This is going to be my fourth and probably final trip to Helsinki in 2019. With tier points earned so far, and future tier points from travel already booked, I should have enough now to exceed the 5000 I need to make Gold Guest List this year. I’m not sure if I’m happy or sad. Helsinki’s not the most exciting of cities, but it does have a certain charm and appeal, not least experiencing it in the depths of Winter. I also realise that my tier point trips there have all been too short to spend time exploring Suomenlinna, the fortress island and world heritage sight nestled in the harbour which really needs a full day.
Heathrow to Helsinki (80 Tier Points)
The quality and variety of lounges in Heathrow Terminal 3 still makes it an appealing place to start a journey. An Amex Centurion Lounge for Platinum and Centurion Card holders (and up to 2 guests) will also be opening in 2019 to add further choice. Today I’m flying on the BA794 with a scheduled departure time of 13:50 which makes the Qantas Lounge an option. It opens at 08:00 so timing didn’t work on some of my previous early morning departures from this terminal this year. There’s a huge array of alcoholic drinks and a bar on both levels, but one highlight of this lounge is the truly exceptional Dilmah tea that they serve. It’s the first time I’ve tried it, and I have two cups before switching to Tanqueray 10 and Tonic.
I’m quite used to seeing the new A320 neo aircraft on this route – being a longer route it benefits more from the lower in-cruise fuel burn of the newer aircraft – but today BA are operating an A320 ceo (current engine option), G-EUUG, first delivered to BA mid-2002. As with my flights to Helsinki earlier in the year, it passes as smoothly and predictably as ever.
Hilton Hotel, Strand
For this trip there’s a change of scene with hotel. I’ve booked a Hilton, but one in the centre of Helsinki called the Strand. It’s next to the water and quite smart and comfortable. A slight delay in the flight, the time zone difference and overall travel time mean it’s dark upon arrival, and I crash out in the room.
Helsinki to Heathrow (80 Tier Points)
On Sunday there’s time for a little walking around the centre.
Before taking the familiar express train from Helsinki Central Station to Terminal 2 at the airport.
One of the agents at the airport directs me to the Finnair lounge, a much better experience then the Almost@Home lounge that is the temporary home for BA and other OneWorld customers. I was turned away from this lounge earlier in the year in the morning due to capacity issues. Today it’s busy, but a way from capacity. Only the business lounge is available, the first class lounge is still undergoing refurbishment.
The return flight is also on an A320 ceo, this time G-EUUA, also delivered new to BA in 2002. The seasons are definitely changing; it’s now a landscape of green fields and no longer the blanket of white on previous trips.
The approach into Heathrow is from the east today, and takes us over the docklands and the city. There’s little in the way of low lying cloud, so some great views of Docklands and the O2 Arena before landing safely back at T3.