Review: SriLankan Business Class A330-300 Colombo To Male

Introduction
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SriLankan Business Class A330-200 Bangkok To Colombo
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Leeli Lounge Male Airport
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I can’t even begin to explain how excited I was to fly SriLankan’s brand new A330-300, which features their new reverse herringbone seats. SriLankan has a total of five of these planes on order.

Since this flight was being operated by an A330, there were two air stairs — one at the forward door and one at the rear door. I boarded through the forward door, after my boarding pass was checked at the bottom of the stairs.

SriLankan 105
Colombo (CMB) – Male (MLE)
Sunday, April 5
Depart: 12:30AM
Arrive: 1:25AM
Duration: 1hr25min
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 3A (Business Class)

Upon boarding through door 1L I was welcomed by the cabin manager and Renuka, the flight attendant working business class. I noticed the business class cabin was still empty, so told Renuka “I’m so excited this is the new business class product. If you don’t mind I’m just going to snap a couple of pictures before the cabin fills up.”

With a smirk Renuka responded “take your time, you’re our only passenger today, Mr. Benjamin. And just so you know, this is the plane’s first commercial flight.”

Holy crap! So not only was my flight swapped from a regional A320 to an A330 with their brand new business class, but I was also the only passenger, and it was the plane’s first commercial flight. That’s the best $100 I’ve ever spent on an upgrade!

SriLankan’s A330-300 features reverse herringbone seats in business class, so they’re in a 1-2-1 configuration. There are a total of 28 seats spread across seven rows.

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SriLankan’s new A330-300 business class cabin

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SriLankan’s new A330-300 business class cabin

I eventually settled into 3A, which was the seat I selected for the sector. I love the finishes SriLankan chose for their cabins. They’re so exotic and bright, in a non-obnoxious way.

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SriLankan A330-300 new business class, seat 3A

The pillow and blanket waiting at my seat perfectly complemented the rest of the design.

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SriLankan business class pillow & blanket

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SriLankan A330-300 new business class, seat 3A

As is the norm with reverse herringbone seats, the personal entertainment screen could be deployed at the push of a button, though has to be stored for takeoff and landing.

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SriLankan A330-300 new business class, seat 3A

To the left of my seat were the controls, including the entertainment and seat controls, as well as a 110v and USB outlet.

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SriLankan A330 business class seat & entertainment controls

On the bottom left side of the seat was an “open” storage area.

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SriLankan A330 business class seat storage

The good thing about reverse herringbone seats (at least from the perspective of a solo traveler) is that they’re private even if you’re assigned a seat in the center section. You can’t really see the person seated across from you.

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SriLankan A330 business class center seats

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SriLankan A330 business class, view from 3A

Having just flown from Hong Kong to Bangkok to Colombo on SriLankan, I was underwhelmed by the service on the two sectors. On the first sector the crew was rather indifferent, while on the second sector they were borderline rude. That doesn’t at all reflect my past flights on SriLankan, where I’ve always experienced warm, genuine hospitality.

Fortunately on this sector Renuka more than made up for the crews on the two previous sectors. She was fantastic. And not just because the cabin was empty and because she didn’t have anything else to do, but clearly because she loves what she does. As much as I love great hard products, onboard wifi, and great food/champagne, there’s nothing I love more than a flight with genuine hospitality. And Renuka was possibly the most genuine, warm, and hospitable flight attendant I’ve had.

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

Moments later she served me a glass of Jacquart at my seat.

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SriLankan Airlines business class pre-departure champagne

Not only did she offer me champagne, but she also brought me some cashews, eyeshades, socks, and headphones.

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SriLankan Airlines business class pre-departure goodies

And then she brought me my choice of either hot or cold towels.

Then she presented me the menu for the flight.

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SriLankan Airlines business class menu

I spoke to Renuka for a few minutes, and she explained that she had just flown in from Jeddah earlier in the morning, had 12 hours of rest, and now was working a quick Colombo to Male to Colombo turn. I said “wow, you must be tired.” She just smiled and said “it’s no big deal, I love what I do.”

She then handed out landing forms for the Maldives. I asked if she had a pen I could borrow. She brought me two SriLankan-branded pens and also a writing kit.

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SriLankan Airlines business class writing kit & pen

Renuka kept my glass of champagne full throughout the boarding process. When there was only one glass left and departure was imminent, she said “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.” Now that’s service! And for the record, they weren’t full size bottles of champagne. 😉

At around 12:20AM the captain came on the PA to welcome us aboard this “brand new Airbus A330-300,” and informed us of our flight time of 65 minutes, which would put us into Male on schedule.

At 12:25AM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video began to play. Once that was complete the cabin lights were dimmed and mood lighting was turned on, which was pretty spiffy.

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SriLankan A330 business class mood lighting

Our taxi took just under 10 minutes, and at 12:35AM we were airborne on runway 22.

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SriLankan Airlines airshow enroute to Male

As we climbed out I browsed the extremely extensive entertainment selection, which is much better than what’s available on SriLankan’s other planes.

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SriLankan A330-300 entertainment selection

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SriLankan A330-300 entertainment selection

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SriLankan A330-300 entertainment selection

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SriLankan A330-300 entertainment selection

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SriLankan A330-300 entertainment selection

They even have a couple of plane-mounted cameras, though that’s less useful on a nighttime flight.

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SriLankan A330-300 entertainment selection

Our climb out was smooth, and about 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off.

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SriLankan Airlines airshow enroute to Male

The other cool feature of SriLankan’s new A330-300s is that they feature onboard wifi. Of course I wasn’t going to get real use out of it on an hour flight, but I figured I should give it a try.

It was my hope that they had an unlimited data plan (in case I fly SriLankan’s A330-300 in the future on a longer flight), but unfortunately they didn’t.

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The wifi definitely wasn’t cheap, though it’s not the most expensive out there either. 100MB of data cost $25.

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Once the seatbelt sign was turned off Renuka came by to take my snack order. The menu read as follows:

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And the beverage list read as follows:

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I know I’m a moron, but I did have to check with her to make sure the “stuffed snake” wasn’t actually stuffed snake. She giggled, and assured me it wasn’t.

Without even asking Renuka brought me another glass of champagne and some cashews after takeoff.

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SriLankan business class champagne & nuts

Moments later I was served the snack. 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.

The snack was impressive for an hour-long flight leaving in the middle of the night. It wasn’t gourmet, but actually tasted quite good.

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SriLankan business class snack

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SriLankan business class snack

Once I was served coffee, Renuka came by to say “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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SriLankan business class coffee

I didn’t want to waste it, so quickly poured it into my coffee. When she noticed the tumbler was empty, she brought me another one.

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SriLankan business class coffee and liqueur

It’s definitely one of those things where “you had to have been there to fully appreciate it,” but Renuka was just awesome. She genuinely made me smile with her warmth. There’s business/transactional hospitality, and then there’s genuine hospitality, and Renuka was clearly serving hospitality realness.

As we began our descent the cabin manager stopped by my seat to see how I enjoyed the flight. I complimented the business class seats and in particular Renuka, and he responded “yeah, she’s always like that.”

There’s a 30 minute time change between Colombo and Male, and we touched down into the North at around 1:10AM, and then had a roughly five minute taxi to our stand from there.

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SriLankan Airlines airshow enroute to Male

Male Airport has a single runway and only has a taxiway in the center of the runway, so you touch down, back taxi the length of the runway, and then exit again in the middle.

We parked right by the terminal building, next to a FlyDubai 737.

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FlyDubai 737 Male Airport

Thanks to the proximity to which we parked at the terminal, there was no need to take a bus — we could walk directly to immigration.

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Male Airport terminal

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SriLankan A330-300 upon landing in Male

There were no queues there, and I was through within moments.

SriLankan’s new business class bottom line

There aren’t many things in life that are more enjoyable than a (pleasant) surprise. In this case I was expecting to get on a run of the mill A320 for the hour-long flight. If anything, it would be the most boring part of an otherwise long travel day.

Instead I got a surprise on so many levels — a plane swap to the flagship plane of SriLankan’s fleet on its first flight, a business class cabin all to myself, and one of the best flight attendants I’ve ever had.

I can’t wait until SriLankan has a few more A330-300s in their fleet. As of now they’re flying them primarily to Tokyo Narita, Beijing, and Shanghai, and I’d definitely go out of my way to try and fly on one again.

While I’m at it, I should mention that I shared my initial impressions of SriLankan’s new business class shortly after the flight, and I had mentioned Renuka in it. A SriLankan captain left the following comment on the post, which I thought was worth sharing:

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!

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Comments

  1. And just so you know, this is the plane’s first commercial flight.”

    New plane smell!

  2. Snake gourd is also used in crafting the Australian musical instrument, the didgeridoo.

  3. The business class cabin only had one person??? This makes me so angry. I was never able to find any availability between Singapore and Male (stopping in Colombo) in business, while economy had plenty of seats. I searched this route for a few months, and nothing ever opened up for the 3 days I was looking for. I’m not sure that Sri Lankan ever allows BA/AA mileage redemptions in business class. Anybody else have a different experience?

  4. In the first coffee picture, does the milk/cream substance really say, “Tastes like fresh milk”?

    I’m sure it tastes EXACTLY like fresh milk. Straight from the cow, I’ll bet.

  5. I can’t wait to try Sri Lankan out. I’ll definitely try to get on one of the new A330s. It’s too bad you only had an hour to enjoy that flight.

  6. Ben, living up to your nickname, as usual! I love how you hurl compliments so liberally when they are genuinely deserved. We know how much they mean, because you are equally brutally harsh when the service/product deserves it. Thanks for a great review of what sounded like a superb experience. You deserve it!

  7. I need to get from MLE-SIn next spring. Wonder if i should book a Y flight on Sri Lankan and bid on upgrade. Thoughts? Not sure about success on the SIN leg

  8. Lucky, I think they are also dedicating one to the CMB-LHR-CMB route.
    I’ve just booked with them SIN-CMB-LHR in J for August and from what I can see most if not all of the CMB-LHR sectors are to be operated by A333.

  9. Wow – much much higher quality, amenities and service levels than Air India’s international flights to and from Male that are also 1.5 hours long. Buy Sri Lankan! =)

  10. A near perfect experience I see. Minus one mark for the sauce served in an aluminium foil container.

  11. I would have thought you being a Floridian, snake gourd would have come across sometime while crossing a produce section.

    It is revealing that a one hour flight had a more memorable service than some longer legs in your travel history. The comment from Renuka’s team member explains a lot. Friends since school days. Go figure, nurturing long-term relationships produces warm and attentive personnel. No disposable people mentality there.

  12. @ Grandgourmand — People seem to have very good success being able to bid for upgrades on SriLankan, so it might not be a bad option, depending on what the alternatives are.

  13. As an adult, I don’t think I’ve ever had such a pleasant experience on a plane. I have had nice ones…even good ones. I’ve never had an excellent/outstanding experience though. I’ve also only flown a handful of carriers (over many trips), but one would think on all the AF/KL/DL flight’s I’ve taken someone would have stood out. I’m trying to book a paid La Premiere flight towards the end of the year when they drop to around $5k from LAX, maybe that will be the chance. Delta is always good, but rarely great, and hasn’t yet been amazing. KLM is…Dutch (lol). Air France is…French. I do like all 3, and none of them has really ever let me down in terms of service, but…yeah. I should broaden my horizons…I’m sure it will pay off.

  14. just out of curiosity: what kind of camera(s) do you use for the photos in your reviews of flights and lounges?

  15. “Of course I wasn’t going to get real use out of it on an hour flight, but I figured I should give it a try.”

    How was speed re wifi/Internet?

  16. Hi Benjamin,
    Greetings from Hong Kong. I am a long time fan of Srilankan airlines ever since my first flight with them back in 2013 (they still used the old biz class recliner seat then). This is one airlines I would give a lot of time and patronage for, because often they are the cheapest in biz class, and also the service and food easily put some giants like CX to shame. Now that they’ve joined one world, and flying this wonderful A330-300 to HK, and also to London (often at USD 2,500 J class all inclusive), I am going to stick with them for a long time.

    I have met Renuka on one of my flights from Colombo to BKK. She’s a legend amongst all the FAs, one of the most senior and experienced flight attendants they have. As a devoted Catholic herself, she was specially selected to serve that very special flight this year when Pope Francis visited Sri Lanka. It’s not a surprise you got such a wonderful service from her. Flight attendant as good as her is rare, so glad you and I had both met her.

    Btw, back in 2013 I had a flight with UL, BKK to HKG in Biz, I was also all alone, 3 attendants served me, it was a royal experience.

  17. I’m flying BKK to London and I want business, should i book economy and bid for business or just book business, how can I know i’ll get a flatbed in Business before booking? Will the whole journey, BKK –COL—LDN be business?
    Thanks for any input.

  18. Hi Richard. I am a platinum member of SriLankan airlines, I am sure you will be very impressed by their service and food in business class, especially for the price you pay. Normally lower than many other airlines, but the quality does not in any compromise.

    From BKK to LHR via CMB. Depends on which flight u book to fly into BKK. The 9am one is always a small A321 plane with 2 x 2 configuration and recliner seat. But…it’s spacious and surprisingly comfortable. You have about an hour or two in CMB before connecting to their 1pm daily flight to LHR, which is almost always their new A330-300, 1 x 2 x 1 flat bed. Worse comes the worse, it will be the A330-200, which is
    2 x 2 x 2 but also a 180 degree flat bed. So, the key to getting flatbed is this:
    A321 = NO flat bed; A332 or A333 = Flat bed. It will indicate before you confirm your purchase, so you are safe.

    It is a personal matter about bidding for biz class with economy booking. It is worth a try but not always guaranteed successful. I find their biz class price is really quite reasonable, especially if they do promotion every now and then (e. g. Feb 14th Valentines 14% off discount, yearly). If the price is within your reach, might as well book biz class and have the peace of mind knowing that you are getting what you want. Have a nice flight with them, you will not regret your choice.

  19. Hi there thank you for the reply, not so concerned about the BKK- COL flight for a flat bed, COL – LDN i need an FB, I will ask at their off office to confirm before hand. I will definitely book Business now as I don’t like to bid and fail. Thanks for your advice.

  20. Hi there thank you for the reply, not so concerned about the BKK- COL flight for a flat bed, COL – LDN i need an FB, I will ask at their off office to confirm before hand. I will definitely book Business now as I don’t like to bid and fail. Thanks for your advice. R

  21. You’re welcome. Just in case you booked the evening flight out of Bangkok to Colombo. You’ll have to stay overnight to catch the London flight next day. Don’t fret, get over to the transfer counter a nice hotel with private car transfer will be arranged free for you. Even economy class passengers will be looked after as well. Transit free visa will also be provided too. That’s how good they really are. I went to London twice with them ex Hong Kong. The biz fare is like full fare economy on some major airlines.

  22. Hello there, I am planning a trip in April with my wife. It will be my first time to visit Sri Lanka and my first time on the Sri Lankan Airways. I read somewhere that paying for a business class ticket does not guarantee your seat, as you could easily be bumped down to economy and your seat be given to some Sri Lankan official. I’m interested in hearing your opinion on this.

  23. Hi there,

    I’m sure and i hope you’ll enjoy the flight experience. I’ve been flying them many times in business class, never had i encountered being bumped down economy for some Sri Lankan officials. Maybe i was lucky, but for more than16 times?! Have no worries, you have a paid ticket and should be entitled your seat and service.

  24. Thanks a lot Francis..I put so much time and money planning this trip..I hope we are as lucky as you have been 🙂

  25. Good luck to you both, may I ask where will you be flying from? I am surprised to hear about your story of passengers got bumped off business class with a paid ticket! It’s a scandal for any airlines to do that, and so much troubles with compensations and all that, it’s just not worth it, all for just pleasing some certain higher up officials. Have no fear, I am sure it won’t happen to you. If unfortunately it does, stand your ground, demand explanations. Compensations such as accommodations, next trips in biz class, plus good will mileage, at least 10,000 or more etc. Tell them you will write to Skytrax and Business traveller magazines about this scandal. Remind them you are one of those customers that keep them still in business, and demand to be treated with respect. Do let me know how your flight went? I am sure it’s going to be wonderful.

  26. Hi All ,
    Lucky thank you for that update on the A330 Biz class. I now have the information to offer my clients and shall tell them to look out for “Renuka”. That definitely is a major plus. Happy blogging.

  27. I’ll be trying out this product in a few days. For those looking to use Avios, taxes are substantially less MLE-CMB ($30 vs. $114) and vise versa. Economy is $171 and biz is selling for $440. Seems like a no brainer to burn 9,000 Avios and $30.

  28. Just Flew Srilankan from Riyadh to Colombo onto Kuala Lumpur. Worst business class I have ever traveled on. Not sure why all the positive comments. Flew on the A330. Configuration is as described but the service and entertainment system ( Malfunctioned all 5 hours of flight ) were horrible. The food is equal to economy class on Qatar or Emirates. Ground services is truly horrible in Colombo. I DO NOT RECOMMEND THIS AIRLINE.

  29. Since 2013, I have been their loyal customer. But unfortunately, they have really gone down hill. They stopped flying to Milan, Paris and Frankfurt and only keep London, for me is a very heavy blow, as I cannot use them to fly to these places. Their subsidiary budget version Mihin Lanka closed down and they absorbed their routes, really didn’t help much. I noticed some cost cutting in terms of business class meal portion and presentation. From serving in separate courses to all on me plate. However, ticket price has gone up a lot. The only reason I am still flying is that the service is still good. Claiming miles for tickets is next to impossible, so I used the points to exchange for duty free items as a kind of compensation. In order to keep my status I need to fly at least a certain portion of the flights with them is just too restricting, especially there is not much destination choice. I heard rumour they will cut the Hong Kong to Bangkok route and change to flying direct to Colombo, a bad move if you asked me. That means to say my chance of flying with them will be even less. I was once their platinum flyer, now I favour Emirates instead.

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