116-118 (Finland 2016)

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116. Edinburgh-Stockholm (SAS) 14/04/16: This trip had been booked six, long months previously. All my hopes and prayers had finally been answered; Finnair were starting a direct Helsinki-Edinburgh route. No more Stockholm-Arlanda, and no more six-to-ten hour journey times. Naturally, having probably single-handedly created the online demand for the route with my constant searching, I wanted to be on the first direct flight from Edinburgh to Helsinki. But after initially being offered for around seventy pounds, the prices shot up to over two hundred; surely too much to pay just for the novelty of being on the first flight? But then I realised that the actual first flight would be from Helsinki to Edinburgh; what if I flew out a few days beforehand with one of my usual carriers, had a weekend in FInland, then returned on the landmark flight? This turned out to be a much more sensible and cheaper option.

After so many visits, I naturally have several friends spread across Finland, and I’ll always try to catch up with them if I’m in their neighbourhood. So it was just a little bit unfortunate when it transpired that one of them, Miira, would actually be arriving for a weekend in Edinburgh on the exact same dates that I would be in Finland. To add insult to injury, she would even be arriving on the same aircraft that I was departing on. I had hoped that we could try and arrange to pick the same seats on our flights, so that maybe she could hide some chocolate or something under the seat for me, but it didn’t happen. But as I stood at the gate, watching the aircraft arrive and the passengers disembark, I did try and keep my eyes peeled for a tall, blonde girl coming down the steps, (not easy on a flight that had just arrived from Stockholm). Strange to think of one of your friends being on the same aircraft just before you…

117. Stockholm-Helsinki (SAS) 14/04/16: Me and SAS had seen plenty of each other over the last eighteen months, but there was every chance that this might be the last time we flew together. Naturally I had accrued a considerable amount of Eurobonus points in that time; not enough for a reward flight, but certainly enough to purchase some free beers on board. But when I had ordered said beers and handed over my Eurobonus card as payment, the stewardess looked a little confused, as if I had just handed her a teddy bear with its legs missing. Apparently using points to buy goods onboard wasn’t that common. I actually had to use my credit card as payment as well, as they had no way to tell if I had any points on my card. I don’t know if that was due to a fault in the card reader, or if was the usual practise, but it was an awful lot of hassle that I’m not sure I could be bothered going through with again.

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118. Helsinki-Edinburgh (FInnair) 18/04/16: Finally. Being a bit of an aviation geek by now, I knew that airlines generally made a bit of a fuss when a new flight was launched. So I arrived at Helsinki-Vantaa in a good mood, despite having to get up at half-five on a Monday morning. When I arrived at the gate, the airport had certainly made an effort; free tea, coffee and oatcakes were laid on for the departing passengers. A large display, (with a slightly rubbish photograph of Edinburgh), proudly announced the launch of today’s new route. And there was even some bagpipe music drifting around the departure lounge, provided by a guy in the corner with a laptop. I happily got in the spirit of things, getting my picture taken with the sign, and showing some of the marketing girls some real pictures of Edinburgh on my phone. They were actually quite impressed that I had flown to Finland specifically to be on this flight, something I don’t think any other Scottish people had done. The flight was fairly standard, although I did get a free drink; when the drinks service came round and I asked for a beer, I was happy to pay for it. But the purser went to the front of the cabin and returned with a Karhu, and told me not to worry about it when I made to pay for it. I had noticed business class was practically empty, so he probably had a surplus of complimentary drinks sitting down the front.

As we started our approach to Edinburgh, I noticed the crew were actually getting quite excited, taking every opportunity to peer out the windows at the landscape below, even taking pictures. I supposed it must be a novelty for them, flying into a new city, even if they were only going to see it from above before leaving an hour later. But I noticed that they kept looking out of the wrong side of the aircraft. So when the purser passed, I got his attention, and explained that, when approaching Edinburgh from the East along the Forth estuary, we would have a view of the entire city to the port side of the aircraft. He was grateful for the local info, and it was only fair that I had told him; I did owe him a beer after all. Plus I couldn’t bear the fact that people were looking at Fife and getting all excited, thinking it was actually Edinburgh.

On arrival, I knew that we would get a water salute from a few fire tenders on the apron, and I wasn’t disappointed; something to tick off the list. But we had an extra welcome waiting for us at the gate, as we were piped off the aircraft. The tarmac was crawling with photographers, and pretty much every passenger stopped to take pictures and video too. For once, nobody was in any rush to get out of the cold and into the terminal. Finally, the crew came down the stairs and posed for more pictures with the piper in front of their aircraft. There were smiles all around, everybody certainly seemed very happy that Finnair were finally in Edinburgh, nobody more so than me.

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