

There's yet another long walk, and passport control is comedy. There are loads of, you guessed it, Japanese folk, failing dismally to understand where they're meant to queue up. I shimmy past some confused families to an automated gate, insert my passport and get told to proceed into the bit where I have to stand on the footprint outlines and face the camera.

I fail to stand in the right place, so the machine shouts at me to put my feet where they're damn well meant to go. As I look down at the floor and shuffle about and am generally not in prime photography position, the gate opens to let me through. Well OK then.

There's a few shops, a lot of Japanese people, and the Almost@Home lounge. In I go, and grab a seat. My legs are a bit tired, there's so much walking required in this place, and once I'm perched I can see I'm basically next door to the Hilton. DAMN YOU HELSINKI.

I walk around, being somewhat startled by the presence of an actual oven and the way you have to get your cutlery from an actual drawer. The whole place is like a big shared kitchen in a student house that sleeps 80 people or so. But there's a beer tap and free other stuff and wifi so all is well.

It's bloggening time.

I blog frantically. My flight is still delayed, by roughly 40 minutes, but I've seen miracles before: 14 minutes between leaving and returning to my seat on a Bergen back-to-back springs to mind. I want to get my half day out in Finland written up, so type type type type while only being slightly distracted by the lads next to me constantly checking how late the flight is, and whether their cheap PS4 has arrived. And by the announcements in Japanese.

I finish the blog post and by now the lounge is really pretty empty. To be fair, it's gone 5pm, and the originally scheduled flight time is 5.10pm, so it's not wholly unreasonable. I decide to piss off too. I know the flight goes from gate 37, and I also know that other Finnair lounge is next door, so if we really do still have 50 minutes to go then maybe I can sneak in a visit.

Obligatory plane shot. I believe this is an AY A350, but what do I know.

The gate is full of people not doing much. The lounge really is next door, so fuck it, to the desk I go. She scans my pass and says, oh, you can go to the premium lounge. WHAT!? I had no idea! Totally convinced you're only allowed in there if you're oneworld emerald card holder - in BA parlance, that's gold - but she's just said I can go in. This is the first time I've reacted in a "wow, I'm allowed this?" way for years and it's refreshing.

I felt so embarrassed taking this naff pic.

It's also annoying. I spent all that bloody time in the pikey kitchen lounge when I could have been in here, with its sauna and its bar service and its proper champagne served in crystal glasses and its fancy curved UHDTV and etc. Blast! I really must come back here some time. Eh Helen?

Champagne done, the board is showing "go to gate". Others are showing "boarding" which makes me think, meh, I can wait... but I'm paranoid as usual, and leave, only to stand around waiting at the gate. Just for a couple of minutes, in truth; then they announce fast track boarding and most people step forward, but it's much more ruly than the boat.

Down the airbridge and onto the plane, there's a member of cabin crew greeting people. It's the same guy as was serving last night, Johnny 5 Champers. "Hello again!", I say. "That was a short visit! Got everything done you needed to do I assume?" he asks. Yes, yes I did.

And then I'm back in seat 1A.

There's a man in 1C and his other half seems to be in 2D. This either means he's a dick, or business class is rammed. I think he was waiting for no-one to turn up in 1A so she could move there, but I did. As it happens no-one else turned up in 2F, so they sat together and I got half a row to myself, which was useful as it meant I didn't need to hassle him to get my bag as soon as the belt lights went out.

Get a shift on!

The rest of business class, pretty much, seems to be children. The loudest two are directly behind me, and for once I'm glad Helen isn't here because she'd have been going even more spare than I have been this whole time.

Service is not dissimilar to last night, except some other guy is mostly bringing me booze and ties a bow around the first bottle for no reason I'm given. Nothing is quite as quick; for some reason 4 bottles of champagne are ferried back to economy before anyone in business even gets asked what they want.

The food choice today is prawn pasta, or some kind of cous cous thing. I opt for the former and it's nice. Cheese, quince and oat cakes again, and a different mousse, no chocolate. I am very happy with the lack of terrible leafy salad on this weekend's flights.

The October edition of the inflight magazine still trumps all the free liquids you're allowed onboard in economy. Given the announcement to play the bargain basement game came in late September, but must have been made much further in advance, I really wish they'd at least have had a note saying "oh, by the way, from January you'll have to pay £4 for the only lager we've got, rather than choose a freebie from 3 brands. And it'll be £1.80 for water 'n all". This is a real dick move from BA, sigh.

There are photos to be taken of clouds and coastlines and stuff from above. There's a whole load of high cloud throughout the flight, typing as I am at 37k feet and right next to some lenticular bad boys.

Spaghetti junction, Finland style.

I'm glad the champagne is still flowing. I may regret it in the morning, especially since it's my first day in a new office twice the distance from Waterloo than the old one - so I have to get up earlier 'n that - but this is a celebration. Del called it right, after I mentioned Henry Kelly on Facebook: the point of this trip was to earn enough points to qualify for BA gold, for only the second time ever and first since 2007/08. But back then I barely made use of it. This time, I might be able to squeeze a bit of value out.

Right, it's a few hours since I wrote the previous paragraph. No more champagne was offered nor asked for. Fair enough really. We were flying in from the east - obviously, given where Helsinki is, but also taking that approach into Heathrow - and SE England looked great again. Being sat on the right I expected mostly views of Kent and Surrey, but we were actually a fair bit more north than usual so I got cracking views of the Thames. We carried on like that until pulling a 180 over Twickenham, then another 180 to actually land. God damn I love flying over London in twilight.

I like this one so much I put it on Instagram.

At the very end, looking back I could see 4 planes lined up in the sky, but failed to get a photo. Bit gutted about that. Heathrow looked great though, naturally.

We landed late, obviously. About 1850 or something. I had been given a fast track arrivals thing, but I'm pretty sure UK passports aren't actually allowed to use them and anyway, I lost it. D'oh. So I joined the huge, very fast moving queue of people complaining about the length of the queue they were in. Reached the front in fairly short order, without standing still until getting stuck behind people who didn't actually seem to know how to operate the really easy machines. A few people were having the red X instead of green tick, but one guy managed to make his machine blurt out a really loud, embarrassing and amusing klaxon. Heh.

Landside, loo visit, M&S for a diet coke, slow walk to the tube station, off at Hatton Cross, genuinely 15 second wait for the express bus, change at Kingston for a 2 minute wait for the bus to my house. Landing to home in 85 minutes. I love it when the worst part of my journey is mercifully quick. So, roll on November and them there first class lounges.

Created By
Darren Foreman

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