BOOKED: KLM Business Class, JAL Business Class, And More!

Since I’m “grounded” this week, I’m taking some time to plan my travel for 2019, and wanted to share the details of a trip I just finalized, which I can’t wait for!

We’re going to Sri Lanka

We actually planned this trip many months ago, so it’s the flights that were recently finalized. I’ve been to Colombo more times than I can count. That’s because airlines tend to publish really low first and business class fares when originating out of Colombo, so I’ve often taken advantage of them.

However, I’ve never actually been into the countryside of Sri Lanka, though I’ve heard amazing things. Every time I’ve been to Colombo it has been alone, and I’d much rather explore a country with someone else.

So in January Ford and I are headed to Sri Lanka for a while, and specifically we’re checking out the two Amans. I love Aman Resorts, and there are two in Sri Lanka — Amanwella and Amangalla, and both look beautiful.


Amangalla, Sri Lanka

The flights I originally booked to & from Sri Lanka

When we first planned this trip I booked roundtrip business class tickets on Qatar Airways from Los Angeles to Colombo, since I found a good paid business class fare. Fortunately the cancelation fee was reasonable, and since then I’ve decided to rebook our flights. This is primarily for three reasons:

  • Originally both Ford and I were going for status with American for next year, so this was a great way to earn elite qualifying miles, though we’re no longer going for status with American
  • I had hoped that the LAX route would feature Qsuites by January, though we’ll just barely be missing them
  • I’d like to review something new, and if we’re not going for status with American and the flights don’t feature Qsuites, we might as well try something new


Qatar Airways’ “old” 777 business class

The flights I booked instead

Just yesterday I booked flights to & from Sri Lanka that have me reviewing completely new products. So what did I book?

Let’s start with the return. I saw some good fares on KLM from Colombo to New York. For $1,200 one-way in business class I could book:

  • SriLankan’s A321 business class from Colombo to Abu Dhabi
  • KLM’s new A330 business class from Abu Dhabi to Amsterdam
  • KLM’s 787 business class from Amsterdam to New York


KLM’s 787 business class

This also allowed us to have a brief stopover in Abu Dhabi, where I’d like to review the new EDITION Abu Dhabi, and also to review KLM’s new lounge at Amsterdam Airport.


EDITION Abu Dhabi

For the outbound I have something tentatively booked. I redeemed 60,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles per person to book:

  • Japan Airlines’ 787 business class from Dallas to Tokyo Narita, which features Apex Suites; I haven’t yet reviewed Japan Airlines’ 787 business class
  • Japan Airlines’ 777 business class from Tokyo to Singapore, featuring reverse herringbone seats, which I haven’t yet reviewed on JAL


Japan Airlines’ new reverse herringbone business class

Then I separately booked a SilkAir business class ticket from Singapore to Colombo using KrisFlyer miles, which should make an interesting review, especially as SilkAir is being merged into Singapore Airlines.

However, I’m open to rebooking the outbound, and am also considering redeeming:

  • 60,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles to fly Cathay Pacific’s A350-1000 business class from San Francisco to Hong Kong, connecting to a 777-300ER from Hong Kong to Colombo (I know Ford would surely like to avoid an extra stop)
  • From a value perspective, it’s really hard not to redeem 70,000 Alaska Mileage Plan miles for Cathay Pacific first class to Hong Kong, given what a great product it is, and how it’s only marginally more expensive; it has also been several years since I’ve reviewed Cathay Pacific first class


Cathay Pacific’s A350 business class

Bottom line

I’m excited to finally explore Sri Lanka beyond Colombo and the airport. While I know the airport like the back of my hand at this point, I’ve heard great things about the country beyond that.

I look forward to reviewing KLM for the return portion of the trip, and am also happy with the JAL outbound I have booked. However, please let me know what review you guys would find the most interesting on the outbound, as I’m still open to other options.

Comments

  1. Hi Licky, that looks great, especially the KLM Business Class.
    For outbound, I’m interested in your opinion on ANA long-haul business class… often there’re award availabilities for IAH-NRT or MEX-NRT routes!

  2. I had lunch at the Amangalla in february when I was in Sri Lanka. It was a delicious lunch and Galle is great. The property is also beautiful. That said, you’re missing out on the best of Sri Lanka by not going to the interior, which is what Sri Lanka is really about. The beaches are lovely and tropical (although Galle really isnt beachy at all). But Sri Lanka is really about the tea plantations, the mountains, and the towns such as Kandy, Nuwara, and the fort atop Sigiriya. And, of course, the elephant national park (udawalawe) and the other national park in the south. Would recommend veering inward as well if you really want to see Sri Lanka.

  3. I hate to post this every thread, but you were on a British Airways spree to Kenya (it seemed you couldn’t get enough of BA 747s), and now you are on a JAL spree. You seems to love JAL so much (like BA business) you fly it whenever possible, while you last flew ANA in 2013, then never again. While you do rank ANA among the top 10 F products, it is only to show how inferior it is to JAL. I’d like you to review NH at least once, at least on the upcoming A380, even if you never fly ANA again.

    In the meantime, I think it may be prudent to wait until JAL receives its A350, then review that.

  4. @Lucky, where/how do you find good business class fares, especially for transcontinental routes?

    If you decided to fly CX, it’s a tough call because their First Class is great for sleeping (best sleep on a plane ever for me!), but the A350s are much more quiet than the 777s (they do provide the noise-cancelling headphones, so it may not be a big deal). I’d go for the First Class myself.

  5. Sri Lanka is gorgeous. It’s one of the few countries that I want to revisit, even though I have been there a dozen times. Agree with @Jason – the beaches are great but the interior of this small island nation is gorgeous. Kuduruketha is a gem if you have time to get there.

    I would be interested in seeing a review on your experiences in Sri Lanka, since it looks like you may actually have time to enjoy the destination.

  6. @ VT-CIE — I’m not sure I’d call reviews of three different products of an airline a “spree,” but fair enough. As far as ANA goes:
    — I have booked a roundtrip ticket from Chicago to Tokyo in ANA first class for this spring
    — I intend to review ANA’s business class soon from Los Angeles to Tokyo, so that I can review the new United Polaris Lounge at the same time

    Appreciate the feedback!

  7. @Lucky, has CX changed their first class availability or is it still just a few days before departure for partner awards?

  8. If you go to Galle, go have a meal at Sun House…freshest most tastiest fish I have ever had. Both Sun House and Dutch House are great as they were some of the first B&B’s in Galle, so the area is really nice.

    I did high tea at Amangalla and it was good though not sure if the property is worth the price tag to be honest. There’s plenty of other options in and around Galle that could be better.

    And make sure you go check out the sea turtle rescue facility down towards Lake Koggala!

  9. @ YGeorgeW — Still just a few days out. Fortunately I’m flexible as far as gateways go and I can book backups, so…

  10. @ Gabriel — Google Flights is a good place to start, though for me it’s generally just about a lot of trial and error.

  11. @Lucky – Also, for the JAL 777 NRT-SIN, recommend getting a seat in the forward business class cabin; I was in the rear biz cabin and the cabin was sweltering hot. Practically no sleep for me! I walked up to the front one and Row 5 area seemed cooler.

  12. Sounds like a great trip! Either JAL or Cathay would be great.

    Now I’m really interested to hear about your 2019 strategy! 😀 Are you finally going rogue with no real primary loyalty??

  13. Hi, first time leave comment here, you should visit Ceylon tea trail, much better service and experience than the two Aman at Sri Lanka

  14. Yay, finally some KLM again! I am very curious about your thoughts. And Sri Lanka is a great destination!

    Regarding the outbound: JAL sounds fun enough, but a new Cathay First review would be appreciated too.

  15. Try Cathay A350-1000. You have not reviewed the new business class service they have and also have not tried Cathay on a longhaul for a very long time.

  16. I don’t know how long you’re planning to spend, but it is a beautiful place for sure. So much history and beautiful nature. I know you get excited about these luxury resorts, but frankly that’s not why I would be going to SL. Like Jason said, some of the best scenery is in the mountains. I loved Ella for example. And Nuwara Elia has some really beautiful hikes nearby. Kandy is one of those places that it seems like everyone who goes to SL should visit. There are fantastic national parks. Since you guys like nature I hope you’re planning to visit at least a park or two. So many cool, old historic sites all over the place too. Colombo is the least interesting part of the country. I was there for about 17 days and saw a large part of the island but didn’t make it to the far north or the east coast.

  17. Nice to see KLM and SriLankan after a long time. The Cathay A350-1000 will be great, but you aren’t assured the phenomenal service levels that JAL guarantees you.

  18. CX first have not changed a bit since you last reviewed it. Business is nondescript, even on an A350-1000, but love to see you review the new business service & see what you think about that. If you’re flying too soon to do that, stick with JAL.

  19. The JAL APEX suite is by far an away my favourite businesss class so I’d be interested in seeing what the herringbone ‘downgrade’ is like.

  20. @CR, the forward section was warm too. I flew that flight on 24 Dec and has to break out a pair of shorts I had stashed in my carry on just for this contingency. I was in 2K and my friend in 4K also found it warm though he did not have to change into shorts. 🙂

    I found the seats a bit narrow and hard to get in and out of and the flight attendants did not clear my glasses and cutlery unless asked. They’d clear the normal meal service trays and stuff but I had asked for extra drinks and had also taken some plates off my wife’s tray and those were left on my table for a long time after I had finished and I had to request for them to be cleared.

    I flew J on JL724 KUL-NRT on a newer A350 which had a three point seat belt instead of the normal across the lap one. Wouldn’t say I hated that but wasn’t a good feeling.

  21. Hi Lucky! Great job on these bookings. I would so appreciate and would love to hear about the logistics of Sri Lanka, from the airport to the city / options for an overnight transit, going for a day or two, and how far is it to get to some of these cool-looking places there?

    I’m in Abu Dhabi and Dubai frequently, and have always wanted to pull the trigger on an ex-CMB back to the US (LAX). I’m always there for business or some other purpose and I’m never able to traveling lightly (carrying equipment, etc.) , or willing for that matter (hello, the shoes). I’m not sure how user-friendly Sri Lanka would be for that reason. Everything I read talks about long bus rides, etc., and lugging my designer luggage all around sounds like too much work. Heaven knows it would help my DL status situation.

    Appreciate any feedback. Thank you so much!

  22. I would definitely prefer the Cathay first outbound review. Especially because it’s only marginally more expensive. Always great to see the Cathay first product over the years even if much hasn’t changed. But your eye for detail will make it worthwhile.

  23. Amangalla is great the wella I was less Impressed with. I am curious your feedback. As above Ceylon tea trails are amazing properties we stayed at two that same trip

  24. @lucky: You should try for one of SriLankan’s A330-300 routes on the outbound, that would make for an interesting review. NRT, PEK, PVG are some of their destinations which could also offer connectivity from the US.

  25. Have been looking at SL also. Politicallly very volatile recently but seems to have resolved. Very interested in destination reports of the interior!

  26. You guys MUST take a Cinnamon Air seaplane flight from Colombo to the highlands and stay at Ceylon Tea Trails – such a beautiful addition to the Amans.

  27. Japan Airlines has apex suites on the 787 and reverse herringbone on the 777 ? Figured it would be the other way around.

  28. @Rav it’s quite easy to book private transportation (car with driver). Every local travel agent offering tours will have this option. It still takes a long time depending where you’re going as all the traffic including ancient, giant buses and trucks share the same narrow 2 lane roads. But it’s not stressful. Just remember that you’re not traveling in an ultra-modern place.

  29. Lucky, not sure if you ever mentioned this…what’s your lifetime AA status? Assuming Gold if not Plat.

    BTW count me among those that don’t see any issue w/you crediting non-JV OW flights to AA to get status that way (like QR)…you get the benefits w/o AA getting any money, that’s still principled!

  30. Sri Lanka is a gem that exceeded our opinions as we had neither expectations nor knowledge of it. We were there the first week of November, last month, for nine nights. We booked a tour package with Tangerine Tours: Ask for Nandika, a driver, who is exceptionally knowledgeable of the culture, geography, cuisine and tourists in the country. The Heritance Kandalama is a must hotel that offers the best and expansive buffets and spectacular views of the jungle where you see monkeys on the trees outside the windows. The Cultural Triangle is a must visit, especially the Temple of tooth relic, the tea and gemstone factories. The alexandrites are magnificent rock that changes different colors. The countryside is clean, green and tranquil and the locals are hospitable. Be sure to have US currency handy as local stores and restaurants do not accept credit cards. Unlike all other countries, you get better exchange rates at the airport than local banks. When you dine at designated restaurants that cater to tourists, you pay taxes and fees and other services. So it saves money to patronize businesses cater to locals. Apply online visa http://www.eta.gov.lk/slvisa takes two days and avoids queue at airport. Sri Lanka will impress you and leave a long lasting fond memory but you should allocate at least one week to appreciate the beauty of the country.

  31. KLM lounge is only partially completed so it was packed full when I was there last week. There are some nice design flourishes but overall I felt it was too over-designed with a lot impractical aspects, unusable taps in the bathrooms, illegible signage, poor location of the flight board, poor entrance layout etc.

    The worst example was just getting a simple glass of water. I wandered around the food and drinks area for a few minutes trying to find water. I eventually had to stop a member of staff to ask. They pointed me to a beer like tap with two spouts that was completely unlabeled. I was informed that one was still and the other sparkling. On doing so at least a dozen other pax turned around and made a beeline for the taps, they had all been in the same boat so to speak. That is an ultimate design and user experience fail. When I said to the staff member that they should probably label them he rolled his eyes. Again nice but extremely impractical design.

    I don’t think the lounge is going to wear well, too many unique aspects which will be costly to maintain. So I guess if you’re to experience it do it now while it’s new.

  32. Yay!!! So excited for another lucky aman review! I’m flying Cathay first for the first time in 2 weeks (!) and realized you hadn’t reviews them for a few years so my vote is for them!! Also…if it will make Ford happiest, it’s probably a good decision! 🙂

  33. As some others have mentioned, why not Sri Lankan’s NRT-CMB flight? It might require an overnight in TYO, though.

  34. @Lucky – I hope you’ll let us know if you and Ford are both able to snags First Class seats on Cathay Pacific using Alaska miles, and how you did it!

  35. Whilst Galle, Kandy and so many of the other traditional destinations in Sri Lanka are unmissable, the once war inflicted area of Jaffna is now accessible. Getting there on one of the twin turbine MA 60 planes operated by the commercial arm of the Sri Lankan Air Force (Helitours) from Ratmalana Airport is a wonderful experience in itself. By disembarking at Trincomalee China Bay, the beaches around Uppuveli are exquisite.

  36. Lucky, if you choose the DFW JAL flight, be sure to add the new DFW Centurion Lounge to your list to review! It’s incredible!!

  37. Lucky do you have tips for booking JAL business with Alaska? Even when business seats showed through BA, Alaska reported them as unavailable, and I’ve only been able to see the not-so-business ‘partner business’ with JAL on the Alaska site.

  38. We went 1 year ago to Sri Lanka and did a tour and only sent to Galle towards the end. I can recommend a hotel near Sigiriya that is non chain but was an excellent 5 star hotel with nice villas.

    https://www.watergardensigiriya.com/

    I was not that impressed with Heritance Kandalama and we should have rather stayed longer at the water garden.

    Another interesting hotel we stayed at was near the tea plantations at (with awful dinner food but the place had a gorgeous location and interesting history):

    http://www.governorsmansion.com/

    You should get a car and a driver arranged (we used a recommendation we had), it is very inpexensive (paid 450 USD for 8 days) and the drivers can stay at their own quarters at most hotels you stay at for free.

    Do not underestimate the distances though, driving is very slow and it can take a long time to go anywhere.

    We did not like Galle itself that much.

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