Norway is quite a distance away from Hong Kong. At the peak summer season, I was worried it would be a costly flight even if going the long way through the Middle East. Luckily, Finnair had a very affordable fare of just over HKD$5600 with a short stopover in Helsinki. While I have visited Helsinki before, I was flexible to take a 2-day break here to head outside the city, where I wasn't able to cover last time.
Advertising themselves as a quick way to Europe, the advertised flight times are great - 10.5 hours into Finland and just 1.5 hours more into Oslo. This journey into Europe would be far less punishing than through Dubai.
After a 2 week drive around Norway, it was time to head home with many wonderful memories. My journey home will start with a 8:15am flight out of Oslo to Helsinki and connecting to an afternoon departure from Helsinki to Asia.
Morning flights are quite a pain, but luckily, trains make the long trip to the airport far from town in less than half an hour. At 101 NOK, NSB offers a far cheaper option than the other express train despite similar journey times.
Upon arrival at the airport, I headed up 2 sets of escalators and towards the edge of the terminal to find a long line snaking out from Finnair's check-in desks. There was 1 manned priority counter but the other 2 counters were not manned 2 hours before departure.
It took about 15 minutes for 1 additional staff to open a counter for regulars. By then, I had already printed my bag tags and boarding passes from the kiosk, but still needed counter assistance to drop off the luggage. Yet again, like in North America, these kiosks just add an additional layer of bureaucracy to the passenger experience. What used to be a 1-stop shop now is 2 stops.
I was among the early ones that arrived 2 hours before departure. By the time my bag was on the way, the line had snaked much further beyond the desks towards the windows.
Other than the long check-in experience, the terminal looked nice. Airy and spacious, it had some wooden roof finishings that give a cozy touch. Even the counters for Norwegian, the low cost carrier, were stylish and not so crowded at all at this early hour.
The minimum wage in Norway is atrociously high, so it is not surprising humans are removed from various tasks throughout the airport. To enter the air-side secure area, I just needed to scan my boarding pass. There was no need to check whether my ID matched the boarding pass
Security was a breeze and the anti microbal signs on the trays looked unique. Soon, I was walking towards the gate. The nice wooden features continued and the terminal looked huge.
However, shop prices were even higher than the already ridicious ones in the city.
Norway might be associated with salmon these days, but cod once flourished around their waters as well. Dried cod filets can even be eaten as a snack.
There are also other chilled souvenirs to take home. However, the salmon won't survive my long-haul journey back to Asia.
The caviar tube stirred my interest. Wouldn't it be nice to serve that on toast every morning?
SAS seems to have a big operation at this airport with lots of planes and staff rolling around between gates in scooters.
Otherwise, I browsed around the shops to remind myself how expensive food is in this country. I thought Hong Kong is already an expensive place, but the gum and mints here are easily double the price back home. My next stop would be Finland, where prices would be a bit more normalized.
Just shy of 8am, there are many regional departures already. Scanning the boards, I recognize Bergen and Trondheim, places I visited as part of my road trip.
With a connecting flight in Helsinki and exiting into the city for lunch, I wasn't interested in buying any more cargo for the trip home. Although the boarding time was written as 8:15am, the plane had only arrived just minutes before that. I had my doubts whether the A320 could be thoroughly cleaned on time, but we ended up pushing back just a few minutes behind schedule.
The cabin was clean with spacious legroom. There are no personal TVs so I relied on the flight map on the overhead screen. While reading material was behind the headrest, there was still a netted pocket for storage below.
We took off into a sunny sky for the hour-long flight to Oslo. As we lifted off, I noticed Qatar's plane taxiing. Had I chosen the Middle East transit option, it would have added many more hours to the journey.
The skies got cloudy over Sweden and I turned my attention to the in-flight service. Food was not free while I settled for the complimentary blueberry juice, which was light and not excessively sweet. A menu showing the prices was in the seat pocket - much cheaper than the atrocious prices in Norway.
Finnair advertises itself as a fast way to get to Europe. The next flight to Asia would only take less than 10 hours.
The skies cleared out again as we approached Finland's shores and our descent began. There were some bumps despite the blue skies on final approach but we touched down more or less on-time before the lunch hour. The captain made a lengthy announcement on tight connections, being fully aware there was 1 flight that may be problematic and noting it has been delayed.
We arrived at 11:09am, just a few minutes behind schedule.
Finnair uses the relatively newer Terminal 2 and it was a quick walk to the exit. From there, it is about a 5 minute walk to the train station located in between the 2 terminals. Download the HSL app ahead of time and buy your train ticket there for an 80-cent discount vs. the 5 euros cash price at the physical machine.
Despite the similar journey time into the city as Oslo, 5 euros is substantially cheaper than the 101 NOK NSB train.
With almost 6 hours before my next flight to Hong Kong, I went into the city to explore the Hakaniemi Market and to enjoy my favourite seafood soup. They also had a lot of smoked salmon on offer as well as seafood on breads, marinated herring, and sausages. My creamy salmon soup with coffee was only 10 euros and was delicious. Outside, there were fruit and vegetable stalls in tents selling in-season produce such as strawberries, sugarsnaps, and blueberries.
The popular tourist attractions were bursting with Asian tourists. Seems Finnair has been very successful in attracting the Europe-bound crowd.
The Next Leg : AY 101 Helsinki - Hong Kong
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