KF847 HEL-BCN MD-90 seat 1C

Not many changes at HEL were visible, but lots are afoot. The Helsinki Hilton Airport will open in another few months, work on the expansion of the non-Schengen wing is well underway, and even the long-awaited rail link is nudging forward and might start construction next year, for theoretical completion in 2013.

Check-in was quick and painless, security was neither — with only one point open, there was a long queue, and for the first time on this trip, I even had to remove my laptop from its protective padding. Once on the other side, with last-minute souvenir duties taken care of (reindeer meat? check. Moomin toy? check.) I headed for the SAS lounge, where I was positively surprised to find an approximation of real food in the form of meatballs and potato salad, plus free wireless. Alas, the meatballs were still frozen on the inside, but you get what you pay for…

More MD-90s, this time in Blue1 colors. It’s a four-hour flight to BCN and the only service that doesn’t cost money (yet?) is using the bathroom. Those salads were looking and those pizzas were smelling surprisingly good, but most of my fellow passengers seemed to stick to liquid refreshments. (Counting the number of glasses on his table, the hardy fellow in Seat 1H was up to 7 Jack & cokes before two hours were up.)

I can’t remember the last time I’ve caught myself staring at an SAS group flight attendant’s shapely … — but then again, I can’t remember the last time I flew an SAS flight where the average age of the crew was below 60. This is evidently one of the advantages of running sister airlines that don’t have to hire legacy staff.



SK708 ARL-HEL MD-90 seat ??

Despite prediction of ATC doom, we landed at ARL only half an hour behind schedule, and I made it to the onward gate (just) before they started boarding. Once again, the contents (if any) of SAS’s Arlanda lounge shall remain a mystery.

The plane looked oddly retro and spacious as I boarded, and it took me a moment until I realized why — it was an MD-90, with its trademark 3-2 seating and marginally less terrible seat pitch. I was in the first row of Economy, just behind Extra, but on this 40-minute hop it didn’t really matter.

Soon enough the Finnish coastline came into view and, with a start, I realized I was looking at central Helsinki. There’s the Salmisaari powerplant and the apartment I lived in and the office of the company I used to work for and across the bridge is Nokia HQ and the red brick buildings of Helsinki U of Tech and the giant commuter/shopping hub of Leppavaara… and then we were a bit too far out in the ‘burbs for a city boy like me to recognize anything anymore, and a few moments later we had landed.

Helsinki greeted me with 5-degree temperatures, grey skies and a drizzle of rain. A friend had offered to pick me up at the airport and he told me that mere hours earlier, on what should be a summery May Day, it had actually snowed briefly. Welcome to Finland!