With crisp, authentic service and a market-leading business class product, SriLankan Airlines continue to seduce both business and leisure travellers from Asia and beyond, discovers Nick Walton.
A member of oneworld, SriLankan Airlines not only offer great connectivity from Asia to Sri Lanka, one of the region’s most exciting emerging destinations, but also onto the favourite tropical playgrounds of the Indian Ocean, including the Maldives and the Seychelles.
Check In/The Lounge
As we were transiting, we already had boarding passes for our morning flight to Hong Kong via Bangkok and headed for SriLankan’s chic Serendib Lounge, which, like the airline, is leagues above what you’d expect for a relatively small carrier. As with previous visits, we were greeted by friendly, well-informed staff who invited us to take a table in the busy dining area. The lounge features an extensive hot and cold buffet, a coffee machine, and a self-service bar for those morning mimosas.
The airline called Final Call 15 minutes before the actual stated boarding time, which had guests scurrying from the lounge – I think the airline knows its passengers well and despite their efforts there were plenty of stragglers. After a quick security screening and boarding process, we were welcomed onto the A330-300 by smiling staff in vibrant saris. Crew served glasses of fruit juice and hot towels, taking orders for brunch as they waited for the late boarders. The cabin was airy and fragrant, and featured the airline’s newest business class product, a seat that’s similar to those used by American Airlines and Cathay Pacific, which is a real coup for the far smaller airline. Coupled with the world-class service we have always received on previous flights, it’s a winning combination.
Set in a reverse herringbone configuration, each 21-inch wide business class seat features
A pitch of 78 inches, a recline of 180-degrees, USB and AC connectivity, a personal remote for the entertainment system, ample leg room; and easy-to-use controls for seat movement. My window seat had plenty of privacy (my favourite aspect of this seat design), an ample cocktail shelf, a shoulder-height compartment that’s ideal for storage of glasses, headphones, and cables, and a large 15.4-inch touch-screen personal monitor. The seat converts into an 82-inch long lie-flat bed, which is better suited for the airline’s longer routes.
This has always been SriLankan’s best attribute; while many carriers are essentially disengaging themselves from the traveller, offering self-service bars and state-of-the-art hardware that distracts passengers, SriLankan still focuses on personal attention and every flight we’ve taken with the airline has featured brilliant, intelligent, intuitive service, with the flight to Bangkok and then on to Hong Kong (with a different crew) no different. Crew were not only attentive but ‘human’, in that they genuinely wanted to know how everything was and if they could get you anything else – something that’s increasingly rare among frazzled, time-poor cabin attendants.
On the morning flight from Colombo to Bangkok we were served breakfast, with fresh fruit and ‘homemade’ yogurt followed by a choice of a traditional Sri Lankan breakfast of kiribath or milk rice with curried chicken and seeni sambal, onions simmered in tamarind, sugar and spices; a spinach and cheese omelet with rosti potatoes, chicken sausages, and green pea-stuffed tomatoes; poached eggs with smoked salmon on an English muffin with roasted tomato and lamb sausage; and a vegetarian choice of masala dosa with spicy sautéed vegetables, mint chutney and vegetable sambar. The omelet was fluffy and hot, and with some great black coffee, was the perfect way to kick off the day jumping countries.
For the onward flight between Bangkok and Hong Kong we were served lunch, starting with a ratatouille tambale in a grilled zucchini wrap with olives and cherry tomatoes; and followed with a choice of a chicken and cashew nut stir fry with Asian mixed vegetables and egg fried rice; peppered red snapper with shitake mushrooms and blanched broccoli; beef stroganoff with fettuccini pasta and blanched vegetables; and, as a vegetarian choice, mixed mushroom soba noodles with spicy tofu and oyster sauce. Although a slightly odd combination, the stroganoff was the ideal comfort food for an afternoon of lazing in front of a movie, especially when matched with a glass of the Australian Galway Vintage Shiraz from the airline’s comprehensive selection. I also selected a pot of spiced chai black tea from the dedicated tea menu, which is a nice touch.
The airline uses the state-of-the-art Thales Avant in-flight entertainment system, which is packed with blockbusters from both Hollywood and Bollywood, as well as plenty of television shows and audio channels, all of which is accessible through the touchscreen monitor which hinges out from the seatback. I personally love the external camera, which shows takeoffs and landings. There’s also in-air wifi connectivity priced from US$5-US$15 for 6-20MB.
Whether you’re headed to Sri Lanka or just passing through onto other destinations, SriLankan Airlines has become a true player in the regional aviation scene, with its world-class service, its ever-expanding network, its competitive hardware, and its great value for money. Business class Hong Kong-Colombo return from US$895; www.srilankan.com