An Amazing (Private) Flight On SriLankan!

Hello from the Maldives (more on that later!)

Over the weekend I flew from New York to Hong Kong on Cathay Pacific, and then from Hong Kong to Bangkok to Colombo to Male on SriLankan. To say that it was a long travel day would be the understatement of the year.

The three flights on SriLankan were especially interesting. Generally I’m a huge fan of the airline, as there’s something exotic and unique about them which makes them more “fun” than most airlines.

But the service on the first two sectors was kind of crappy. The crews were lazy and borderline rude.

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Then it came time for the flight from Colombo to Male, which I was most dreading. Partly because I was so exhausted at that point, and partly because the flight was scheduled to be operated by an A320, which features SriLankan’s regional business class product.

This is also the flight I bid $100 on in order to upgrade. Let’s just say that it might have just been my best flight of the entire trip.

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First of all, as luck would have it, my flight got upgraded from a regional A320 to one of SriLankan’s brand new A330-300s. Not only that, this was actually the first commercial flight the plane ever took. Not only that, but I was the only business class passenger. Not only that, but I think I had the coolest SriLankan flight attendant ever.

SriLankan’s new A330-300s are gorgeous. They feature fully flat reverse herringbone seats, which are my favorite type of business class hard product. And I think this might just be my favorite reverse herringbone product, as I found the finishes to be so tropical-looking and gorgeous.

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But after two super-lazy and quite rude SriLankan crews, the highlight of the flight was Renuka, “my” flight attendant. She had the most gorgeous smile and was so friendly, despite the fact that she had worked a flight from Jeddah that morning, and had just 12 hours to “rest.”

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“Mr. Benjamin, welcome to your cabin. Would you like a glass of bubbly or something else to drink?”

Before takeoff I had two glasses of champagne. “Mr. Benjamin, will you do me a favor and have one more glass so that the bottle is empty? Then I can serve you a properly chilled one after takeoff.” 😉 In fairness, they weren’t full size bottles of champagne.

I was also offered nuts. And socks and eyeshades (there were no nuts, socks, or eyeshades on the other SriLankan flights).

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I asked for a pen to fill out my immigration form. She gave me two pens, and a SriLankan writing kit.

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After takeoff I heard the second bottle pop and she served me more champagne and nuts.

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Then the snack was served. Since this was just an hour-long flight she said “may I prepare some coffee or tea for you to enjoy after your snack?” I asked for some coffee.

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As she brought me some coffee she said “Mr. Benjamin, you know what goes really well with coffee? Champagne. May I bring you another glass?” Hah!

“Renuka, it’s not often I turn down champagne, but I’m okay, thanks.”

“Okay, then I insist you have some Kahlua with your coffee.” She brought me a double.

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Before landing the cabin service manager came by to ask how my flight was and ask me what I thought about the new product. I explained the cabin was gorgeous, but that the highlight of the flight was Renuka. He said “yes, she’s always this amazing.”

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It’s tough to explain her awesomeness in writing, but after three flights in a row with downright lazy crews, Renuka was an awesome end to a long travel day.

And now I really want to fly one of SriLankan’s brand new A330s on a longer flight.

Comments

  1. Very cool. But, why didn’t you fly Cathay from HKG-MLE? Also, what miles did you use for Sri Lankan and how many did it require?

  2. Ben, this is a great example of what can come from reviewing some new products/airlines. This is exactly what this blog needs. Thanks so much!

  3. Did the plane have the “new plane smell” Also if its not too hard, could you start including the tail numbers/registration of the aircraft that you fly on in your trip reports?

  4. Hi Ben

    I seconded Eric’s comments. perfect example and Kudos to you for letting the cabin service manager know. Having spent a long time in retail I know how much letting a manager know about good service means.

  5. Ben, those type of Flight attendants makes leaving the aircraft tough because they make you feel so comfortable and welcoming that a longer flight in this case would have been lovely. When i get cabin crew this good I can’t help but to pass on the word to every “higher up” they deserved to get acknowledged for the incredible work they do and the service they provided. Kudos and I look forward to reading the rest of your report :). Enjoy Paradise!!

  6. awesome, this is exactly the kinda blog posts I’m looking forward to Ben… just curious, what other/longer routes will UL be flying these A330 birds on? and is J the highest cabin?

    lastly, you forgot to mention and I hate it when you do this in your posts 😛 but what kinda champagne do they serve? even though it looks to have been served in a cheap plastic cup.

    did your other 2 UL flights serve champagne, not sure which class you flew in. if so, what kinda? I ask cause I’d like to try UL now that they’re in OW + asia 2 routing benefit.

  7. Ben, I’m going to be booking the return of this flight for next January to connect to to a One World award ticket on QR using AA miles. I know if I book another One World award (using Avios) my connection is protected, but what about if I buy a paid ticket?

  8. Great post! Agree the hard product looks great. Hope someone in UL brass sees this at some point.

  9. Humm, don’t see why you were so excited about the service Renuka provided during this trip. We get that type of service ALL THE TIME when we fly Delta, UA and AA. That is the standard on US airlines and that is why Delta’s CEO, Unions, etc.. are so disappointed with Asian and ME airlines since they are trying to copy the American way of treating passengers. :)))))))))) Don’t you agree? LOL!!!!!

  10. Only passenger in J!?!?!? That is awesome! I don’t think I’ve ever seen an empty business class whatsoever. Wow! That’s a whole lot more space than the Residence! 😉

  11. @Adam
    Somebody posted on Luckys instagram it was 4R-ALN.

    J is the highest class. Not sure how many planes they have think it’s 2, but they took delivery of the first (4R-ALL) in Oct 2014.

    ALN seems too have done LHR after the trip Lucky was on. ALL seems too have been all over place, but the last couple of days have been doing NRT. Both planes also seem to do the CMB-MLE run.

  12. Check wikipedia, says they have 3 planes. Not sure if it included this one, delivery of the 7 and final plane in order scheduled for Oct 2015.

    Reminder of A330-200 and A340 scheduled for replacement with A350 starting 2016.

  13. @No Name, thanks. I was just wondering if he could do it for all of his trip reports in the future so we would know if we were on the exact same plane as Lucky. I know planes are supposed to be alike in a fleet but each plane does seem to have its own way of doing things (i.e. seats not perfectly reclining and such…)

  14. Seems it’s 3 aircraft, number 2 delivered was 4R-ALM that seems to mostly do runs to China with stop in BKK on the return.

  15. @Adam

    Know what mean, Sri Lankan old fleet seems to be very diverse too put it mildly.

    They even seems to operate one former A340 CX bird (4R-ADG) that still have F seats in it on runs to Kuwait and Riyadh.

  16. Really hoping that our flights in late July will feature one of these new A330 ‘s they look awesome! AUH-CMB-MLE Shows A321 followed by A330 – 200 on website.

  17. I, too, really enjoyed this post. And I will be anxiously awaiting the trip reports on the UL flights with the lazy-ass crews.

    I’m curious as to why UL made such a drastic aircraft swap. From an A320 to an A330!?! Lucky, did you notice how many passengers were seated in economy? Was it also fairly empty?

  18. @Imperator

    Probably to “break” the aircraft in and use it on a much shorter route before putting it on a more proper route the aircraft was intended for, maybe loads on the return flight were full, maybe a combination of both and/or other things.

  19. Why did you choose this routing instead of HKG-MLE on Cathay? What miles did you use for this leg?

  20. @UnLuCkY – Why are you here? How’s your mom’s basement?

    @Ben – I agree with others – this is refreshing because it’s new and different. My experience with UL was 15 years ago (and the joke, including amongst Sri Lankans, was that UL stood for Usually Late), and I was not impressed, and would still never go out of my way to fly them, however Renuka would have me wishing I were on a super-dooper-extra-long flight.

    And you’re right, the cabin looks very nice!

  21. “Then it came time for the flight from Colombo to Male, which I was most dreading… partly because the flight was scheduled to be operated by an A320, which features SriLankan’s regional business class product.”

    Sob, you poor thing. That must’ve been terrifying for you.

  22. “It’s tough to explain her awesomeness in writing.” Especially when one is blotto from all of the bubbly! Still, you managed with the rest of the post, which I very much enjoyed. Your willingness to fly less obvious airlines keeps this blog fresh. Next time, visit Sri Lanka itself — infinitely more interesting than the Maldivezzzzzzzz.

  23. But Sri Lankan never offers J business seats using miles. Or at least, never offers it SIN to CMB and CMB to MLE. Seems like they save all the seats for these stupid cash buy-ups. Very unfortunate. Anybody else actually find J availability using AA / BA miles?

  24. @ Daniel M — It all depends on the route. There are certainly some routes on which they don’t release award space, while there are other routes on which they consistently release at least one business class award seat. I booked HKG-BKK-CMB with American miles in business on SriLankan.

    But I also think there’s value to the upgrade program as well. It’s a great way to earn miles, especially since you earn miles as if you’re flying paid business class when you bid for an upgrade.

  25. @ EricB — Redeeming American miles, Colombo is considered “Asia 2” while Maldives is considered “Middle East.” So I could redeem 67,500 American miles for first class to Colombo, and could then just book a cheap ticket to Male. Otherwise I would have needed a second award for HKG-MLE.

  26. @ Imperator — Economy was quite empty as well. I think it’s just because it was a brand new plane and they wanted to “break it in” a bit, as stated above.

  27. @ Joey — Hah, yep. I’ve had first cabins all to myself many times, but never a business cabin all to myself.

  28. @ Adam — Hah, as far as champagne goes, I have to save some stuff for the trip report. 😉 But it was Jacquart.

    Business is the highest cabin, and it seems that the A330-300 is flying mostly to Tokyo Narita, Shanghai, and Beijing as of now.

  29. @ Adam — I’ll see what I can do re: tail numbers. And yep, had the BRAND NEW plane smell.

  30. @ EricB — I redeemed 67,500 miles to fly JFK-HKG-BKK-CMB, and then booked a separate paid ticket CMB-MLE. If I redeemed to MLE it would have required two awards. And Cathay also had no award space in business.

  31. We find so many airlines to be highly variable so we are looking forward to your reviews of all three sectors.

    We’ve only done 1 segment on UL and it would fall into the ‘crews were lazy and borderline rude’ category.

  32. I like your blog. And I like your last post about Srilankan Airlines. I am flying regularly on this company from Singapore to Colombo in biz class. I have never seen this kind of cabin. And as you discovered on the two legs before arriving Colombo, the service is mediocre. I prefer to fly on SQ now. Service is perfect. Thanks again for your interesting blog

  33. Etihad is the best airline to fly.. You can’t compare their business class product to any other.. It’s so good..

  34. It may seem bias to write about a fellow colleague, but I thought a few positive words were in order. I’ve known Renuka ever since I was a teenager at a time I was aspiring to fly as a airline pilot. In an industry that has so many variables, the one constant I’ve seen is Renuka’s professionalism. She is a wonderful human being who is full of possitive attitude, certainly a role model to all those who aspire to be flight attendents. Congratulations Renuka, you make all Sri Lankans proud!

  35. And for your information I think Renuka is flying for more than 10 years without getting promoted as a cabin supervisor. Srilankan Airlines stupid management doest know their assets. They only look after their benifits. Thats why Srilankan airlines is in this current situation. Specially Head of HR Mr. Pradeep Kekulawala. He doesnt know a crap about his valuable staff and he has favorations. Renuka is one of those stewardesses who doesnt apply for supervisor post. She thinks management have to see how shes working and promote her without letting her to apply. She is right. Stupidest Management ever. Mr. Chanaka Olagama and Mr. Pradeep Kakulawa are good look after cows not cabin crew.

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