Aircraft Type: A330-300
Class: Business Class
Date: September 2016
SriLankan Airlines has passed by our radar for far too long, and their new business class product has now been flying for a few years on their A330-300 aircraft. Featuring all-aisle access, WiFi and quite frankly, amazing cuisine, it was time to take this Oneworld carrier for a spin on a trip to the Maldives. The carrier has developed itself as a niche, affordable business class carrier across Europe and Asia and with a ‘Bid Upgrade’ service, now allows passengers in economy to bid for an affordable fully-flat bed at the front of the plane.
On The Ground
SriLankan Airlines flies from London Heathrow Terminal 3, which is our second favourite terminal at Heathrow. The advantage of operating from T3 is that other Oneworld carriers also call the terminal home making for easy connections.
The check in is situated in zone C, which is right in front of the tube entrance, meaning from tube to check-in takes just a matter of minutes on foot.
Business Class passengers enjoy two dedicated check-in desks, and even though both were occupied on our arrival, within 30 seconds, a desk had cleared and we were being greeted by friendly, and fairly humorous check-in staff.
Presented with boarding passes all the way to our connection we were reassured that our 40-minute connection time was ample, and there would be no issues connecting on to our final destination.
We were invited to use FastTrack which was a dream, as there was no queue, and from arriving from the Heathrow Express to lounge took no more that 15 minutes.
SriLankan uses British Airways Galleries lounge in T3, which offers an Elemis spa, and the usual perks and benefits of a BA lounge, however, the space is quite claustrophobic, with only a few windows, and when we arrived it was very busy. There is some good news though, as there are other Oneworld lounges in T3 including American Airlines and (soon to be) Cathay Pacific’s beautiful new lounge.
With the flight being one of the last from T3 at night, the lounge however quickly cleared out, which left ample room to stretch out and relax. As usual, a tip for those that don’t know. Champagne isn’t put out on display, so if you want bubbles before you fly, you will have to ask one of the staff in the lounge.
Approximately 30 minutes before departure, the flight started boarding from a gate just 10 minute’s walk from the lounge, and by the time we arrived, we walked straight on the aircraft.
SriLankan operates the A330-300 aircraft on the route between London and Colombo, which offers their most modern cabin product. The A330-300 offers 27 all-aisle access herringbone fully flat-bed seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration. The best seats for travelling alone are the window seats, as they offer the most privacy, while the centre seats are best for couples travelling together.
The cabin is fairly basic, with simple trim and finishes, but the rear bulkhead wall is adorned with a contemporary peacock design, and the ceiling panels feature Airbus’ LED starry-sky pattern which comes to play at night.
On boarding, the cabin was lit normally, but as soon as the aircraft took off, waves of coloured mood lighting filled the cabin throughout the differing phases of flight.
The toilets are well looked after, and by the doorway, next to row 7, is a literature pocket filled with a variety of current magazines.
We were incredibly impressed with the seat. It was the basic Zodiac Cirrus hardware, with few added extras, however, the seat was covered in a cobalt blue leather, and featured natural linen headrest covers and linen pillows adorned in intricate patterns.
We’ve always loved the Cirrus seat, it’s spacious, comfortable and sturdy and well equipped with USB, power, secondary video handset, reading light and bi-fold dining table.
One little issue was the lack of many secure storage areas in the seat. There is shoe storage under the ottoman, and a small, semi-deep tray beside the knee, under the large side table, however the SriLankan seat doesn’t offer the headphone cupboard that the seat offers on other models which acts as a perfect storage unit.
The Food & Service
This area perhaps was our biggest surprise. SriLankan offers some of the best service and food we’ve had in a while. On boarding, coats were taken immediately and welcome drinks offered including juice and Piper-Heidsieck Cuvee Brut champagne, this was accompanied by a branded hot towel
The menu offered a fantastic array of dishes both for dinner and breakfast, the back page even offered a recipe for traditional Sri Lankan cuisine.
After take-off, a pre-dinner drink was served, along with a small accompanying bowl of snacks and nuts.
Shortly afterwards, our tables were laid with table cloths, our orders taken, and our dinner service commenced. The speed of this service was welcome on an evening flight.
We opted for the trio of seafood starter, which consisted of smoked halibut, salmon and herb marinated king prawns with a mango salsa and microgreens. It was both fresh, light and full of taste.
It was great to see the airline offer four options for main course, including a Pan-seared salmon steak, Fillet of Beef Steak and Vegetarian curry, however we opted for the Chicken curry, which had a little spice to it, and was full of strong aromatic flavours.
To accompany the meals were two South American red wines, two white wines from France and Australia as well as an after dinner Port wine.
For dessert, there was a cheese board, fresh fruit and a Tiramisu, which were all brought on a trolley after the cabin had cleared the main course. As it took a while for some of the guests to finish their main course, there was a slightly delay, which meant, after completely filling ourselves on the main course, we were happy just to recline back, finish our movie and head to sleep on the fully flat bed.
The seats offer stickers to ask to be woken for duty free or meals, and we promptly stuck our ‘Wake for meals’ sticker on the seat, excited to see what breakfast would bring. At 10 hours 20 minutes, we were surprised to be woken for breakfast, having slept the whole way through the flight soundly.
2 hours before landing, raising our eye-mask we were surprised to see a smiling cabin crew with hot-towel outreached to us, asking if we would like an orange juice.
After about 5 minutes of coming too, the cabin crew returned and presented another table cloth and a tray featuring fresh fruit and a large bowl of yoghurt.
The main breakfast options included a tradition Sri Lankan Breakfast, consisting of Kiribath, Seeni Sambal and a Tuna Curry; a herb and cheese omelet with sausage and hash browns, a vegetarian choice which was devilled potatoes and Kiri Hodi.
However, we opted for the mixed grill, as it was perhaps the most unusual option for us to see on there, but weren’t disappointed. Perhaps less a breakfast and more a dinner option, but the steak, kebab and bacon and sausages were delightful and tender.
Breakfast service was unrushed, and like the rest of the flight attentive and friendly. There is something truly humble and honest about the service on SriLankan, that left us wanting more.
Just before landing, the cabin crew handed out chocolates and thanked us for our custom and our jackets were returned.
The entertainment on SriLankan was plentiful – surprisingly more than some other Oneworld carriers. The pure joy was the size of the screen, which was one of the largest you could get for the Cirrus seat. It makes British Airways TV screen look tiny in comparison. They seemed HD quality and the controls were intuitive, and actually allowed to scroll past the commercials too. (a lovely feature!)
The IFE touchscreen was supported by a handset located next to the seat, which also contained flight maps and an intuitive control for the IFE, perfect when lying down, so not having to sit up to change the AVOD programming.
The headphones were of decent quality for this flight, but the same type that we have had feedback issues with in the past, due to the sensitivity of the noise cancelling technology.
The airline also offered WiFi at a variety of price points (although it wasn’t clear at first how much data you were purchasing), and if you are a little less digital savvy, there were a variety of magazines, including an inflight magazine Serendib.
Asides the entertainment, there were a variety of amenities on offer. From two pillows to a woven beautifully patterned blanket. There were also slippers, socks, an eye mask, and after the dinner service (strangely) we were offered a Crabtree & Evelyn amenity kit filled with a Jojoba Oil refreshing mist, Lip balm and hand cream as well as comb, dental kit, earplugs and tissues.
What we really would have liked to have seen was a mattress or seat protector for the seat, as sleeping on the leather seat became a little hot after a while and could have benefitted from some protection.
We were blown away by the low price of the business class product compared to what it delivers. The service, food and hard product were all top quality, and while the seat doesn’t offer all the bells and whistles of other carriers, is perfectly suited to SriLankan. With chauffeur service, bid upgrades and a variety of other services on hand, as well as Oneworld earning capabilities, means this carrier is well suited as a lesser-known but just as powerful long-haul carrier which when affordably priced, should be snapped up at your first opportunity.
The Big Picture
THEDESIGNAIR TRAVELLED AS PAYING PASSENGERS ON SRILANKAN, THE OPINIONS EXPRESSED HERE ARE OUR OWN.