Andrew’s experience flying American to Helsinki

Andrew, the contest winner for the Helsinki trip, graciously offered to share his thoughts about the trip, which you’ll find below.

I was thrilled to have won Lucky’s contest for a trip to Helsinki on American’s seasonal route from ORD-HEL. Lucky asked me to write a guest post about the experience, so here it goes.

At O’Hare, we boarded our 767-300 for Helsinki (painted in the new livery) and departed on time. The crew was all smiles, and we were in for a good flight.

I think the reason business class seats are wider than those in coach is to account for the weight gain you experience as a result of all the food they put in front of you. It was all quite good…here are some examples:

Shrimp appetizer

Beef filet main course


As a welcome amenity, Lucky generously gave me a pair of Shanghai Tang pajamas. When it was time to sleep, I put them on. Although I think I looked a little like the premier of North Korea, I proudly wore them and felt only moderately self-conscious among a cabin of people wearing normal sleepwear.

Unlike Lucky, who has trouble sleeping on planes unless it’s on a fully-flat king-size bed in a private suite after a hot onboard shower, I would have no problem sleeping soundly atop a pile of angry scorpions with Nickelback playing in the background. Thankfully, AA’s business class product was noticeably more comfortable than that – it was like falling asleep in a lounge chair. I had no problem getting a few hours’ sleep. (I also watched Identity Thief, which Lucky and I agree is an instant classic.)

Helsinki was a bit quiet this time of year, but full of charming architecture and scenic streets. On our cab ride from the airport to our hotel around 9 am (a particularly hellacious time for gridlock back home in DC), there wasn’t much traffic at all, and few people were walking around outside (despite the fact that the temperature was perfect and there was hardly a cloud in the sky).

When we checked in at the Hotel Kämp, we were a little apprehensive, as the people at the check-in desk next to us had just been told that their room wasn’t ready. Thankfully, ours were (pro tip: always travel with an SPG Platinum member). Despite sleeping on the plane, I needed some more rest before I could be confident that I would not be mistaken for one of the bad guys from World War Z.

The Hotel Kämp was really beautiful, and the staff were all friendly. I think there were a few instances when service could have been a bit better; for example, I needed a new room key at one point and Lucky left one for me at the front desk, but the front desk person I spoke to was unaware of this and could not verify my identity (I wasn’t listed on the reservation even though I provided ID upon check-in). She would not give me a new room key until she accompanied me up to my room. Not a big deal, but the whole thing was a little odd (although she followed me to my room, I didn’t have to prove that the room actually belonged to me). In general, though, the location of the hotel is unbeatable, and it was a really comfortable place to stay.

My room at Hotel Kämp


Lucky and I also had the chance to eat dinner with a Finnair executive and hear her perspective on the industry and Finnair’s strategy, which was very cool. On our last day, we got a behind-the-scenes tour of Helsinki Airport (which is great, by the way – if you have the chance to connect through there, I definitely recommend it, especially if you aren’t a fan of the pandemonium that occasionally occurs at Heathrow). We hung out in the Finnair lounge prior to boarding our flight, which was really well-designed and felt tranquil and inviting.


Finnair Lounge

Finnair Lounge

Our flight back had a crew that was just as friendly as the people on the outbound, and some more yummy food. The flight was over even more quickly than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.

Crab cake appetizer

Chicken entrée

Pesto pizza pre-arrival snack

Upon arrival at O’Hare, I got to use their new 1-Stop immigration line, which meant it took all of 5 minutes to get my passport stamped. That was amazing (I got through more quickly than Lucky, who used Global Entry). We toured the new American Flagship Check-in area, which was pretty cool, and got to see the OneWorld Global Support Center, which coordinates seamless connections for OneWorld passengers at ORD.

Flagship Check-in

Overall, this trip was pretty much the best thing ever, and I feel grateful to Lucky, American, Hotel Kämp, Finland, and Karl Fazer chocolates for an unforgettable trip.

Filed Under: Travel
  1. Omg, Andrew needs to be a regular guest contributor! I’m still laughing at the Shanghai Tang PJs comment.

  2. I agree – awesome trip report!. Nice burn on Lucky and his sleeping requirements. Looking forward to Andrew’s next guest article.

  3. Great review, a pleasure to read and looking foward to next Lucky contest! By the way, I love her tips and tricks, especially her Lufthansa F experiences.

  4. “The flight was over even more quickly than Kim Kardashian’s marriage.” ROTFL

    You guys could be the Siskel & Ebert of the skies 🙂

    Thanks for the great post!

  5. Sounds like a great trip! BTW, regarding immigration at O’Hare, on my trip back from Frankfurt a couple of weeks ago not only did I notice the new 1-Stop Immigration Option but I also was able to experience the new electronic passport kiosks. We arrived during a “slow” period on Saturday night so I’m not sure whether this option is still in the “test” phase. However, as soon as we arrived at Passport control we were guided to a separate area where electronic kiosks scanned our passports and issued us a receipt. We then cleared passport control in all of 5 minutes! It was very much of a “Global Entry” like experience. @Lucky – any more info on this? Is this just a pilot program at ORD?

  6. @ LincolnPark — Yep, ORD is a test market for the new kiosks, basically giving more passengers a Global Entry like experience. Should be expanding to more airports soon. Pretty nifty, isn’t it?

  7. Based on Andrew’s winning contest entry, I knew he wouldn’t let us down in his recap of the trip. Nice job! You can be Lucky’s guest replacement when he goes on vacation. Oh wait–he’s always on vacation. 😉

  8. Yikes! It looks like Ben made you share a king bed with him… just a little odd sharing a bed with a stranger!

  9. So I take it as they had individual rooms. “Ours were ready.” But looks like Andrew could learn a lesson in collecting starpoints. $5 says lucky stole his starpoints and that is why the name was never changed

  10. Great report Andrew;
    It is nice to hear the opinion of somebody who does not always fly first class and considers a lounge chair adequate accommodations. Your take on upgrading a trip including the “special treatment” during check-in is refreshing.
    I hope you get to write more articles but I also hope Lucky does not stop writing about his experiences/our aspirational trips

  11. @ 181920 — Hah, trying to screw him out of Starpoints? Was trying to get Platinum benefits for both rooms!

  12. @Mauricio and @Jon;
    You guys need to grow up or look for more childish blogs where your comments are actually welcomed.

  13. Ben –

    Either hire this guy immediately, or don’t let him write another post!

    He’s good.


  14. My only issue with this entire trip report is that Andrew and Lucky agree that Identity Thief is an instant classic. Some funny moments, but a horrible movie! I now know that Lucky should stick to his day-job of covering travel, not movies. 🙂

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