NEW BUSINESS CLASS (J)
MEDIUM-HAUL BANGKOK (BKK) – COLOMBO (CMB)
After a rewarding long-haul flight, Business Class from LHR to CMB, aboard UL splendidly equipped A330-300, this is time to explore SriLankan Airlines resources medium-haul.
Serving over 105 destinations in 47 countries, UL targets a new executive market centered to China (Beijing, Shanghai, Kunming, Guangzhou, Hongkong), Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Jakarta, Tokyo. Not to forget Australia, with a route to Melbourne. We selected the long time established Bangkok / BKK to Colombo / CMB for this first medium-haul experience.
Flight UL 403, conveniently departs from Bangkok Suvarnabhumi at 9:10 am. We left our hotel little bit after 5 am, to allow plenty of time for checking in 3 hours in advance. That was a superfluous precaution. Though many Economy Class passengers were already standing in a queue, we only counted four passengers at the two Business Class check-in rows.
It took 5 minutes waiting time only to proceed. The staff was extremely friendly, as always in BKK Airport. We don't dislike this airport. It is clean, well air-conditioned despite the cyclopean volume of the building, and the service is always effective. It has a downside: the security/emigration procedure is long, exhausting, almost as painful as in Paris CDG... That was a great surprise to see that a hostess had been personnaly assigned to escort us from the check-in desk up to the departure zone. It went as smooth as silk, as she had in hand a precious sesame: the much wanted Bangkok Airport “Premium Lane” Fast Track coupon. A good reason to travel First or Business Class, it allows a dedicated VIP access, by a separate gate, to the tax-free / airport lounges area. With a dozen of passengers already catered by four immigration agents (the most charming female staff has been selected for this duty, by contrast with the stone face officers in charge of the Economy Class passengers...), it took precisely three minutes to clear the immigration process, then five more minutes to have a close security check, before meeting our hostess again. She showed us the way to the gate F4, from where our flight was departing.
There is no SriLankan Executive Lounge at BKK Airport. They are using instead the dull Louis Tavern CIP Lounge. A contrast with the recently beautified Thai Airways Royal Silk Lounge which we like to visit each time we depart from BKK. But the best was to come in the UL aircraft, we knew, so we finally didn't mind the spartan Louis Tavern and its cheap Australian wine served parsimoniously. After a short walk, skipping the overpriced duty-free shops, we reached the F4 gate for boarding. The UL flight from Colombo already landed, and was ready for its way back. The seating area at the gate was large enough to accommodate lots of passengers. Yet our waiting time was short: all Business Class (J class) passengers were invited to a priority boarding, via a dedicated lane.
After a spontaneous warm welcome from the chief purser and the two attendants attached to the J class cabin, we could relax at ease on the first row A1. Actually, the cabin was totally full, like always flying UL. We got the last Business Class available seat out of 16. We prefer to give this detail to those purchasing Economy Class tickets, expecting a last minute upgrade using their SriLankan FlySmiLes, or the exciting “Bid Now For Business Class” program. Possible, yet risky.
We found the narrow-body Airbus A321-231 cabin modern and immaculate, with wide (21'), nicely designed gray leather seats. The 49' reclining pitch was though more than comfortable for a three hours and twenty minutes flight. Tall travelers will prefer rows 2, 3 and 4, offering more legroom.
We had been offered the first flute of well chilled Champagne Piper-Heidsieck Brut before taking-off (right on time), and a second one once on a cruise altitude. From the very beginning, the service was faultless: efficient, courteous, very concerned by the flyer's opinion. Vehiculating in the skies a very good image of Sri Lanka.
We received good quality earphones. AVOD, with a large selection of movies in many languages (some with subtitles) and audio programs, is available on personal video screen aboard the A321. It has a USB slot for those preferring to listen to screen their personal movie or export their selection of music.
The menu is as elegantly designed as on long-haul. So stylish, with the gilded logo of the airlines. We compared the selection of wine, and that was the same compared with the LHR-CMB route. Except for the French Champagne, the selection comes from the New World (Australia, Argentina, Chile). The Sky Bar was generous: featuring legendary whiskeys (like premium Chivas Regal 18 Years Old), and one of our favorite Cognac (Camus XO Elegance). We preferred to order one glass of elegant and tasty “Cockburn & Campbell Medium Dry Sherry” as an aperitive.
There were four offers of “Hot Refreshment” (actually half way between breakfast and lunch). “Arabic Style Scrambled Egg served with Ful Mudammas, Ratatouille, and Seabass Tikka”, or “Tomato and Onion Omelette, accompanied with Creamed Spinach, Tomato Concassé, Rösti Potato, and Grilled Chicken Sausage”. There was, of course, a vegetarian choice, with “Stir-fried Soba Noodle, with Black Mushrooms, served with Tofu in Oyster Sauce, and Blanched Asparagus Tips”. In Rome do as the Romans do: we selected “Kiribath”/ Traditional Sri Lankan Breakfast, this is a rice dish, cooked using coconut milk, paired with a tuna “Ambulthiyal” and “Seeni Sambai”: an onion preparation, simmered in tamarind, sugar, and spices. That was fine, slightly spicy, delivered by the tray on a generous portion. We paired it with one glass of Australian “Doña Paula Estate Sauvignon Blanc, Tupungato 2015”. Refreshing, with a distinguished crisp. After a seasonal assortment of fresh cut fruits and one cup of coffee, we ordered one glass of well matured Australian “Katnook Founder's Block Cabernet Sauvignon 2014” to please our palate and facilitate a well-merited nap.
We received our third refreshing towel (first one upon boarding, then after taking-off), and slept like a got in the silent cabin until landing, on time, 11:00 am, at CMB / Colombo Bandaranaike Intl Airport. Business Class passengers are invited to leave the aircraft in priority, reaching the immigration control before the other passengers. We also noticed that our “Priority” tagged luggage actually came first on the belt that time.
Transiting to Europe or the rest of the world, UL Business Class and OneWorld Elite passengers can enjoy the excellent Serendib Lounge by SriLankan. What a contrast with the Louis Tavern Lounge in Bangkok! Elegantly serviced by a trio of uniformed hostesses, it has the atmosphere of a private club, with an open bar (featuring a permanent refill of Piper-Heidsieck Champagne, Camus XO Elegance, and the wine from the onboard “Sky Cellar”), and a choice of the best meat/fish/vegetarian local specialities, directly from the open kitchen.
We liked the selection of fruits and pastries. The service is remarkable: with the staff kindly offering to serve you another shot, removing the plates and cups as soon as they get empty... and, last but not least, a complimentary back, shoulder and head massage to help the passenger fight the jet lag.
The view on the runway allows an exciting show, provided by the landing and taking off planes. We indeed loved that lounge. The pride of SriLankan airlines, and a very nice marketing tool: as the service provided at the ground, matching the in-flight VIP treatment to all J class passengers, would certainly incite us to fly UL again.
UL operates BKK to CMB twice a day, except on Wednesday with only one morning flight. UL 405 leaves BKK at 1:10 pm, landing in CMB at 3 pm. This second flight, coming from HKG, is often operated by wide-body Airbus A330-300, with SriLankan new reverse herringbone full-flat seats described in our long-haul in-flight review.
There is also an excellent way to access this five star Business Class, using the “Bid Now For Business Class” program, bidding online after purchasing your ticket and standing a chance to dine, wine, entertain and sleep in style in the sky!
Those wishing to have an excursion through the island should keep on with the Business Class service, contacting Blue Lanka Tours. This leading tour operator, with a Certificate of Excellence by Tripadvisor, is from our personal experience definitely the most adapted to the special requirements of high profile travelers, looking for tailor-made tours, the finest hotels, cinematographic safaris, and a special VIP treatments visiting monuments (no queue, UNESCO guides...). Business travellers with a busy agenda can enjoy one of Blue Lanka signature tours: a day tour to spicy Colombo or legendary Kandy.
Contact Center Worldwide:
SriLankan Airlines Ltd, 140/12, 10th floor ,
ITF building, Silom Road, Suriyawongse,
Bangrak, Bangkok 10500.
PHONE : +66 22368450 x 310
FACSIMILE: +66 22371882
London Town Office:
London Heathrow LHR Airport Office:
PHONE: +442085382000, +442085382005
Operating Hours: Monday to Sunday (15:00 to 18:00)
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