Second to Easyjet, I am not impressed with airBerlin. Their check-in counter was woefully understaffed for the number of flights they see, and the staff seemed to not understand the system they were operating. Furthermore, after check-in I asked about a lounge and was informed of the airCafe, a premium gate lounge (holding pen) for airBerlin customers through security – although not worded in that way – that offers soft drinks and tea/coffee. Thankfully, I chose to head back to the main terminal and tried both the British Airways Terraces lounge and the Air France Salon where I found plentiful food options and such delights as champagne and alcoholic beverages. When I did finally head to the airCafe I had to change the milk in the coffee machine myself to get the beverage I wanted as it is unstaffed! Coffee tasted as bad as it always does from a machine.
Being the frequent flyer I am, I knew that the flight had no business class guests, and there were only 3 in our row, so when I attempted to put my bag above row 1 (because funnily enough, there were already bags above my head), I didn’t expect to be barked at by the airBerlin cabin crew. I’m not a DYKWIA-type, but the joke was on him when he had to personally welcome me onboard a bit later in the flight as the only premium member. The rest of the flight was uneventful, no free drinks, they’re not full service. I could see Jetstar becoming a member of oneworld soon.
Helsinki has a nice airport, but it was a touch chillier outside than we were expecting while waiting for the bus to the hotel. Nice room, again an upgrade to something a bit more spacious, but still nothing special at an airport hotel.
As we were here we decided to head into town and see the city, which was quite beautiful if you ignored the cloud and eventual rain. We ate at a nice restaurant and I tried sautéed reindeer, finding it to taste similar to a pulled pork but with a richer flavour.
Back at the hotel I couldn’t go past the traditional sauna at the hotel, however couldn’t find a birch branch to complete the trifecta.
Leaving Helsinki the next morning we turned up at the airport early to experience the lounge, but as it was fairly basic we were pleasantly surprised to be offered to fly ahead on an earlier service despite being on an award booking. This got us into Paris 2 hours earlier than scheduled and allowed for more time to see the sights on yet another short visit. The food and drink onboard was good too.
I will say that the Finnair staff and Vantaa airport staff I found to be really good. If I wasn’t chasing Qantas status credits I would probably fly through Helsinki into Europe as my preferred choice.