Sri Lankan A330 Business Class Bottom Line
Sri Lankan has a lot of room to grow. The flight was truly disappointing, as the service standard did not hold up to my previous flight with the airline on a regional route. They have a solid hard product, but the soft product was severely lacking.
The Good: Reverse herringbone seats are good, but these were a bit on the narrow side. I recommend the window seats for both window and aisle access.
The Bad: Service was non-existent. Besides meal times, I did not see a single flight attendant walk by except to enforce the seat belt sign. The purser skipped speaking to me on both the departure and the arrival, which I found rude.
The Noteworthy: Wifi was provided at fairly high prices, but it was fast enough and functional. Also worth noting that the amenity kit was the best part of the soft product.
After my schedule change involving a flight from Tokyo to Bangkok, I was able to request a refund from the airline since the new schedule would not allow me to make the connection in Beijing I had. The airline was not responsive, something I was expecting given it was Air China, but the people at American Express Travel were quite helpful. With the new gap in my travels, I decide to get to Bangkok the very long way. I booked Srilankan Airlines from NRT-CMB with AA miles (40K) and CMB-MCT-BKK with Oman Air, a new airline for me, with a mix of points and cash via Etihad Guest.
Gate and Boarding
I left the Qantas Lounge Tokyo after a short stay in order to get to the gate early to avoid the rush of people I was expecting. When I arrived at the gate, the agent was already preparing the boarding lanes, and people in economy were lining up in the business queue. As the gate agents checked people’s passports, they began telling the economy people to move to the economy line. All 6 people ahead of me moved. Boarding began about 35 minutes before departure, with Business and elite members asked to board first.
Airline: Sri Lankan Airlines
Cabin: Business Class
Route: Tokyo NRT – Colombo CMB
On time: Yes
The Sri Lankan A330-300 has one long cabin with all the business class seats between doors 1L and 2L. The first thing that came to my mind was how the configuration was basically identical to American Airlines A330-300s. Even more so, when I began to look at my seat, I realized that it was the exact same seat design, but more on that later. The cabin is a mix of cream colors with dark blue-green leather seats. The seats are leather, which makes them more comfortable for sleeping, but you could see their age more easily.
Like I just mentioned the seat is exactly the same as the one on American Airlines A330s. The main differences are the seat color, the IFE control, reading light and location of the tray table. Waiting at my seat was a soft pillow and a packaged blanket. There were also a pair of socks, eye shades and slippers at the seat when I arrived. “Noise cancelling” headphones were also at my seat, as well as the menu.
Departure and Take Off
As soon as I was settled in, the purser came by offering juice or water as a pre-departure beverage. I chose the water and it was presented in a Sri Lankan Airlines monogrammed glass. The purser went through most of the seats to introduce herself, and skipped me and the person behind me because the safety demonstration started, and never came by to say hello. The captain came on the PA system to introduce himself and announce that our flight was going to be mostly turbulent given the usual atmospheric phenomenon around Asia, and when approaching Sri Lanka, because of the remnants of a hurricane.
We were held at the gate because of traffic on our route, but since we were going to have a shorter than usual travel time, the delay did not impact us. As we taxied to the runway, I was able to see a lot of the usual Narita traffic, as well as spot my first A220. When we lined up for departure, I turned on the forward facing camera.
Food and Beverage
One thing that Srilankan Airlines does really well is having beautiful menus. The menu has the history of rice on the island nation, as well as depictions of traditional rice paddies and houses. There is even a recipe at the end that you can take home. The menu read as follows:
As you can see, there was a full Japanese course option, as well as a more varied international meal options. Given the delay at the gate, the flight attendants took orders for the first meal AND the second meal. I was kind of upset at that, since there was no rush to take the second meal order. The FA was adamant I chose, so I ordered as well. I decided to try out the most authentic-sounding Sri Lankan food on the menu.
The meal started with a choice of drinks and cold nuts. This was followed by an appetizer/salad combo. The appetizer was supposed to be prawns and salmon, but it ended up being one prawn, and a weird salmon mash. It wasn’t bad, it was just, well, unusual. The appetizer was joined by a selection of warm breads.
For my main course, I ordered the curry chicken. It was flavourful, but not spicy. There were also a grand total of three large chicken pieces and three smaller ones. The rice was square, which probably meant that it had just been taken out of a heating container.
The next course was a fruit and cheese plate. The cheeses were meh, and the date was not pitted.
Finally, for dessert I ordered black tea and an almond cake. The cake was the highlight of the meal. It was spongy and sweet. I ordered it with a cup of black tea with honey.
Pre arrival Meal
The pre arrival meal started with a choice of drinks. I ordered orange juice, and it was presented again in a monogrammed glass. The second meal was all presented on a single sitting. The salad was okay at best, with the dressing being needed to mask some of the sogginess of the veggies. The main course of Szechuan beef was disappointing. The rice was fresh, the brocoli tasted weird, and the beef was flavorless. The highlight of this meal was the garlic bread.
I had not mentioned amenities until now, given they were only handed out after the first meal service. The kit itself was not very useful, but its contents were good. Sri Lankan is partnered with Aigner, a French brand. Inside were all the basics, minus the things that already were at your seat when you arrived. The lotions provided were pretty large, as far as they usually go on other amenity kits.
The previously mentioned headphones were some of the worst I have had on a long haul flight. I could not hear from one side if i just as much as touched the connecting cable. The entertainment selection was good enough to last the whole flight though. There were annoying ads before every show, but that’s become the norm now a days.
The seat turns into a lie flat seat. It is worth noting two things. First the footwell is very small and constraining, and it does not fit sideways feet. Second, the leather upholstery makes the seat softer for sleeping, but a mattress pad would make a world of a difference, or at least a better blanket. The cabin was kept fairly warm so I didn’t use the blanket at all, but the pillow was pretty good.
Notes on Service, Wifi, and IFE
Like I mentioned before, the FAs only went by the cabin when the seat belt sign was turned on. Even when requesting something via the call button, they took at least two or three minutes before showing up.
The wifi was fairly expensive, but it worked well. You can pause your usage in order to sleep and not be worried that you will wake up without any wifi left.
There was a peculiar, and concerning, issue with the IFE for the first half of the flight. The inflight map did not function. It wasn’t just my seat, but no one could make it turn on. The FAs tried to fix it to no avail. Somewhere over Thailand, however, the system began working, only to be pixelated and spotty.
Landing and Arrival
After what felt like a very short flight, given how much I was able to sleep, the crew began preparing the flight for landing. The afternoon was hazy, so I didn’t get that many nice photographs of the approach. I turned on the forward camera for landing, and I was not disappointed. We parked at a remote stand with the setting sun gracing the airport.
Sri Lankan Airlines has so much potential. The food could have been traditionally Sri Lankan; the FAs could have been proactive; service could have been organized and well paced. I honestly expected much more from the airline, but overall I don’t consider it a bad use of 40K AA miles, given that tickets were going up for about $2500 one way. I sincerely hope that this was a one-off fluke. Given a better schedule, I would have flown Qatar Airways to Doha, and from Doha to CMB. Better service, better food and better amenities.
Quick Note: I took this flight in January of 2019, and by the time of publishing (September 2019) the flight was no longer available for booking. It seems that the flight was unprofitable and was cut shortly after the northern winter season. Quite sad, as it was a convenient (albeit not the best) use of AA miles to India/Middle East.