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allrite
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Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:21 am

Kita. It means "north" in Japanese. That's where we were heading. North to Japan.

It also means "mouth" in Finnish. Further north, beyond Japan.

And it means "we" or "us" in Malay, the national language of my wife B's birth country.

Yes, for the first time we were going beyond Japan to Finland!

Sadly, "us" did not include the one member of our family for whom the word "Kita" was most meaningful of all. Our Finnish Lapphund/Japanese Spitz cross dog Kita who inspired this trip but for whom such travel was unfeasible.

This series of reports will feature a few firsts for us. Our first visit to Denmark, Sweden and Finland. Our first flights with Finnair and on the Airbus A350 and, for a couple of us, our first overnight cruise on a ship. There were many other little firsts as well that will be shared along the way. We also got to compare the Boeing 787 with the A350. And of course there was a stopover in Japan. So, come fly, sail, train and sled along with me northwards on Kita!



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This journey was booked in two parts. As readers of my previous trip reports undoubtedly know I have a propensity for booking trips to Japan. Travel around the long Australian summer school holidays is naturally quite expensive, so I got in quite early and booked flights with Jetstar to Osaka via Cairns when the opportunity arose. However, my wife B was adamant that she wanted to go elsewhere, especially as we visited Japan last October after working out the US was too expensive.

I knew I wanted to fly Finnair to Europe, but their connections from Australia are usually via Singapore or Hong Kong. I wanted to go via Japan. Fortunately, after keeping an eye on prices for quite some time, I found a Finnair sale that included flights to and from Osaka.


Our first flight, from Sydney to Cairns, departs at 6.15 AM so I have booked a room at the Stamford Sydney Airport for the night before. A year and a half prior B and Alex, our 10 year old son, stayed there before a similar flight and loved it, while I had suffered in the Ibis Budget days before. There are good views of the airport from the room and we watch a storm roll over Sydney in the evening.

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The next morning I wake up minutes before the alarm sounds at 4.30 AM. We rush to get ready and repack our bags, then head out into the waking dawn light.

Last time it was winter and dark. This morning they are pale orange and clear of heavy cloud. It gives me confidence for the flight.


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The walk back to the Domestic Terminal T2 feels shorter than yesterday. We print out our bag tags from the Jetstar automated kiosk and join the long queue to the bag drop desks. There's little time left before boarding, so B grabs a chocolate milk to go for Alex and herself. I've just had the latest round of antibiotics so can eat nothing.

The airport is busy, despite it only just opening for services for the day. We join the crowd at gate 54 and are soon boarding the aircraft.


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I sit at the fogged up window, 8A, and watch the day brighten as the aircraft fills up.

The cabin manager introduces herself, then Captain Geoff Bray, along with First Officer Troy Dixon, welcomes us to the flight. We'll be taking off to the south along the third runway, then turning inland, across Richmond, Narrabri and Moree towards Queensland.

A mostly smooth flight is expected.

Great!

Still, I turn on some relaxation music as we taxi out to the runway.

Quickly we are aligned with the runway and launching up across the bay, carefully turning at La Perouse to avoid subjecting the rich Eastern Suburbs to noise.


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Out to sea, turning and rising, passing through the thin cloud layer as we head back towards the land.

The airport is visible through gaps.in the cloud, the Olympic precinct, then the sandstone walls of the Blue Mountains and Hawkesbury River.


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Our fare includes $15 each worth of food, which isn't really needed now, so we buy bottles of juice and snacks for later. I can now eat again, so I buy sandwiches, but cannot finish them.

Most of the flight is above cloud. I'm so tired that I drift off with frequent microsleeps. It is a smooth flight and I am quite relaxed.


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Our route into Cairns seems a little different today. We head across bright green and plowed brown countryside. A river snakes through it and further inland I can see a tall waterfall feeding it, caved into bare rock.

Wind turbines spin languidly in the meagre breeze.


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We overshoot Cairns, who skies are bare of cloud, and descend into the airport from the north.


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A perfect flight and with perfect skies above I'm feeling confident about the next one.

We hurriedly collect our baggage from the belt as we are desperate to use the facilities. We are not in a hurry to take the long hot outdoor walk to the International terminal.

As B points out, there's a lot less in the International Terminal than the Domestic. There do appear to be some changes though.

After snaking our way through security and the duty free outlet we discover that the Cafe has gone. The only food outlets now are the adjacent Hudson's Coffee and the Cassowary Cafe.

There isn't much to do in the International Terminal so B and Alex just sit in a sunny spot and use their devices. I wander around, take photos and make use of the bathroom facilities, still feeling a bit queasy.


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They've pre-ordered lunches on the flight, but I haven't so I grab a meal from the Cassowary Cafe, which has a surprisingly decent menu.

Hours later an it is time to board. The weather has changed. It's windy now and small clouds drift across the sky. But it's not until I am seated inside the big silver Jetstar Boeing 787-8 that I can see they great grey storm clouds approaching.


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I think we'll get out in time.

This is my first departure towards the north that I can remember out of Cairns. Away from the clouds, then turning out to sea. But not too far!


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Usually we fly northwards across the Coral Sea, but this time are going along Cape Yorke Peninsula. Storm clouds sit inland, then we actually cross the northern tip of the peninsula.


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The Torres Strait Islands separate Australia from Papua New Guinea, green in a pale shallow sea. There are storm clouds over PNG, as always. Also a distinct difference between the north and south, separated by the mountain range running East-West through the country.

It feels like there are storm cells and high cloud all the way north to past Guam, a marker for where the weather usually improves. But the ride is smooth and I am relaxed. I have new noise cancelling headphones and they really do work. I just sit and stare out of the windows listening to my music.


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Meanwhile Alex and B are watching movies on the inflight entertainment system. I can't believe he has picked "Crazy Rich Asians"!

They have hot lunches of macaroni cheese and quiche. Towards the end of the flight I forgo the chance to eat and use my $15 credit to buy snacks to share.

In the last two hours of flight we glide smoothly over a carpet of cloud as the sun disappears quickly. We leave our turn into Osaka until the end, heading down through the cloud layer, seemingly fighting a bit, until at last we cross the threshold of the artificial island.

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We have arrived back in this familiar place.

Alex and B are hangry and desperate to revisit the airport sushi restaurant that Satoe and her mum took us to last time.

I can't eat and have to put up with convenience store food from the Lawson adjacent to our hotel much later in the night.

At least I get down to the hot spa to wash away the grime that somehow accumulates despite spending the day seated doing nothing. It is a relaxing way to end a long day of travel.
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:22 am

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I've long wanted to fly Finnair. I always envisaged them as clean and smooth, but will they meet my expectations?

After a buffet breakfast at the Hatago Inn we packed our bags and checked out. On the way to the Rinkutown train station we stopped in at the Trial Super centre, a combination of a supermarket and cheap department store. Picked up a few last minute items, then caught the train back to the airport.

Check in is smooth, my backpack encased in a Finnair plastic bag. Then more shopping at the airport, except it was mostly browsing.

Our Finnair Airbus A350 sits waiting for us at Gate 6. Once I stepped inside I am delighted to see that the interior was just as good as I imagined it to be. The A350 cabin felt more spacious than the 787-8 we'd flown up in (it's wider). The colours are white, with pale grey fabric seats with light green pillows and blankets.


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The crew are dressed smartly, some older, some younger, but all very friendly. Announcements are made in Finnish, English and Japanese.

There are decent sized setback screens running their Nordic Sky entertainment system. It has an interactive flight map and forward facing camera views from the tail and belly of the aircraft, along with a decent range of entertainment. I don't watch any movies on this flight, just stick to the map and views.





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My external view from the window is mostly blocked by the large wing with its curved wing tip. It's not as flexible as the 787 wing and I suspect it transfers more force into the cabin during turbulence.

Our take-off is to the north and we are soon above the clouds. Unlike yesterday's too familiar route this is my first time flying this path and in this aircraft, so I'm a bit on edge, despite the relaxing cabin.


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According to the map we head north through Japan before making a left turn to cross the Sea of Japan. I think we are avoiding China, for our path seems to be solely across Finland's erstwhile enemy Russia.

The seatbelt lights flash on briefly as he hit a bit of turbulence over the ocean, nothing major. I feel that the 787 handles it better, but it's always hard to tell if that's just me, my location in the aircraft, or the actual truth, because the ride is mostly smooth.


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I catch glimpses of the Siberian coastline as we cross it. The cameras forewarn me of interesting sights ahead. There are amazing views of the icy Amur River, of white mountain ranges and snowbound lands. Little evidence of people except for the very rare city and town.





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A generous lunch is served, the food catered from Japan. The options are sukiyaki chicken or a hamburger patty, which is what I go for, along with a cold noodle side, crackers, cake slice and lovely soft roll. It's not bad, but neither is the main amazing either.


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I try the blueberry juice and am an immediate convert.

Then we just settle in for the 10 hours of flight. The others watch movies, I listen to music and a podcast about music. I do play a few rounds of Bejewelled on the screen, but staring at it makes me feel queasy.

After passing across northern Siberia the sun sets, but it's never completely dark, there's always a glow from the south. Then as we approach Europe it rises again! It is a very short night!


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We are fed a hot supper, a choice of carbonara linguine or gluggy Japanese style salmon rice. I choose the latter and regret it, but Alex doesn't want his pasta so I have some of his. Very nice.


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With an hour to go the Northern Lights show commences, with the cabin mood lighting displaying patterns of blue, green and purple.


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It's time to make our descent down towards the flat blanket of clouds that has been beneath us for much of the last hour and a half. I wonder what weather lies beneath them.


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Down, down, down. The sequence becomes more urgent, the gear is down. But surely we've got a way to go?

Suddenly the snow capped pine trees appear, grey white fields, roads and we land. Just like that. This cloud layer is just above the ground!


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Wow! This is snow. This is a very different landscape that we've only experienced once in Japan and even that we wasn't the same as here.

It's a bit scary to discover that we'll be disembarking from a remote gate, meaning that we will be walking out into the minus temperatures and snow.


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Fortunately there's no slipping on the ice in my gripless shoes and we are soon inside the warm bus driving us to the terminal.

Vantaa's terminal building is overcrowded. We have to make our way through security and immigration before heading past the shops to our transfer gate.


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Though I have some Euros in my wallet we don't want to buy anything, tempting though some of design products look.

We have a couple of ours to wait for our flight to Copenhagen, unfortunately moving from a bridge gate to another remote stand bus trip. It's evening again now, though the sky glows with reflected light.


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Our next Finnair aircraft is another Airbus A321. This one is a bit old and a little worn, though the cabin still retains the Finnish freshness.

Little screens above us display the flight map and Finnair videos.


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Alex is soon asleep and I fall asleep as we taxi, missing the safety demonstration. Fortunately I awake in time to watch the de-icing process at the remote stand, the mechanical arms moving up and down spraying billowing clouds of steam and liquid across the wings and tails of the waiting aircraft.


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I watch as other aircraft lift up above the runway and suddenly disappear into the cloud as if swallowed up by some magic process. Then it is our turn.

The one hour forty flight is mostly smooth, just a few bumps on descent. Initially there is the Hellish glow of cities beneath the snow clouds, then blackness as we cross the sea.


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Free blueberry juice is served, other food can be purchased during the flight.

We descend into Copenhagen's airport, this time going to an air bridge gate. I've really enjoyed our Finnair flights, the airline even better than I'd dreamed of.


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Copenhagen's Kastrup Airport is very modern and much less crowded than Vantaa. I withdraw some Krone, but we make our way straight to the baggage reclaim. It's past midnight in Sydney and we are all utterly exhausted.


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We catch the train to the Copenhagen's Central station, then walk out into the bitter cold, a degree over freezing, to our hotel.

The Cabinn City is an utter disappointment. They need to learn from the Japanese when it comes to small hotel rooms. A bunk with a trundle bed. A shower that sprays on to the toilet floor. No luxury at all for three exhausted travellers. At least it's cheap, but I wish it was a bit more.


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Despite being so tired, almost hallucinating with exhaustion, we head out for dinner. We end up in the old town, then back to the station, acceding to Alex's demand for McDonald's, which did an even finer impression of cardboard than in Australia.


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So a disappointing end to a long day. Or was it two? Welcome to Scandinavia!
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:23 am

To read more and see other photos about our time in Europe and Japan please see my blog.

My wife's long wanted to visit Denmark. I think it's something about (Princess) Mary. We began by spending a full day walking around the sights of Copenhagen and, yes, that means stopping by the Little Mermaid statue. Our Copenhagen Cards turned out to be a waste of money as we didn't actually enter many sights, but just soaking in the historic European architecture was a wonderful experience after so long in Australia and Asia.

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The following day it was off by train and bus to the Lego House at Billund. Alex is nuts over Lego at the moment and it was a mixed blessing that Legoland Denmark was closed for the winter because we'd already been to two in Japan and Malaysia. Lego House, which has many hands on experiences rather than rides, was his highlight for the trip.

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A week prior to the trip I'd unknowingly injured my elbow and suddenly developed a nasty staph infection. Fortunately the antibiotics I was given worked, but they smelled and tasted horrible, made me feel sick, lead to restrictions on when I could eat and meant waking up in the night to take them. Combine that with the discomfort of the Cabinn sleeping experience and I'd had enough.

The next day we were supposed to fly Norwegian to Burgen, then the following day do the Norway in a Nutshell Flam Railway and fjord tour before training it straight to Oslo, a late night stay, then another train to Stockholm for a night. It would all be magnificent, but a lot of effort which I didn't feel like I had the energy for.

So on the train back from Billund we decided to cancel Norway and just head to Malmo across in Sweden that very night. We got off in Copenhagen, retrieved our bags from the Cabinn, returned to the station and straight across the Oresund Bridge (sadly at night so no great views) to our next country, Sweden. Eurail passes meant we had some flexibility in this regard and, despite the warnings, nobody came in to check our passports.

I really enjoyed Malmo and our hotel, the Duxiana, a complete opposite to the Cabinn (except that the bathroom floor also flooded). The historic squares were pretty day and night and there were some good museums, including one that takes you inside a recreation of an old control tower. I completely forgot to visit the Disgusting Food Museums, the original reason I'd wanted to visit Malmo. Now I think it was my body's response to the antibiotic being disgusting food enough.

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After two nights we headed for Stockholm, stopping off at the Ikea Museum along the way. That was a surprisingly interesting insight into both the company and the changes running through 20th Century Swedish society.

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We loved Stockholm. The beautiful historic Gamla Stan, the Vasa Museum, the ABBA Museum (well, they loved it more than I did), the Tekniska Museum of Technology with its mind control games and other fascinating exhibits. It was all so much fun that we almost missed our next mode of transport: The Viking Lines ferry to Helsinki!

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For Alex and I this was our first overnight voyage in a ship and B gets easily seasick. So I splurged on a four bunk bed cabin with a window and it was still better than the Cabinn. In the end it was a smooth enough ride, with B fast asleep through the roughest bits. Entering the black and white picture of ice and snow bound Helsinki harbour in the morning was beautiful.

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It's true that Helsinki may have a defecit of tourist sights for kids in winter compared with some of the other capitals, but I loved the architecture and, being originally a Melbourne boy, the extensive tram network. After a night we caught the day train up to Rovaniemi on the Arctic Circle.

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After much deliberation we had decided not to stay in the ice hotel, which was fortunate because I now had a cold and needed a good sleep. There were no Northern Lights to wake up to anyway, the sun going through a quiescent phase right now. That said, Rovaniemi was probably our highlight for the trip. The Santa Clause Village may be a total tourist trap, it may have been as cold as -20 degrees C, my cheeks in agony and my nose an icicle, but the husky sled ride was awesome. The reindeer sleigh ride was mild in comparison and (I hope I'm not spoiling it for anyone) they don't actually fly. The woodfire cooked salmon tasted so good at the end.

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We booked a sleeping cabin on the train for the overnight ride back to Helsinki. The upper deck cabin was really nice, quite roomy, power points, a shower and toilet built in. The shower water only runs for short bursts, but it's warm and the bathroom design is the best I've seen so far on a sleeper. So much nicer than the Sydney to Melbourne XPT I'd taken at the end of 2018. I really enjoyed the ride of VR, the Finnish railways service.

What we should have done is book a day trip to Estonia on the ferry, but we decided it wasn't worth it given our arrival time. Instead we walked past the ferry terminal looking for a toboggan hire place so Alex could go sledding in the park. We ended up buying one for 11 Euros in the city and Alex went sledding in a park a short walk from the hotel. Same the next morning as we froze in -15C watching him.

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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:24 am

We maximise our time in Europe by keeping busy on that final day, but the train is running ten minutes late and we are even worse. Along the way we farewell Finland's snowy landscape, then rush to Terminal 2.


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Checking in our luggage, it's then a long, long walk to our gate, encountering the same passport control officer as on our entry, queueing for a tax refund and finally using the bathroom as boarding starts.

It's another remote stand in the snow, but I have upgraded us to Economy Comfort and we now have priority boarding, so get an earlier bus.


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It's the same clean and fresh Finnair A350 interior as on our flight up, only it's dark outside this time. When the purser announces that boarding has completed we also notice how empty the cabin is, maybe 3 others. Standard economy was probably less than half filled.


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Our Economy Comfort seats are at the front of the economy section, have extra legroom (equivalent to the old 34 inch pitch standard), noise cancelling headphones and little Marimekko amenities purses containing socks, eye shades and a toothbrush and paste.


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The rest is the same as normal economy.

I watch us get pushed back from the gate on the bottom cameras, then the safety demonstration begins. I like the Finnair background music, but it's a no nonsense video with just the things you need to know. I notice that the crew don't participate except for pointing to the exits. No prop life jackets or masks.

I'm feeling very sleepy now and doze briefly as we taxi out, though am awake to watch the de-icing, as the aircraft is sprayed with foamy brownish liquid.


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Then it's a taxi out to the runway for take-off.

The skies are clear above tonight so there are no disappearing tricks as we rise above Helsinki, banking around until we are pointed at Russia.


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The cabin lighting changes from blue to evening orange. When we reach our initial cruise level the captain pipes up, but provides little information.

Meals are now served. The choices are a pork patty with rice and curry sauce (presumably Japanese style) or chicken fillet in pepper sauce with potato gratin, which we all select. Side dishes are cold soba noodles, a red cabbage and peanut salad, bread roll and cake.


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The actual flavours are a bit disappointing. It's okay, but not great food, especially after the previous meals we've been eating. Even the bread isn't the best.

After the meal B redeploys herself to an empty row to sleep. Eventually Alex does the same, three spare seats enabling them both to lie flat.


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Despite being really tired I can't sleep. My head cold means that lying flat is a bad option. Despite the near full moon, the view outside isn't particularly interesting. Cloud mostly blocks sight of the ground, apart from a few sparkling cities along the way.


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Though the supplied noise cancelling headphones are inferior to my owned pair I can't be bothered to change them over. Initially I listed to the soundtrack channel while showing the camera views on the screen. There's no indication anywhere of the actual music being played, but I'm pretty certain we reach "A star is born" when the music changes to a song I truly hate.

Alright, change to the relaxation channel until that turns to muzak.

The flight is smooth enough that I'll watch a movie instead. I look through the new releases and find nothing I want to watch. A few of them I've seen on previous flights. Ah, the 2014 Godzilla movie. That's appropriate and I like the director.

I actually finish watching it!

Now I flick over the the games screen. I play Bejewelled for a while, but the focus gives me a headache. Angry Birds, now there's an appropriate game. It's Finnish!

Completing all the levels occupies me for the remainder of this nine and a half hour flight through the night.

The crew pass through the cabin a couple of times serving water, despite us all being given a bottle as we entered the aircraft.

Eventually first light appears outside the window. The crew don't make me (or any other passenger) close my blind, so I get to enjoy the transition to day.


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Below all I can see is a blanket of cloud as we cruise over Siberia and northern China.


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I know when we've reached the coast when the skies get a bit rougher, though nothing too bad.


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The others wake. We are served breakfast, potato boat with creamed spinach. It's got chicken and egg as well, despite not mentioning it.


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It's okay, except for the spinach. The bread roll is still disappointing, but the cake is nice. With both meals I've asked for the blueberry juice which is the best thing about Finnair.

Our descent into Japan takes us across southern Honshu, over Matsue and Okayama, over part of Shikoku and Awaji Island, past the big Akashi suspension bridge. The pilot misses the cloud layer and our descent is mostly smooth.


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We curve around the bay for a landing in from the north. As we land we are pulled forward by the aggressive use of reverse thrust, then it is a long taxi past a number of other A350s, Asiana, Vietnam, Thai and a Malaysia Airlines taking off.


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Out through immigration, it's all so familiar. Alex is delighted that the Kansai Wide Area Passes that I buy act as regular tickets that go in the automated gates instead of the paper Japan Rail Passes that must be shown to staff.

A packed Haruka Express carries us to Shin-Osaka station. I'm so used to catching this train in the evenings that the scenery looks very different in daylight.


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From Shin-Osaka we have to change train to backtrack to Osaka station. We get a bit lost looking for our hotel. I'm so tired that I can barely open my red eyes. So it's disappointing that the Ibis sticks to the 2pm check in time.

We wander around through the covered arcades, full of restaurants, pachinko parlours and sex shops. Ever since our last trip Alex has been obsessed with sashimi. Eventually we find a restaurant that serves a variety of food including a sashimi plate for Alex, sukiyaki for B and a chicken bowl for me. It's so good!


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We return to the hotel right at check in time and shortly afterwards I'm fast asleep.
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:29 am

After a couple of weeks in Europe, Japan felt like a bit of a homecoming. Plus 7 degree celcius feels a lot warmer than minus temperatures.

I was really struck by the differences in architecture between the two regions. Old Europe is ornate, the highest buildings church spires. City Japan is dense, skyscrapers and neon, but most of the building exteriors are bland in comparison. It takes time for me to reset my vision, to know how to look to find the hidden beauty, the small things.

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Despite waking late every morning, we made the best of our time in Japan. Using Osaka as a base and, equipped with a Japan West Wide Area Pass, we spend the afternoons exploring the region.

First, a return to Himeji Castle, somewhere we hadn't been since our very first visit to Japan in 2003, catching it in the beautiful evening light.

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Then one of Japan's three great sights in Amanohashidate, riding chairlifts, a monorail, bicycles and a speedboat, along with an wonderfully decorated train.

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A soak in the onsen at Kurama in the mountains around Kyoto.

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On our final day Alex insists that we must take him back to the Kyoto Railway Museum due to his obsession with Japanese automated ticket gates. It's the coldest day so far in Japan and as we emerge from the museum we are quickly coated with huge white snowflakes. It's magical!

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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 2:30 am

We really are running late, so once back in Osaka we navigate our way through the pedestrian crush and grab our bags. Then we have to reverse the process. Now we decide to save ourselves the effort of changing trains in Shin-Osaka then fighting for an unreserved seat on the Haruka Express.Instead we catch the direct Rapid Airport Express. But we are standing in the wrong spot, because the rear four cars split for Wakayama. So by the time we rush up to the front cars there aren't enough seats left. So Alex and stand for most of the hour's journey.




I'm feeling more nervous about this flight than any other on the trip so far. The wind is gusting in Osaka and there are jetstream eddies to the south. But what really worries me are the storm clouds around Cairns. To the west is a potential cyclone.




I'm still not as anxious as I used to be. Though we are rather late for checking in, there is no queue at the counter. Alex insists on eating gyoza at the Kamakura restaurant. I don't feel like savoury food, so just have a pastry and hot chocolate at Choco Cro, a bit like the last trip.




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The passengers are already boarding by the time we reach the gate. Once on board our Jetstar Boeing 787-8 flight I notice how much tighter the cabin feels compared with Finnair's Airbus A350-900. Forget the tighter seat pitch and smaller screens, this is a low cost carrier.


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Once everyone is aboard, the red and blue boarding mood lighting changes to an urgent fiery red. Then to a calming blue as the cabin is darkened.

I want to know what the pilot will say, so I hook my noise cancelling headphones up to the entertainment system. I've found two albums to listen to, collections of James Horner and John Williams.




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I choose Horner to listen to first. Actually, I'm not sure it's the best choice considering that the first music comes from a great transport failure (Titanic) and the composer died in a plane crash.


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On the screen itself I display the map. Already I miss the Finnair A350's interactivity, as the map spends too much time on displays of stats and less on the close up position of the aircraft.


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Another Antonov An-124 in the freight area

The takeoff, to the north, is smoother than expected and we curve around the bay until we face south. As we move up through the cloud layers things get a bit bumpier and the seatbelt lights stay on until we reach our initial cruise level.



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The captain mentions that he has set the seatbelt lights off, but urges passengers to leave them on as a few bumps are expected along the way.




Indeed almost the entire seven hour flight is a bit rough. Nothing terrible, but there's a lot of high cloud and wind.



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None of us want to eat anything, so we use our $45 of credit to buy a couple of amenity packs with blankets. B and Alex watch movies, I stare out. I'm really enjoying the music and it is relaxing me. I play a bit of Bejewelled on the IFE, but I find myself feeling a bit sick staring at the screen.




The cabin lights darken.




I see the bright half moon rise through the windows on the opposite side of the aircraft. It looks huge. Out of my side there is not much to see, mainly featureless cloud, occasionally a few stars.


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And so that is how the flight goes. This time the clouds lie north of Guam and I see the island's lights out of the window, the only city lights until our destination of Cairns. There are some patches of smooth air south and I see us flying high over the clouds. I watch the constellation of Orion, the pot to us from the south, sink in the sky and begin to set below the horizon. Then the storms return over Papua New Guinea, flashing, but not frightening as we weave our way around them.




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The lights are switched on with an hour and a half to go. As we get closer to Cairns the air gets rougher and the storms closer, flashing brightly nearby. The weather bureau were concerned that a tropical low on the other side of Cape York would turn into a cyclone and the Cairns area has been experiencing heavy rain for days and there's wind as well.



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Although I didn't experience much turbulence on our A350 flights, I think I prefer the 787's response. The flexible wings appear to absorb more energy and the aircraft feels softer.




I am okay with the bumps as we descend into Cairns, through one cloud layer, then another. There is a very energetic storm cell to our right, constantly flashing blue-white and another responding on our other side if the flashes were anything to go by.




Finally the lights of Cairns' northern suburbs appear and we descend lower and lower until we touch the very wet tarmac of the airport.




Though we rush out through the long hospital like corridors of the International terminal and are quickly through immigration we face a significant wait for our baggage at the carousel. Then quarantine actually wants to x-ray our bags.




At last we are out. Now we have to rush to the domestic terminal, a long walk. It's raining steadily outside and the path isn't completely sheltered. The air is warm and sticky compared to what we've been experiencing lately.




We use the automated kiosk at the domestic departures to print out our bag tags then join the bag drop queue a little early. Once we are rid of our bags it's off through security to the Qantas Club lounge.


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We've had no breakfast, so the sausages, hash browns and scrambled egg are good, but what I really like is the fresh fruit and the (non-alcoholic) drinks. Both B and I fall asleep in the chairs for a short while. Then it's out to join the boarding queue for our Jetstar A321 flight down to Sydney, the last leg of the journey. I'm a bit amused that it's all A321s this trip for narrowbodies.


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Alex fights with me for the window seat. I let him sit there this once and immediately regret it, for he falls fast asleep. Captain Ed Bechtel is a North American by accent and tells us that it should be a smooth flight once we exit Cairns' weather. Good.



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As soon as the doors are closed and for the first few minutes of our flight the airconditioning system appears to belch fog. An announcement is made that it's just the humid air condensing with the cold (I knew that).


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I envy Alex's ability to sleep as we race up into the sky. It's very bumpy as we negotiate our path between the clouds and it stays that way for a while afterwards. It takes us almost an hour to exit the weather systems and emerge into scattered cloud with dry farms below.




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Again we've got $45 food credit between us and no desire to eat. I just get some model aircraft as I can't figure out anything more complicated.




I can't understand how so many people can't survive a couple of hours without going to the bathroom. Even the pilots join to the queue to the forward lavatories.




While Alex is using the bathroom I sneak into the window seat until his return. What a difference it makes actually sitting there. It's often the edge views that are the most useful, seeing what's coming up, what sky is above and looking down to get a sense of just how amazing flying is. I really dislike sitting anywhere else.



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Captain Bechtel announces that the skies over Sydney are mostly clear with an easterly breeze. Sounds good!




But as we descend I see towering clouds on either side. Will we have to go through them?




No.




We curve around and pass through gaps in the clouds. We are making an approach from the north. There's Hornsby, the Homebush Olympic Centre, Parramatta Road and Ikea. That "breeze" is something more powerful as we hit some nasty turbulence on our descent.






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IKEA, now where have I seen that before?



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As we land on the third runway there's a sense of relief that the journey has come to an end. Three weeks and thousands of kilometres.



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As we walk from our gate towards the exit we pass a recently opened Lego shop with old logos and we are briefly back in Billund again.


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A taxi returns us to our house. The pool is messy and the chlorinator needs repairs, the car is covered in sheoak needles and there is a huge amount of washing to do and we've got no food. I can barely keep my eyes open. Journey's over, we are home.

-------------------

This has to be one of the best trips we've had for a while. We really enjoyed Denmark, Sweden and Finland. They were clean, historic and easy to get around with public transport. The winter season meant not having to compete with hordes of tourists and the snowbound landscapes were so different to anything else in Australia. Yes it was cold, but that in itself was a difference. And I prefer cold to humidity and excessive heat, which is what life is after our return.

I still love Japan though. Every day was a good one and there remain so many more things to see and do there.

Finnair was everything I'd imagined them to be. The cabins bright and clean, the service professional but unobtrusive. The cabins looked fresh and pure, relaxing. Not perfect, as the quality of the meals left a little to be desired and their audio entertainment was too limited, but the games were reasonable and I'm a convert to the blueberry juice.

Jetstar was, well, Jetstar. I find them perfectly servicible and the inflight entertainment is a good bonus compared with other low cost airlines. The only real change from our many other flights was the food service. Rather than pre-purchased standard airline hot meals they are all the same buy-on-board meal packs. My suggestion is that if you have meals included as part of a Plus package or similar just go for the $15 voucher and order on board. Otherwise you actually lose value.

Interestingly, we flew back on JQ16 KIX-CNS and I rediscovered the other day that we were in the KIX terminal for their inaugural flight on September 9, 2007.

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Now, for the comparison of the Airbus A350 versus the Boeing 787 things are a little muddier. True I am comparing a flight on a low cost with full service airline, so we'll forget about those elements. The A350 cabin felt much airier, wider and more open. The external cameras were great, although this may be partly an airline selected thing. On the 787's side, I like the electronically dimmable windows, which mean never being totally prevented from looking out, and most of all the ride. I felt the A350 was firmer in what turbulence we did feel, while the 787 responded more softly, gently letting you down. Not the softness of the A380 however, which I don't like. But without flying on the same routes in the same conditions it's hard to say, and I have felt some pretty nasty bumps on a previous 787 flight. Still, so far the 787 comes out in front for me.

Speaking of bumps, you may have noticed fewer references to turbulence and anxiety in this report. I actually felt pretty good throughout this trip. After analysing the past few years of flights I feel like I've regained a lot more confidence. It was wonderful not having that shadow hanging over this trip, especially considering how bad the weather actually was in Cairns, for example.

This trip saw me fly almost as far in a couple of weeks as I did for the entire past year. What will the rest of 2019 bring? I don't know, except it had better be cheap!

Please take a look at my blog for further information about this trip.
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debonair
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:38 am

Hi, nice TR as always - and one more translation for you: KITA stands in German for Kindertagesstätte (Kindergarten).
 
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 10:11 pm

debonair wrote:
Hi, nice TR as always - and one more translation for you: KITA stands in German for Kindertagesstätte (Kindergarten).


Thank you! But my kid's quite a bit above kindergarten now! Though definitions 1,2 and 3 might work in the Urban Dictionary. :D
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teme82
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:37 pm

OH-LWA the first A350 of AY fle on it when it was brand new HEL-LHR-HEL :) For the return it's either OH-LWC or LWE can't really see the last letter on the reg. Next time come when it's summer in here and the boat trip to Tallinn is highly recommend.
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 07, 2019 11:52 pm

teme82 wrote:
OH-LWA the first A350 of AY fle on it when it was brand new HEL-LHR-HEL :) For the return it's either OH-LWC or LWE can't really see the last letter on the reg. Next time come when it's summer in here and the boat trip to Tallinn is highly recommend.


Hi Teme82, it was OH-LWE. I'm not sure your week of summer would correspond to our school holidays! :D Would love to have visited Tallinn, but I do need sufficient time to catch an Estonian train at least *one* station as my rules state that I have to ride a train in each country I visit! (Way of narrowing countries down, sorry Iceland).
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jrfspa320
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Fri Feb 08, 2019 2:23 am

Thanks for the detailed trip report! Northern Europe in winter is very brave!! Jetstar is generally fine as long as you dont have high expectations. I was tempted by the recent jetstar japan sale as i am yet to go, but the change in OOL or CNS makes the journey that bit longer!
Thats quite a detour going via japan also! Finnair seem to be quite cheap from SE Asia too, which is easier to get to, at least mentally! Finnair look good, i would to give them a try at some point.
Cheers
 
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Fri Feb 08, 2019 3:17 am

jrfspa320 wrote:
Thanks for the detailed trip report! Northern Europe in winter is very brave!! Jetstar is generally fine as long as you dont have high expectations. I was tempted by the recent jetstar japan sale as i am yet to go, but the change in OOL or CNS makes the journey that bit longer!
Thats quite a detour going via japan also! Finnair seem to be quite cheap from SE Asia too, which is easier to get to, at least mentally! Finnair look good, i would to give them a try at some point.
Cheers


Thanks for the comments! We had winter gear leftover from a visit to Japan in winter (we'd done all the other seasons) so we had to make use of it! After flying Jetstar every year since they were setup we know what to expect and that familiarity is rather comforting. After flying AirAsiaX and Scoot, we are all agreed that Jetstar is much preferred in this house.

I'm in two minds about flying via CNS and OOL. I used to like it because the individual lengths were shorter and they are daytime flights heading north, but now I'm back to feeling direct is better after catching QF to KIX last year. You also have to wake up early in Sydney to catch the flights to Qld, but they are domestic so it's easier than going through international in Sydney. Plus you can visit the beach for a few hours in OOL! :D

Finland via Japan is quite good time wise, with two blocks of under 10 hours and a stopover in between making it more pleasant. Unfortunately Finnair prices via Japan seem more expensive than from Singapore or Hong Kong and you can't book through to and from Sydney on either the Finnair or Qantas websites via Japan. My bookings were entirely separate, done on the Finnair and Jetstar websites.
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Kent350787
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Fri Feb 08, 2019 5:25 am

Thanks for your fantastically comprehensive report, and I'm glad it was an enjoyable trip. I see my own kids growing up but am still surprised at the occasional pic of Alex and that he is growing up too :)

I'm hoping October will be our first trip to Japan - never visted, although have transited Narita 4 times now. Will have to encourage my eldest to do a report for his school trip toGermany on Qatar at the same time.
 
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teme82
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Fri Feb 08, 2019 10:07 am

allrite wrote:
Hi Teme82, it was OH-LWE. I'm not sure your week of summer would correspond to our school holidays! :D Would love to have visited Tallinn, but I do need sufficient time to catch an Estonian train at least *one* station as my rules state that I have to ride a train in each country I visit! (Way of narrowing countries down, sorry Iceland).

Well you newer know... Last summer we had "proper" summer like 2 months in a row whit almost no rain. Temperatures being +20C or better.
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:30 pm

Kent350787 wrote:
Thanks for your fantastically comprehensive report, and I'm glad it was an enjoyable trip. I see my own kids growing up but am still surprised at the occasional pic of Alex and that he is growing up too :)


He's 10 years old. Only 2 more years of primary school. It's scary!

Kent350787 wrote:
I'm hoping October will be our first trip to Japan - never visted, although have transited Narita 4 times now. Will have to encourage my eldest to do a report for his school trip toGermany on Qatar at the same time.


October is usually quite nice in Japan and it's great for families. I gave Alex an iPod Touch (we left his iPad at home so he'd get off it) for the last two trips, installed the WordPress app and bought him a WordPress.com domain (you can get a site for free). He used the Touch as a camera and wrote some quite good blog posts on it, though he left out a few at the end. Works well. I actually used my (Android) phone for most of the past two trips rather than take a larger device, though it was a relief to type on a laptop again.

teme82 wrote:
Well you newer know... Last summer we had "proper" summer like 2 months in a row whit almost no rain. Temperatures being +20C or better.


Meanwhile summer here was 40+C, meaning a temperature range of more than 60C between our two locations....
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outbackair
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Fri Feb 08, 2019 12:50 pm

Another EXCELLENT report, as always. Thank you.
 
VHSMM
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Sun Feb 10, 2019 6:20 am

Great Trip Report Allrite. I flew Finnair ages ago when the A340 was its newest long haul aircraft. Can't recall much except surprise at disembarking at a remote stand - somethings don't change.
Flown: 727,737,747,757,767,777,DC9,DC10,A300,A319,20,21,A330,A340,A380,CRJ-200,BAe146,AVRO100,Saab340B,MD82,F100,Dash8
 
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Sun Feb 10, 2019 9:48 pm

outbackair wrote:
Another EXCELLENT report, as always. Thank you.


VHSMM wrote:
Great Trip Report Allrite. I flew Finnair ages ago when the A340 was its newest long haul aircraft. Can't recall much except surprise at disembarking at a remote stand - somethings don't change.


Thank you both! I recall first wanting to fly Finnair when they still had their MD-11s. I'm told Vantaa is being upgraded. It's way too busy now and I would have thought that Helsinki is one of those places where boarding by airbridge would be a good idea, though snow isn't as bad as heavy rain.
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Mon Feb 11, 2019 12:57 pm

allrite wrote:
Thank you both! I recall first wanting to fly Finnair when they still had their MD-11s. I'm told Vantaa is being upgraded. It's way too busy now and I would have thought that Helsinki is one of those places where boarding by airbridge would be a good idea, though snow isn't as bad as heavy rain.


They are expanding the non-schengen area. It should be finished by the end of 2019. And the new check-inn and security area should be done by 2021. It's the same architect agency that did the Oodi library in Helsinki center.
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Mon Feb 11, 2019 9:56 pm

teme82 wrote:
They are expanding the non-schengen area. It should be finished by the end of 2019. And the new check-inn and security area should be done by 2021. It's the same architect agency that did the Oodi library in Helsinki center.


That's good! We were mostly in the non-schengen area and didn't really have time to see the rest of the airport. The Oodi Library is quite impressive!

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MartijnNL
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 14, 2019 6:38 am

jrfspa320 wrote:
I was tempted by the recent jetstar japan sale as i am yet to go, but the change in OOL or CNS makes the journey that bit longer!

Usually for me two take-offs are better than one.

jrfspa320 wrote:
Thats quite a detour going via japan also! Finnair seem to be quite cheap from SE Asia too, which is easier to get to, at least mentally!

Actually it's not a detour at all. Sydney - Cairns - Osaka - Helsinki is 15,504 km, just 315 km more than a nonstop Sydney - Helsinki would be.

Travelling via Singapore might sound more logical, but is in fact the longer option at 15,560 km. So flying via Japan is shorter than via Southeast Asia.
 
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 14, 2019 10:23 am

MartijnNL wrote:
jrfspa320 wrote:
I was tempted by the recent jetstar japan sale as i am yet to go, but the change in OOL or CNS makes the journey that bit longer!

Usually for me two take-offs are better than one.

jrfspa320 wrote:
Thats quite a detour going via japan also! Finnair seem to be quite cheap from SE Asia too, which is easier to get to, at least mentally!

Actually it's not a detour at all. Sydney - Cairns - Osaka - Helsinki is 15,504 km, just 315 km more than a nonstop Sydney - Helsinki would be.

Travelling via Singapore might sound more logical, but is in fact the longer option at 15,560 km. So flying via Japan is shorter than via Southeast Asia.

Yeah that's why AY and JQ have signed code share agreement for AY's Japan to HEL flights and JQ's Japan Australia flights.
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Wed Feb 20, 2019 5:32 am

Hi allrite!

It certainly was a big trip report, and quite a unique and contrasting one too. :thumbsup: Great family memories here.

I am really glad you decided to travel in the northern winter, it certainly gives a valuable insight to this season as a tourist. :point: I loved the husky sled ride by the way!

I also liked the aerial views of SYD too though! :thumbsup:

Thanks! =
 
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Thu Feb 21, 2019 12:06 am

jrfspa320 wrote:
Thats quite a detour going via japan also! Finnair seem to be quite cheap from SE Asia too, which is easier to get to, at least mentally!

Actually it's not a detour at all. Sydney - Cairns - Osaka - Helsinki is 15,504 km, just 315 km more than a nonstop Sydney - Helsinki would be.

Travelling via Singapore might sound more logical, but is in fact the longer option at 15,560 km. So flying via Japan is shorter than via Southeast Asia.[/quote]

I thought that might be the case and I'm glad it bolsters my case for flying via Japan. :D

teme82 wrote:
Yeah that's why AY and JQ have signed code share agreement for AY's Japan to HEL flights and JQ's Japan Australia flights.


:cloudnine:

VapourTrails wrote:
I am really glad you decided to travel in the northern winter, it certainly gives a valuable insight to this season as a tourist. I loved the husky sled ride by the way!


The husky ride was awesome, but I've got to remember face protection next time! Winter trips to Japan and Finland now give me the ability to laugh at all those who claim Canberra is cold (except, to quote a Dutch colleague, "Australians might as well live under umbrellas because their houses are so badly insulated and cold."). :D
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lychemsa
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Sun Mar 03, 2019 12:30 am

What can one wear in such cold weather?
 
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allrite
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Sun Mar 03, 2019 10:29 am

lychemsa wrote:
What can one wear in such cold weather?


I'm the wrong person to ask, but layering is apparently the go, though I probably did a poor job of it. In Rovaniemi (-20C) I had some lined pants from Uniqlo, a Heatek thermal top from the same place and a down jacket with a wind/water proof jacket over the top and snow gloves (both from Kathmandu, a NZ/Australian outdoor shop). And a Thinsulate beanie from a cheap Japanese shop. Also some snow boots. What I lacked was a scarf or face cover and that hurt when the wind blew.

The other two used kairos, single use Japanese chemical heat packs that stay warm all day (the good ones).

The rest of the time in Europe I wore the same trousers and just the down jacket with a t-shirt underneath. In Japan, a fleece jacket and thin travel trousers (I did get cold now and then). Most of my stuff fit into a 40 litre backpack, including spare running shoes. We had 50 litre and 70 litre roller bags (actually convertible to backpacks) that held the rest of the clothes, so no giant suitcases of cold weather gear.
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teme82
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Re: Kita: Jetstar and Finnair SYD to CNS, KIX, HEL and CPH and more (Big!)

Sun Mar 03, 2019 11:35 am

allrite wrote:
lychemsa wrote:
What can one wear in such cold weather?


I'm the wrong person to ask, but layering is apparently the go, though I probably did a poor job of it. In Rovaniemi (-20C) I had some lined pants from Uniqlo, a Heatek thermal top from the same place and a down jacket with a wind/water proof jacket over the top and snow gloves (both from Kathmandu, a NZ/Australian outdoor shop). And a Thinsulate beanie from a cheap Japanese shop. Also some snow boots. What I lacked was a scarf or face cover and that hurt when the wind blew.

The other two used kairos, single use Japanese chemical heat packs that stay warm all day (the good ones).

The rest of the time in Europe I wore the same trousers and just the down jacket with a t-shirt underneath. In Japan, a fleece jacket and thin travel trousers (I did get cold now and then). Most of my stuff fit into a 40 litre backpack, including spare running shoes. We had 50 litre and 70 litre roller bags (actually convertible to backpacks) that held the rest of the clothes, so no giant suitcases of cold weather gear.


Where should I start.... As a native Finn I'm used to the cold winters. And it also helped that I did my military service on a small island in the Gulf of Finland in winter time. Yeah -25 Celsius and 25m/s wind is nice when you are out there doing stuff. I think the important part is to build layers over layers. Have good quality underwear and proper winter clothes on top. On the head wear when it's cold I use ski mask under a beanie. That's about it...
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