Review: SriLankan Airlines Business Class A330 Tokyo To Colombo

Filed Under: Airline Reviews, SriLankan

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SriLankan Airlines 455
Tokyo (NRT) – Colombo (CMB)
Thursday, January 24
Depart: 11:20AM
Arrive: 5:50PM
Duration: 10hr
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Seat: 6G (Business Class)

I had only ever flown SriLankan’s A330-300 business class on the very short flight from Colombo to Male, so was looking forward to seeing how their long haul product compared.

We boarded through the forward door, and turned right into the business class cabin. SriLankan has a total of 28 reverse herringbone seats on the A330, and they’re spread across seven rows.

SriLankan Airlines A330 business class cabin


SriLankan Airlines A330 business class cabin

These seats are fully flat and feature direct aisle access. Usually I’d select a window seat in this configuration, which I like since it faces the windows and has good privacy.


SriLankan A330 business class seat


SriLankan A330 business class seat

While perhaps not how I’d choose to decorate my home, I do love SriLankan’s bold interiors, with turquoise seats and art on the bulkheads.


SriLankan A330 business class cabin art

Since I was traveling with Ford we decided to select two of the center seats, so we could sit together.


SriLankan Airlines business class seats A330

As you can see, reverse herringbone seats still aren’t perfect when traveling with someone, since you have to lean forward to talk. On the flip side, the good news is that if you’re in one of these seats and the other one is occupied by a stranger, you still have privacy.


SriLankan Airlines business class seats A330

These seats face towards the center of the plane.


SriLankan Airlines business class seats A330

The footwell was definitely on the tight side, as is often the case when you have reverse herringbone seats on an A330, given that the cabin isn’t that wide. This becomes less of an issue on the 777, where reverse herringbone seats are typically a bit more spacious.


SriLankan A330 business class seat footwell

On the console to the side of the seat were many of the seat functions, including a reading light, entertainment controls, seat controls, and charging ports.


SriLankan A330 business class seat & entertainment controls

The tray table extended from the center armrest, and could be folded over in half.


SriLankan A330 business class seat tray table

Sometimes reverse herringbone seats have enclosed storage compartments, but this one didn’t. Again, I suspect that’s because the cabin isn’t as wide. However, along the center of the seat was a small exposed area where you could place things.


SriLankan A330 business class seat storage

The aisle side has an armrest that can be raised or lowered, depending on whether you prefer to have somewhere to rest your arm, or prefer to have a wider sleeping surface.


SriLankan A330 business class seat armrest

I appreciated that the seats had individual air nozzles, though when you’re seated in the center section you really have to reach to get to them.

SriLankan A330 overhead console

Already waiting at my seat upon boarding was a pillow and blanket. The pillow was nice, while the blanket was scratchy and not great.


SriLankan business class pillow & blanket 

Also waiting at my seat were slippers, eyeshades, and socks.


SriLankan business class amenities

Then there were some cheap-feeling headphones.


SriLankan business class headphones

10 minutes after boarding we were offered pre-departure drinks, with the choice between champagne, water, or fruit juice. We both had champagne, which was Piper-Heidsieck Brut.


SriLankan business class pre-departure champagne

10 minutes after that we were offered warm towels.


SriLankan business class warm towel

Business class was half full, and with the exception of one guy, everyone else in business class seemed to be Japanese senior citizens who were obviously on holiday. For that matter, almost the entire plane was Japanese tourists.

Speaking of that one exception, as luck would have it there was a Sri Lankan businessman seated across from me who was finishing up a very, very important business deal on his cell phone before takeoff. He was yelling into his phone as if there was no one else around, so at some point I glared at him, hoping he’d at least lower his voice.

He didn’t, but when he got off the phone he turned to me and said “I’m sorry, I had a very important business deal to attend to.” I know…

Anyway, at 11:10AM the main cabin door closed, and at that point the captain added his welcome aboard, informing us of our flight time of 9hr40min, and our cruising altitude of 38,000 feet.

Unrelated to the passenger experience, but I found it interesting that SriLankan only has two pilots on a 10 hour flight. I get it’s a daytime flight, but in the other direction the flight is a redeye, which at some airlines requires higher staffing.

At this point the crew also distributed amenity kits, which were Aigner branded.

SriLankan business class amenity kit

The crew then took meal orders. I’ve found SriLankan to be pretty inconsistent when it comes to service — they have some exceptional flight attendants, but they also have quite a few flight attendants who seem uninterested in their jobs, and unfortunately that’s how I’d describe most of this crew. The crew was totally fine, but it was also apparent they didn’t really enjoy their jobs.

We had quite a wait for pushback, though at 11:35AM we began our pushback, at which point the safety video was screened.

Pushing back Narita Airport

Scoot 777 Narita Airport

I always love watching the ground handlers bow and wave in Japan.

The Narita bow

At 11:45AM we began our taxi. While the taxi itself was short, there was a bit of a wait for takeoff.

Taxiing Narita Airport

By 12:05PM we were cleared for takeoff on runway 34L.

Taking off from Narita Airport

View after takeoff from Narita


View after takeoff from Narita

We had a smooth climb out, and 10 minutes after takeoff the seatbelt sign was turned off, at which point the curtains between the cabins were closed.

SriLankan A330 business class cabin

As we climbed out I browsed the entertainment system. It was surprisingly good — the system was extremely responsive and easy to use, but also had a good selection of movies and TV shows.

SriLankan A330 entertainment system


SriLankan Airlines entertainment system


SriLankan Airlines entertainment system

I also checked out the route for our flight on the moving map feature.

Moving map enroute to Colombo


Moving map enroute to Colombo

At this point I also realized that SriLankan has exterior cameras on their A330s, though the truth is that it’s only really a tail camera that gets me excited (like you’ll find on most A380s), since it’s such a cool perspective.

SriLankan A330 nose camera

SriLankan Airlines has wifi on their A330s, though unfortunately it’s offered by OnAir, which offers among the slowest connectivity in the sky.

The pricing options are as follows:

  • 20 minutes / 9MB costs $4
  • 1 hour / 25MB costs $8
  • 3 hours / 80MB costs $15
  • Full flight / 240MB costs $25

As you can see there’s a time and data limit, and your pass expires with whichever one you run out of first.

SriLankan Airlines wifi

The meal service began quickly after takeoff. The menu read as follows:

The drink list read as follows:

Just 20 minutes after takeoff drinks were served with cashews. I had a glass of the French white wine to drink.

SriLankan business class — champagne & cashews

Tablecloths were distributed a few minutes later, and then the appetizer was served about 40 minutes after takeoff, as the crew rolled a cart down the aisle.

SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — appetizer

I selected the smoked salmon tartar, marinated octopus, and prawns, presented with mixed lettuce, mixed peppers, micro herbs, salmon roe, and genoves dressing, which was quite nice.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — appetizer

Ford had the Japanese style couscous salad presented on cucumber ribbons, sliced okra, steamed cauliflower, micro herbs, and grilled paprika.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — appetizer

We asked for a refill on our white wine, and one of the flight attendants responded “that’s the last bottle.” We were surprised, since that was the first one they had opened, as far as we know. So she said “just kidding, I was hoping you’d cry.”

Lol?

The main courses were brought out just 15 minutes after the appetizers were served. I selected the vegetarian choice, which consisted of paneer makhani and aloo gobi accompanied by saffron rice, vegetable jalfrezi, and pakoda.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — main course

Ford had Indian style chicken curry served with dhal makhani, vegetable jalfrezi, jeera rice, and curry puff.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — main course

Both of these dishes were excellent.

Next up we were offered cheese and fruit off a cart. Ford and I decided to split one cheese plate.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — cheese course

15 minutes after that a dessert trolley was rolled down the aisle with dessert, coffee, tea, and liqueurs.

I had the chocolate pear cake with whipped cream, along with a coffee and Baileys.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — dessert

Ford had the almond gateau with mixed nuts and custard sauce, along with a Baileys.


SriLankan Airlines business class lunch — dessert

The meal wrapped up around 90 minutes after takeoff, and all things considered I’d say it was a pretty good meal.

Service was alright — the crew was going through the motions, though they definitely weren’t polished. For example, they’d constantly reach across the aisle to serve me from the left aisle or to serve Ford from the right aisle, which seemed lazy.

After the meal I checked out the lavatory — in business class there’s one right by the cockpit, and one at the back right of the cabin. They were pretty no frills, and had no extra amenities.

SriLankan Airlines A330 lavatory

After the meal I decided to try and get some sleep. At this point we were just under eight hours from Colombo.

Moving map enroute to Colombo


Moving map enroute to Colombo

I reclined my seat, and was also offered a bottle of water.

SriLankan business class bed

Even though this was a daytime flight I slept exceptionally well, and slept until three hours before landing, when I was woken up by a crew member presenting me with a hot towel.

Moving map enroute to Colombo


Moving map enroute to Colombo

A few minutes later the crew came through the cabin with a selection of juices.

SriLankan business class snack service — apple juice

The pre-landing menu read as follows:

For this meal I ordered the sea bass yuba natane-yaki in yuba sauce, served with mixed vegetables, tawara rice, and yukari powder. The fish was quite good.


SriLankan business class snack service

Ford ordered the deep fried beef in Szechuan sauce, served with assorted vegetables and steamed jasmine rice.

SriLankan business class snack service

Both were served with a side salad, fresh fruit, and bread.

After the meal I ordered a coffee.


SriLankan business class coffee

At 5:40PM Colombo time the captain advised that we were 110 miles from landing, and should be touching down in 25 minutes. A few minutes later landing preparations were made, including the crew spraying the cabin.

Moving map approaching Colombo

I’d note that there was one Japanese-speaking flight attendant who just seemed like a delight, but unfortunately she just served Japanese passengers. During the approach she even came around to each of the Japanese passengers to thank them for flying SriLankan. We got no such goodbye.

We were arriving just before sunset, though unfortunately it was a hazy evening, so views weren’t that great.

View approaching Colombo


View approaching Colombo


View approaching Colombo

We touched down at CMB Airport at 6:05PM, and from there had a five minute taxi to our arrival gate. Immigration was painless, and from there we were on our way to the town of Galle pretty quickly.

SriLankan A330 business class bottom line

I’d say SriLankan offers a good product, though not a great one. Overall the reverse herringbone seats are nice, the entertainment is good, and I appreciate that they have wifi, even if it’s the slow OnAir service.

While the food was pretty good, the soft product otherwise disappointed me. The service seemed uninterested, and I wish SriLankan would offer better bedding, which seems like an easy and relatively cheap fix.

SriLankan has really inconsistent service, so on a good day the experience would have been much different. Go figure on the return (from Colombo to Abu Dhabi), the crew was excellent.

Still, Colombo isn’t exactly the most competitive market out there, so all things considered I’d fly them again, either if visiting Sri Lanka, or if the price is right and I’m connecting.

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Comments
  1. Yes, it is unusual to have only two pilots when the block time is over 9 hours. The US FAR 117’s require an additional pilot(s) on anything over 8 or 9 depending on the report time.

  2. Great review Ben (as usual). I hate to think to what this airline will look like in a year after having lost of most of its tourism business.

  3. @Ben – Great review! Regarding the “reach across” service, I kinda get it as someone who flies with his wife on most international trips and sits in the middle. By reaching over you are at least at the same stages of the dining process or both getting your glasses topped-up at the same time. On some flights one of us will get the “fast aisle” and will be a course ahead pretty much the entire meal with topped-up glasses throughout while the other is lagging behind and staring at an empty glass and an uncleared plates. The “fast aisle” isn’t always the FAs fault, sometime’s it’s the needy or indecisive or rude PAX in the aisle slowing them down.

  4. No tea :/

    I don’t really know why, but UL has the best tea in the air. I am always excited, even in Y, to have their tea.

  5. so…related topic, but would ya’ll say its safe to visit Colombo in a couple weeks? We’re scheduled to get there after a few days in Maldives, but with all Easter tragedy, not sure what to expect in terms of road closures/curfews/general atmosphere?

  6. @mark there’s little to no road closures and no more curfew. In terms of general atmosphere the country is on high alert security wise especially in Colombo. This means the vehicle you’re traveling in may be stopped for a security inspection and most malls etc will check you with a security wand & inspect your bag before letting you in.

  7. @trev and @jack, I know I’ve been waiting for this too! But perhaps Lucky was trying to get a little distance between the terrorist attack and the reviews? It seems distasteful to have a review a few days after such a terrible incident.

    Anyway, thank you for the review! I personally found it funny how she joked about the wine (maybe cause I’m Australian and this is normal humour for us). However, I also get it wouldn’t be funny for everyone and might be a little risky to perform unless you really knew your customer.

  8. @Lucky, What is the airline’s logo? I was thinking it was a chile pepper, now I’m thinking some sort of bird?

  9. @Gibbo @Dennis the terrorist attack happened on Easter which was at the end of the month, the previous installment was published April 5, which is nearly three weeks before the terrorist attacks. He could not have published it in three weeks after that?

    Even so, he has been ridiculously slow to post trip reports. I understand not traveling as much (kinda) but does that not mean he should have more time to write these?

    Sorry Lucky, I love the page, but you have got to speed things up a bit

  10. Whatever the issues with the service, I really liked the menu options! Great sounding Japanese and Indian options.

  11. @ Trev — Ben has actually been traveling almost every day in April, which is why there have been 32 posts about his other flights, hotels, and general travel experiences since the previous installment of this series was published April 5th. He likes to share some of what he’s doing in realish-time, which is why the series always come later. We ran the first half of my Vietnam trip as well during that timeframe, which was another 10 review posts.

    So there was more than one review per day in April, along with 216 other posts, which I think is pretty dang speedy for a site that effectively has like 1.2 people writing!

    We know people love the report series (and we do too!), but they take a tremendous amount of time, which is especially hard to come by when traveling. We absolutely appreciate both your enthusiasm and your patience, and will continue doing what we can to keep a consistent mix of content. 🙂

  12. As you were sitting together in the centre aisle, did you hold hands for the flight?

  13. Are those sweaty plastic (“pleather”) cheap seat coverings? In Asia?? I wouldn’t fly them just for that — they obviously don’t care for passenger comfort.

  14. Just a thought, not a criticism…

    Responding poorly (or disinterested) to the FA joke could have impaired your service

    It is difficult to be witty/funny/interesting in a second language

    The FA May have tried with the bad wine joke, saw your reaction, and thought “oh, he is a serious person. I should be formal.”

    This can chill service.

    I was recently on a flight where I had fantastic service. Others complained about the same FA.

    I think it’s because I was amiable and friendly immediately upon boarding. My travel compadres were frazzled.

    Not saying my thoughts have anything to do with your service, nor that it it’s ok to give preferential service… but I’ve found that a genuine smile goes a long way

  15. @tiffany – maybe cutting down on the repetitive credit card posts or the trivial news posts where Ben just uploads GIFs from TV soaps may help speed up the delivery of the posts we actually want to read

  16. @ Michael F
    A significant part of their business is transit/connecting passengers. One would expect them to respond to the inbound tourism decline by ramping up marketing for those who never set foot in the country: eg, SE and E Asia to/from Europe, plus Australia/Europe/Asia.
    As for the airline experience: when J fares are only about 60% of those demanded by more highly rated competitors, I’ll chose Sri Lankan every time, notwithstanding the inconsistencies of service. It’s better than average.

  17. Just thought i’d mention that Sri Lankan offers a pretty extensive selection of main courses you can pre-order online – kinda ‘book the cook’ like. When I flew CMB – London there were about twenty options.

    For whatever reason Sri Lankan doesn’t promote this and it’s not easy to find on their website. But it does exist if you look for it.
    Plan and book —-> Pre order your meal —> Business Class

  18. I’m confused. You had middle seats but you got photos of pushback, taxi and takeoff?! Am I missing something… 🙂

  19. Oh. And usually the bathrooms have toothbrushes, shaving kits, mouthwash, cologne and eau de toilette, as well as hand cream. Odd.

  20. Also, Bathrooms should have had mouthwash, shaving kit, toothbrush, hand lotion, and cologne and Eau de toilette.

  21. Remember: This is the top product on their A330 – but only some of them.
    Most (?) of their fleet have old seats in 2-2-2 and some angled seats as well!

  22. @Ross

    He said business class was only half full, so I’m guessing he spent most of his time sitting with Ford, and occasionally sitting at an empty window seat for picture takaing.

  23. @ Ross — As Aaron guessed, several window seats were open, so for takeoff and landing I moved to one of those for the views.

  24. @ Simon — Out of curiosity, how many “GIFs from TV soaps” do you think I’ve posted since April 5?

  25. @ JRMW — For what it’s worth, we actually laughed at her joke, because it was clear she was trying to be funny and something was just lost in translation. So I don’t think that was it in this particular case.

  26. Sounds unspectacular and I kinda could read that in the tone of the review.

    Looking forward to hearing about Galle.

  27. @ rud01 — I’ve addressed this in the past, I’m not sure why you don’t read my responses?
    a) I take the pictures of the towels before using them
    b) Even if I did take the pictures after cleaning my hands (which I don’t), why on earth would you care? I wash my hands constantly throughout the day, so it would look exactly the same.
    c) There’s a huge variance in terms of the warm towels used by various airlines. I’m sorry if you don’t find that part interesting, but maybe you could just get over it?

  28. Last time I checked I believe this blog was free to read. None of us are paying subscribers. So where does the entitlement to criticise and complain about the lack of reviews or reviews themselves come from? There are other sites to read if you don’t like what Ben writes here. I don’t know how he stays so polite with some of you!

  29. Nice review Ben. Happy to wait for your excellent reports. Ignore the haters. You provide a valuable free service. Everyone needs to remember they are not paying for this and need to chill.

  30. Great report Ben. I am always envious of your travels – and thank you for opening our eyes so so many different airline experiences!

    Looking forward to the next part.

  31. Just posting to echo Niko_jas.

    Jfc how entitled and petty does one have to be to complain about the speed at which we’re receiving quality, well-documented reviews — which none of us has paid for!

  32. @Niko_jas – absolutely agree! Additionally, there are no screaming ads (any ads?) in any of Lucky’s articles which I greatly appreciate. I’ve also been a freelance writer for several years and it’s bloody hard work to make a living (and that’s with a steady contract!). So obviously he needs to get some revenue from somewhere – hence the mild credit card pushing.
    And for what it’s worth, of course I love the reviews the most and it keeps me coming back to this blog, but the occasional “tabloid-style” news is also ok – it mixes it up a bit. And again, if some people don’t like it, they can either skip it or go to another blog. It’s really not hard.

  33. Lucky – I hope you do read this

    Re: the used towel photo response
    You could have just ignored the comment & not reply.
    Personally, a lot of pics of minute details on blogs don’t interest me.
    And it does look like it was used & bunched up from the pic u posted.
    I’ve not flown UL’s J class so I don’t know how the towels are handed over to pax.
    On QR as you know, it is folded/rolled up & presented on a dish/plate/whatever your call that black thingy

    However the other points are valid – your trips reports have become fewer in recent months -the past 1 year; you are hawking more credit cards & merchant links etc. on your blog than before & you are now down to only 2 contributors on your site (I know there’s a 3rd but he hardly posts anything)

    I’m not a fan of your other writer so I only read what you write. I visit your blog regularly & I think that you are the most non confrontational, polite & patient blogger out there.

    Perhaps all this constant traveling is wearing you out but please don’t turn into the rest like Klint, Ott etc. who challenge & rebuke their readers unnecessarily – who incidentally are the ones who are helping you guys rake in the moolah ..

    On a happier note, UL has recently been on my radar & this looked like an awesome flight. Would love to try it soon.

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