Last month, we were lucky to try out SriLankan’s Business Class again, approximately 4 years since the last time, which was the first time since the pandemic, and it gave us an opportunity to see how the carrier was faring post-COVID. SriLankan has always been one of our secret favourite carriers. It often sits below the radar of many, but is a hidden gem for connecting from London to Asia or the Maldives.
Check out our full report in video format or click here to watch it on youtube:
On the Ground
So our flight departed from Male in the Maldives, which is a small, effective and often busy airport. Thankfully since our last visit, work is well underway on extending the terminal, which should be ready by late next year.
SriLankan is one of the earlier international departures, meaning that getting to the airport on time involves getting the very first seaplane flights from your resort. But that still gave us a comfortable two hours before the flight to check in. In Male, there’s an initial security screening to get in to the terminal, from which point, we headed straight to the check-in area.
Check in was prompt, easy, if a ‘little matter of fact’ and boarding passes and bags checked we headed quickly through immigration (which we had fast track through) and security where there was no fast track. But 10 minutes after boarding we were airside in the main departure airline.
SriLankan, like many other carriers, still uses the Leeli Lounge, which is situated in the corner of the lounge, it can get busy, but not at this time of day, and considering it was early in the morning, the fact that there was no alcohol on offer wasn’t a sore point.
The first flight
Boarding for SriLankan was already underway when we got to the gate, with two separate lanes for Business and Economy passengers, albeit that we all ended up on the same bus. Either way, it was efficient, with what appeared to be a fairly low load on a one-hour widebody flight.
All flights from Male currently use remote gates and buses even though it’s an incredibly small airport, which meant in just 30 seconds we were at the aircraft and climbing the stairs. Although when we booked the aircraft was a 300-series aircraft, there was a swap on the day. That meant being an A330-200 the aircraft featured the older business class cabin, with tired but incredibly comfortable fully flat beds in a 2 x 2 x 2 configuration.
The aircraft was tired, but perfectly clean and the seats were very comfortable. There was a lack of any true branding in the cabin, and the brown leather seats seem at odds with the rest of SriLankan’s brand palette, however, the crew, and soft touches were the bright vibrant splashes of colour and pattern that we had hoped for.
Considering this was a one-hour flight the entire experience was superb, and we were wined and dined extensively in a time frame that most European carriers would struggle to even provide a cold meal service.
After take off, we were offered champagne and nuts, while the breakfast was prepared, which was delivered no later than 5 minutes afterwards. I opted for the Srilankan curry and coconut rice, which was a full-flavour taste explosion. The crew were so proud of their meals they offered a second breakfast, which – for the sake of reviewing – I couldn’t resist.
All in all, a tired cabin, great crew and widebodied comfort with a fully flat bed on a one-hour flight. What’s not to love? Whether it was SriLankan’s flagship A330-300 product or this one, this is a great start to a very easy flight back to London.
Connecting in Colombo
Colombo is one of our favourite airports to connect in, as it’s easy, quick and small to navigate. The airline also has a tendency to hold back aircraft if there has been a delay, meaning that there’s little reason to stress even over a lengthy delay like we suffered on the way out.
In the heart of the airport is SriLankan’s Serendib lounge, a small, older generation lounge that is accessed through ornate wooden doors. Next to the reception desk are stone lion sculptures which sets the scene for an authentic Sri Lankan experience. Inside the lounge, there’s plenty of seating for a relatively small airline.
The lounge is split into three key areas including a dining area with a wide range of dishes that change throughout the day, which also features a self-service bar. The main lounge seating area and an Ayurvedic spa, albeit that it was closed when we visited, probably as a remnant of COVID protocols still in effect.
While we only spent approximately 30 minutes in the lounge it was soon time to board the flagship A330 back to London. As per usual, the security checks are done at the gates, which is actually a very effective way of managing passenger flow within the airport. Boarding at Colombo happened through both doors, meaning we boarded from the front
The Flagship A330-300 product
SriLankan’s A330 product is still standing the test of time. As we’ve travelled several times with the carrier over the past few years, and the cabin is still in perfect condition. On boarding you are presented with a sea of reverse herringbone seats in a 1 x 2 x 1 configuration, fitted out with teal and cream leather trim.
On the rear of the cabin is the ornate peacock motif, which is a wonderful touch, matching the peacock inspired uniforms that make the crew look spectacular. Another hidden design detail at first is the starry sky ceiling panels, something that most airlines only use for their first class cabin, but adds a wonderful cabin ambience when the lights go down.
In fact, SriLankan uses A330 mood lights to their maximum, with wonderful waves of colour slowly cycling through the cabin from time to time to create artificial sunsets, sunrises and midnight lighting.
The seats themselves are somewhere between basic and well appointed, with large fold out screens, a large comfortable bed, IFE controller, personal lights and USB and charging for personal devices. These seats are incredibly comfortable, and used on a myriad of carriers for good reason. While not as big as the Super Diamond seats on Etihad’s new A350, they feature a lot of the same inherent qualities.
Things are almost back to normal, and bar a few hot towels, and the need for masks and crew wearing latex gloves, you could believe you were in a pre-COVID era. The airline has placed an emphasis on service and food, and the quality of the dining was exceptional.
While we miss the fancy leather menus that we had experienced in the past, and the secondary day pillows, things don’t feel stripped back. The menu options are extensive, and while the food is still being served with foil still on, the taste hasn’t changed one bit.
In fact, SriLankan have actually upgraded their menu to offer a wide range of dishes that are meant to be good for the body and mind, and on our flight a King Coconut drink was on offer that was tasty and full of electrolytes that rehydrates the body.
Our recommendation is opt for the SriLankan dishes, which are so rich in flavour, your mouth will be salivating for weeks afterwards. On this flight there were two full meals on offer, as well as a wide range of options to snack on throughout the flight. We were thoroughly impressed by the Bloody Mary service, which came with accompaniments, and a salt rimmed glass. It’s small service elements like this that leave a lasting memory.
The IFE was perfectly stocked, with a wide range of movies, not that much relatively new, but that’s an issue facing many airlines considering film production came to a near standstill during COVID too. The headsets could do with an upgrade, as the usual connection issues for older headsets started to rear its head, and after three different headsets, I found one that would last the rest of the flight.
Amenity kits are pretty decent, although some items are now missing such as toothbrushes, which you need to ask the crew for. Perhaps this is either down to cost-cutting or trying to improve the carrier’s sustainability goals.
Overall, the flight was a pleasant, polished and enjoyable experience. SriLankan might not win awards for design, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t amazing design details to be enjoyed. From cabin crew uniforms, to pillow motifs and even the starry sky ceiling and use of mood lighting, there are elements that bring joy to the flight experience. It will be great to see the now-missing elements such as leather menus, enhanced amenity kits, better bedding, and elements such as slippers or even pyjamas would elevate the carrier well above its station to a formidable oneworld carrier.
But even without these elements, this is an affordable, well appointed carrier that I would happily fly with again.
TheDesignAir paid for its tickets, and the views expressed here are our own.