Extra long flights are becoming more and more the norm these days but if you are a solo traveler like me any flight more than eight hours can become quite unpleasant and downright stressful. Because I live in Louisiana, for any trip overseas whether it’s towards the East or West, my total travel time is always lengthy. Typically, I book a direct flight from New Orleans to either New York or Los Angeles for my first leg of any international journey. From either of these cost saving hub cities, I strive to find another direct flight to my final destination which has a layover of not more than four hours unless I want to make the connecting city a stopover destination.
Business Class Ticket Deciding Factor
In addition, when I fly over the Atlantic or the Pacific Oceans or when an intercontinental flight is more than 8 to 9 hours, I opt for a business class ticket. Even though many of the newer aircraft provide a better flight experience, being crammed in Economy class with substandard food and non-lie flat seats has become too off-putting for me at my age. This is no way to start an affordable luxury solo adventure!
Business Class Tickets Are Becoming More Affordable
With the advent of discounted, all-business class airlines such as La Compagnie, plus, the increasing demand for reasonably priced business class tickets, more and more of the major airline carriers are rethinking their business model and are now offering an upper-class experience at a competitive price. Aer Lingus, Finnair and Royal Air Maroc are 3 examples of major airlines that you can fly business class for less!
US To Tokyo Business Class Flight Options
In preparation for my recent trip to Japan, I scoured my favorite flight booking sites such as Kayak, Google Flights, Expedia and FlightScanner to find a well-priced, business class ticket from the US to Tokyo. I compared the ticket prices and the quality of the various airlines offering flights to Tokyo. The price sweet spot for me is between $1,500- $2,850 for most business class flights.
Los Angeles To Tokyo
Going from West to East out of Los Angeles is slightly less in terms of flying time. The best non-stop, business class tickets from Los Angeles to Tokyo are with Singapore Air, $2,999, and Japan Airlines, $2861. Both of these options had acceptable price points but the flights were 11 hours long. As I shared earlier, that is too long to be up-in-the-air for me. I much prefer to have a connecting flight with a reasonable layover stop to breakup my journey. For those of you solo travelers who don’t mind these ultra-long, non-stop flights these 2 options are excellent. Singapore Air has consistently ranked in the Top 3 airlines for overall flight quality and service every year. In addition, China Eastern had a 20 hour flight with a 3 hour layover in Shanghai competitively priced at $2,151. This option was definitely affordable but read on and you find out why I didn’t select this flight.
New York To Tokyo
Flying the Northern Route, East to East, from New York JFK to Tokyo, Japan Airlines offered a non-stop flight for $6,245 which was entirely too costly for my budget. Air China offered a 22 hour flight with a 5 hour layover in Beijing for $2,889 which was OK but not as affordable as the China Eastern ticket out of Los Angeles.
Finnair, an airline that offers a superlative business class flight experience, priced the New York-Tokyo ticket at $2,297. The total flying time for this option was 24 hours which for many fliers this would not be the smart choice but I preferred this option because it gave me an 8 hour stopover in Helsinki which gave me enough time to explore this Nordic city for the day. In addition, on the return flight I had an overnight layover which provided me even more time to delve into Helsinki’s sites. Including the added hotel expense of $250 needed for my overnight return flight, the total Finnair option came to $2,547.
Yes, I chose the longer flying time but it added another travel destination to my trip at no added cost, a compelling “twofer” for the travel junkie that I am!!
Finnair Business Class Flight Review
Now for my Finnair New York to Tokyo Business Class flight review. This was not the first time I had flown with Finnair, so I knew the quality was wonderful for the price. The cabin’s business class seat configuration is comfortable, 1-2-1, with many single seats by the window which is great for the solo traveler who likes privacy and only 2 seats in the middle so everyone has an aisle for easy access. Each seat has several incline options with a totally lie flat sleep function.
Travel Tip: Avoid business class options that do not offer a seat that lies completely flat. It is much harder to fall asleep on a slight incline!
Finnair Cabin Service
The cabin service begins with a glass of champagne or juice once you have been comfortably seated. Shortly after takeoff, you are given a hot towel to wipe your hands and then a welcome, Finnish canape paired with another drink of your choice. Within the next hour and a half your tray table will be decked in linen and your several course meal will be served on fine Finnish china. A menu is supplied where you have several appetizer, entree and dessert options to make your dinner selection. An hour before landing a cold or hot breakfast is provided.
Finnair Entertainment Options
Likewise, there are many entertainment options to choose from whether it’s music, movies or games that you like to indulge in while flying. In addition, you are able to track your flight’s progress with an interactive map. You even can watch your flight’s path via a live camera! I chose to sleep because I wanted to be fresh when I hit the streets of Helsinki and sleep I did. We were landing in Helsinki before I knew it!
Convenient Helsinki Airport To The City Center Train
Helsinki has a modern airport with many desirable amenities. One its best features is the train which leaves every 15 minutes that takes you directly into Helsinki’s main train station located in the city center. Within 20 minutes after landing I hopped on the train and was in downtown Helsinki in about a half an hour. Once in the train station, I stored my carryon in the Luggage Storage facility, found the travel information desk, got a city map and hit the streets.
Helsinki Stopover: Day One
My first stop was an early, light lunch at Helsinki’s most famous cafe, the historic Cafe Ekberg. Next ,I strolled through Helsinki’s Design District and did some window shopping. Last, I visited the famous Kamppi Chapel, an architectural wonder. It is an oval shaped structure with no windows which has a minimalist, elegant interior aptly suited for some personal quiet time. I sat peacefully in this special church, meditated and said a few prayers for my family. Heavenly!
The train station was a 5 minute walk from the Kamppi Chapel which put me back at the airport for 3:30pm, two hours before my flight left. Loved my stopover time in Helsinki!!
Finnair VIP Lounge
Before boarding my flight, I made a brief stop in the Finnair VIP lounge for a cup of full-bodied Finnish coffee and a pastry. Finnair’s lounge is a cut above. The food buffet is outstanding and all type of beverages are available. The many single seating options are great for the solo traveler who wants to relax or get some work done on their tech devices. The wifi is strong and free in the lounge. In addition, there are plenty of charging ports to recharge all of your tech items. The stellar Finnair VIP lounge at the Helsinki airport is not to be missed.
Helsinki To Tokyo Flight
The last leg of my Northern Route flight to Tokyo which mostly flew over Russia was not a disappointment. Upon entering the aircraft we were greeted by the Head stewardess dressed in a Japanese kimono which I found to be a special touch.
The business class cabin was similar to my initial Finnair flight with the same layout, the same lie flat adjustable seat and similar inflight Entertainment options. The only real difference was in the menu selections. On this flight we had both Finnish and Japanese food choices to choose from. I went for the Japanese cuisine and started practicing eating with chopsticks, something I still am not to adept at. Just like my first flight, it was over before I knew it. I slept most of the flight and consequently, was ready to start exploring Tokyo once we landed.
Return Flight And Stopover Day Two and Three
The return journey was of the exact same caliber but on the way home I had more time during my Helsinki stopover which allowed me to do some more sightseeing, shop the Market by the harbor, visit the Helsinki Museum and have a light meal at Cafe Kappelli, a place where I always return to when I am in the city.
Likewise, I am a repeat customer to the five star Hotel Haven which is located right on the harbor. Great service, wonderful breakfast in an Old World setting, large, well-appointed rooms all for $250 per night, affordable luxury at its best.
For solo travelers who don’t like ultra long, non-stop flights and who have the time to slow travel, choosing an airline such as Finnair that offers a free stopover, like the one on this New York to Tokyo flight, is a great way to get a two destination ticket for the price of one.
Travel Tip: The Helsinki stopover with Finnair can be extended up to one week. This perk would allow you to see more of Finland, catch a ferry to Tallin or a train to St Petersburg. For those of you unfamiliar with what Stopovers are all about, listen to this episode of my Solo Travel Talk podcast on this topic.
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Author: Astrid Clements
Astrid Solo Travel Advisor CEO and founder, Astrid, has spent over 40 years traveling around the world. She is passionate about embracing the world’s diverse cultures and sharing with others the global need and personal benefit of cultural literacy. Her focus is on affordable luxury travel that is both substantive and fun! To read more about her and each one of our Solo Travel Advisors, head over to theAbout page!