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For my trip to Colombo, I initially booked myself onto the flights from Hong Kong to Singapore and onwards to Colombo with Cathay Pacific. Unfortunately, Cathay Pacific decided to change all flights to Colombo and drop the Singapore-Colombo flights entirely. The only available flight in a Premium cabin was SriLankan Airlines from Hong Kong to Colombo, giving me a 12 hour layover in Hong Kong.
Read on to find out why you should think twice about flying SriLankan.
My initial idea was to use the Cathay Pacific Business Lounge, but that proved impossible in the morning as I could not get a SriLankan Airlines boarding pass. In the afternoon, the lounge invitation for SriLankan was just for the Plaza Premium Lounge. This is also a Priority Pass lounge – most Priority Pass lounges aren't 'ideal' and neither was this one.
The inbound airplane was about an hour late and boarding time showed 20 minutes late. Boarding eventually commenced about 45 minutes past the initial departure time.
The A330 was fresh from a Business Class refurbishment and featured the latest lie-flat Business Class product that SriLankan uses. It indeed looked stylish. It's a far cry from the Cathay Pacific Business Class Mini Suites, but it's a straightforward 2-2-2 configuration with a wide seat pitch.
There is a brand new entertainment system with a fancy remote that looks and feels much like an Apple TV remote. The seat goes all the way flat but leaves a number of 'breaking zones' – mattress padding would help on longer flights.
The ride to Bangkok was just 2 hours-long and we eventually left for there one hour late. While I tested my seat before departure (and to take pictures undisturbed) I realized that my seat would not adjust anymore once in the air. The cabin crew tried to help, but had no useful suggestions besides telling me to press reset.
The entertainment system powered up, but I had no movies. I thought I missed it in the fancy menu options, but no, they showed on everybody else's screen, just not on mine. Several resets later and we still could not figure out why.
Dinner was just OK. The pictures look better than how it tastes. It somehow tasted off but I can't really say why. The champagne served was excellent, though.
The flight was short enough and when dinner service was over, we were almost starting the descent into Bangkok. I spoke to the purser and requested a different seat if one was available for the next leg and he promised to communicate with maintenance and the new incoming crew.
The good news about this fifth freedom flight with SriLankan is that you do not need to leave the airplane in Bangkok. You just stay seated and well, watch a movie (if you can get the channels) while people deplane. Thankfully the rear door was open; literally nobody walked past me.
Boarding came to pass for the next flight and no new seat was offered to me. I wasn't sure if one was available. After take-off, I pressed the call button and the new crew of course had no idea about my seat and entertainment system troubles.
In order to move the seat, you need to press several buttons together and it magically lifts off. I only discovered that by accident. The table/seat configuration is so bad that you can easily hurt yourself moving the seat while the table is folded out. I'm not sure who designs such seats but they are prone to produce accidents and lots of spilled drinks.
After another round of less-than-tasty dinner, I gave up on the entertainment system and decided to catch up on sleep.
I fell asleep right away and found the fully-reclined seat very good for sleeping on your back or side. I was a bit surprised, since it did not really look like that.
In general, I feel SriLankan is investing heavily into new equipment to try to compete effectively with other Asian airlines. However, the 'soft product' is seriously lacking. I observed two flights and two different caterings and it's not what I expected. The flight attendants are somewhat friendly, but clueless and less than helpful. The food is as bad as, say, Thai Airways and a far cry from Singapore Airlines' regional Business Class.
I understand that the soft product is often of much less importance to fliers, but I'd think twice before flying SriLankan Airlines again, even in a new configuration.
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About the author: Torsten is a serial entrepreneur who started almost a dozen ventures on four continents. Torsten's love for travel has brought him to 130+ countries and travel with most of the world's airlines. You can reach Torsten at [email protected]
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