Flying Finnair to Japan: What is it like?

Flying Finnair to Japan: What is it like?

It’s been over a year since I have done an airline review! This means I have only flown what I consider my bog-standard, usually low-cost airlines (yup, Ryanair, Wizz and Pegasus) or flown routed and class I don’t normally fly ( yup, last minute repatriation trip to Bali). While this flight in Finnair to Japan was somewhat unplanned or planned with very little lead, I thought it might be interesting to review a full-service European airline, since there aren’t that many around any more, and given the fact that I have quite a few Japan posts here now, and Finnair is a very popular choice for flying to Japan, let’s review a Finnair to Japan flight!

A few facts about Finnair

Finnair is the national airline of Finland and the sixth oldest airline still in operation. Geek fact: KLM, Avianca, Qantas, Aeroflot, Czech Airlines are a tiny bit older). Finnair is also one of the worlds’ safest airlines, ranking consistently in the Top Ten of the world’s safest airlines

All their larger aircraft are EU-made Airbus with great safety records.

Historically, Japan and Finland have long had good relations, with Japan being the first country to recognise Finland in 1919, and excellent trade connections. Some even say the Finnish and Japanese culture and language are quite similar, but I don’t know about that! Due to code sharing with Japan Airlines, you will meet many Japanese travelling abroad on Finnair.

So, what’s not to like? Nothing. It is just that in the past their tickets have been prohibitively expensive, and rarely turned up on my flight searches. Now I do like a safe and relatively convenient flight, and they recently had a sale, and really the shorted and most convenient connection from Berlin, my nearest airport.

Web site and Mobile App

I almost always book direct after having been burned with a third party agent more than one, Booking being a notable exception so far. So, off I went to after shifting back and forth a couple clinics and comparing prices carefully.

It was super easy to book, and to add on special meals. Also, the fare shown on my flight comparison site was a fare with 8kg hand luggage only. This might be okay on the way in ( I am a pretty good one bagger), but coming back from Japan with just 8kg? No way. So by the time I added luggage for the return leg, this added about 60 Euro to the cheapest basic fare, and I wish that had been more transparent.

I also downloaded the app, and checking in for my flights and keeping track of departure time changes was a breeze.

Departure, Arrival and Transfer in Helsinki

Well, I guess I don’t need to say too much about Berlin BER Airport, which to me remains one of the worst major airports in Europe, despite being relatively new. This time, it was power outlets. I ended up with my phone on the floor next to the toilet.

With a delayed flight, I was somewhat concerned to transfer in Vantaa, Helsinski’s international airport. Amazingly, the flight crew had all the connections and informed me that this would be highly unlikely as there are x people on the same flight as me on this plane, and also, transferring in Helsinki would be super duper fast.

Well. Helsinki is certainly clean and bright but not what you’d call user friendly. It is basically one very long terminal. Lots of walking. It was okay on the outbound flight – the electronic passport gates worked well, there were plenty of them, and no security check.

On the return flight, I nearly missed my connections despite having an almost two-hour transfer. The Finnish do a thorough security check on all non-Schengen Arrivals, and that took ages. They do fast-track certain flights leaving soon, but if you aren’t that fast a walker, things might get tight.

My destination, Kansai International Airport, is a huge, modern, clean airport, frequently considered one of the worlds’ best but it appeared under a bit of strain with large visitor numbers. We arrived around noon and Immigration had huge queues – very few inbound Japanese, all foreigners, most of them Asian.

Immigration appeared pretty clued-up with extra finger-print stations set up and all immigration counters staffed. Customs – another huge queue that thankfully moved fast. Then I was let out into the bright Arrivals Hall which is very well signposted and, what a blessing! – no taxi touts. I followed the signs to the station, charged my IC card from a previous trip and went to my platform. Everytfhing really well signposted.

There are Bureaux de Change but I had some Japanese Yen, so I Waited until the next day to withdraw cash at a convenience store where I knew my card would work. There were more than enough vending machines for data SIM cards also, but I decided not to bother with a SIM.

I had filled in the arrival form beforehand and obtained a QR Code but did not feel that this sped up Immigration and Customs.

Leaving Helsinki on Finnair flight to Kansai


Coming from Europe, Helsinki makes a relatively convenient stop and the airport is okay, but consider it may take time to transfer due to the airports layout.

For someone who lives a long way from any major airport, Finnair has great regional connections. No, I don’t consider Berlin a major airport. Major airports of Germany are Frankfurt, Munich and Dusseldorf, and these have direct Japan flights to Tokyo and Kansai. All three are a pain to get to, with trains not being very reliable and high train fares. So, I am grateful for airlines like Finnair that serve Berlin and offer relatively pain-free Japan flights.

The polar route used to be unique to Finnair, but since 2022, other airlines fly them, too, It is weather-dependent. We took a continental route on the way in and the polar route back. Of course, some airlines still fly over Russia, for example the major Chinese airlines, but I would not want to fly over Russia at this time. Just too much has happened in Russian, Belorussian and Ukrainian air space recently to make the news and scare me.

All in all, my flight on Finnair took about 16 hours, which is definitely the shortest trip between Berlin and Japan. Not even Lufthansa/All Nippon get anywhere near there, with an average trip duration of 20 hours. Only Qatar Airways gets anywhere near there, despite flying via the Gulf, at 18 hours.

I definitely preferred this routing to my China Airlines flight from Frankfurt to Fukuoka via Taipei, because that was an extremely long journey (37 hours), but at the time I needed to get to Kyushu in a relatively tight time frame, and it offered me the opportunity to visit Taipei, which I am really grateful for. And well, I would go back to Taiwan in an instant, the food, massages and tea in Taipei were really good!

My next flight will also be to Osaka and will be on Etihad (also ranked Top Ten for Safety) and involve two transfers and take about ten hours longer, but cost 70 Euro less.


Finnair operates a fleet of mostly European-built modern aircraft, with an average age of between 6 and 22 years according to Airfleets, which makes the average age 13 years, so a relatively old fleet. This was certainly reflected in the In-flight Entertainment, but the cabin looked otherwise new.

However, despite the age of the airplanes, Finnair is one of the safest in the world, coming in at No. 8 in an Airline Ratings analysis.

Moomin livery on Helsinki to Osaka flight

They also make these planes look nice – the A350 we flew out on had Moomins painted on the hull, the one we came in on was decorated in Marimekko “Kivet” dots, which looked simple but elegant. The Marimekko theme continued with napkins in Economy, a nice touch in an otherwise spartan cabin. I really liked these design touches – you immediately know you’ve flying a Finnish Airline! The Germans are so boring when it comes to give their Lufthansa planes a fun design – retro and football is all they seem to do. Even on my only long-haul business class flight on one of the last 747’s built, the design was really meh.

On the Flight

Helsinki to Berlin was as much as an average short haul Economy Class flight you can get. A coffee would have been nice, but that was paid only, so those Economy folk only get water or Finnair’s signature “Blueberry juice drink”. I don’t know why people rave about it, yes, it tastes fine, but give me a fizzy drink over that bonbon water any time. In Helsinki, we got a bit of a surprise when we were bussed out to the cargo area where our Airbus 350 decorated with Moomins (a special Centenary Livery) was waiting. There were so few passengers, they didn’t even bother with a jet bridge.

So, the flight in was a glorified cargo flight with maybe 100 people on board – meaning every one got a three-seater row to themselves. It was great. I did read about that online somewhere before, that Finnair prioritizes cargo, but the flight back was certainly fuller, maybe two thirds full, still very nice, with an empty seat next to everybody.

The cabin was very bright, clean, pretty standard seats, okay leg room. In terms of amenities, you get a blanket.

Clean seats, good legroom (and a row to myself)

What really bothered me was the In-Flight Entertainment System. I was looking forwar dot some nice Japanese drama I would never catch otherwise. especially given that most other passengers were Japanese leisure travellers. But nope, The choice of films was not great – not many, not many Japanese films. And the flight map froze every 5 minutes. And the USB ports didn’t work. But having a row, I just had my lunch and then slept.

The flight attendants were great on the inbound leg. Very motherly older types on the way in, which I really like. Very reassuring and friendly, and they really looked like they cared. On the return, we got a younger crew who were run-off-the mill fine. The pilot was great, telling us he’s seen it far, far worse, and not to worry as we ascended through a thunderstorm with some pretty hard bumps. This was kjust days after a Singapore Airlines flight hit severe turbulence, resulting in many injured and one dead, and I am a nervous flyer at the best of times, so this was very reassuring to hear.

We also flew the Polar Route on the return, and all passengers were offered a certificate, which was a nice souvenir.

Food and Drink

So, on short-haul, you get the grand menu of water and blueberry juice in Economy. On the long-haul leg, I was really glad to have pre-ordered vegetarian meals, because the choice was meat and meat.

So, my vegan chickpea curry, it looked awful but tasted okay. Same for the breakfast. Absolutely no comparison to Turkish Airways which have beautiful Economy food. On the return, the food got even worse.

Finnair is not so strong on airplane food

You get a decent amount of soft drinks on board, with one alcoholic drink with the main meal. That was fine by me. A few snacks / self service snacks and drinks on such a long flight would have been nice. ON my Japan Airlines and KLM flights, they build some pretty fancy buffest in the galley which was certainly nice.

Finnair to Japan: Yay or Nay?

Overall, I would fly Finnair again because they have excellent safety ratings (the best in Europe) and offer some of the shortest routed to Japan from my home airport of Berlin. The flight experience is relatively spartan unless you are lucky and happen to be on one of those “we prioritise cargo” flights, but I have no way to check.

The Small Print

I flew Finnair from Berlin to Osaka (Kansai International) in May 2024. I paid 924 Euro for my return Economy flight, as always, all paid by myself. I signed up to the Finnair Frequent FLyer Programme to collect Avios Reward points but I can’t say much about that yet. I wasn’t asked to write this review, all opinions are my own etc.

I hope this helps in your decision whether to use Finnair on your next flight.

7 thoughts on “Flying Finnair to Japan: What is it like?”

  • Finnair wouldn’t have been top of mind when flying to Japan, but now it will be. it’s so great knowing about someone else’s experience, so that you have some guidance and expectations. Thanks for taking the time to share such a thorough review!

  • I’ve never flown Finnair, but I’ll definitely keep this post in mind for the future! It’s my pet peeve when USB ports don’t work on flights, and I’m always curious about the different food options on flights. Thanks for this helpful post!

    • Hi Tess, yes, the USB thing really bothered me – they weren’t working on both my flights. I did have my fully charged burner phone with the most important apps, but if you are really dependent on your phone for QR codes etc on a long flight, it’s not great, especially on a new plane like the A350.

  • I’ve considered Finnair because of the often very low price point, but have never tried it. I didn’t realize the safety record was this good, so that it reassuring.

Leave a Reply