You can find the video version of this report here:
I did an online check in and I was automatically assigned seat 14C. My heart stopped a little. Automatically assigned an aisle seat? Oh no! I was going to settle for any window seat. And then there were many…..the rear half of the plane was virtually empty! I settled for seat 23A, and hoped for the seats next to me to be empty. As you can see, I was awake pretty early!
The morning began quite early. 0300 hours. Groggy eyes. Big cockroach in the bathroom. A five minute war ended with me ending victorious (else this TR wouldn’t have been written :)) Took a trusted cab and flew through Colombo city. Seeing it in the dark was kinda strange..but a great feeling. I remembered all the all-nighters I pulled (which was basically the first half of 2015…). The drive on the highway was fun…if only I was able to drive it, that would’ve been fun!
This was my last flight of 2015. It has been a very impressive year for me in terms of flying, that started way back in January with 9W255 from Colombo to Mumbai... 2015 started with a departure out of Colombo, and it ended the same way…what a coincidence!!
Exchanged some cash, and headed for the Mihin Lanka counters. This is in the threshold between SriLankan Airlines counters on the right and other airline counters at the left. Kuwait Airways, Air Arabia, FlyDubai and Jet Airways counters had long lines…
Immigration took quite some time too, there were long lines. And there were many Indian passports! A full flight to Mumbai, my flight to Kolkata and the early risers for the flights to Chennai, Trivandrum and Cochin were present (the former being an A330). My flight would depart from Gate B2. Just like my previous departure out of Colombo, a remote parking bay. Oh yes! However, what got me excited was 9W255 to Mumbai departing from Gate B11. Right in front of the Palm Strips restaurant. Guess who was headed for morning spotting! :D
As always, the high flyer sandwich!!
First, the not SriLankan Airlines planes: Jet Airways VT-JGT to Mumbai as 9W255, Etihad Airways A320 to Abu Dhabi and Air Arabia A320 to Sharjah
4R-ALL, SriLankan Airlines' first A330-300, resting after flight UL554 from Frankfurt, Germany before flying to Riyadh as UL265 later in the day
4R-ALD coming in from Dubai as UL226 and will later fly to Bangkok and Hong Kong as UL890
4R-ABO to Cochin, India as UL165
4R-ABQ, Airbus A321 that came in from Abu Dhabi and would fly to New Delhi later in the day
4R-MRD, one of Mihin’’s two Airbus A321s was parked in a remote bay. She was being prepared for a flight. I hoped, and kept hoping for she taking me back to Kolkata. 0602 hours, pushback commenced for VT-JGT to Mumbai operating to Mumbai. The sun was starting to rise as the dark blue skies went well with the VT-JGT’s vertical stabilizer. It was a wonderful sight. I realized my flight was departing in just about half an hour. The boarding pass said boarding closes twenty five before departure. I knew that for once, I was cutting it way too close.
I rushed back down to gate B2. I was shown the way to enter the security check, but I got caught up with many pilgrims who were on the flight to Jakarta. I was in a fix. At least, I was in security and I knew that if required, the SriLankan Airlines staff would call out all Kolkata bound passengers to ensure the flight left on time, but I also knew that I was late. And so that's exactly what happened. A gentleman called out all Kolkata bound passengers (which turned out to be me only :P ), and expedited my security procedures. The A4 sheet pinned up to the board read: UL331 Kolkata B2 with an arrow pointing straight. MJ331 or UL331? Come on guys, decide :P
As I got to the gate, the lady said to me - 'sir, too late no?' in a very Sri Lankan way…and that was lovely to hear to be honest! I smiled and apologized. She still let me wait in the boarding area as there were two more passengers missing. I was now named 'Twenty Three Alpha' because of my seat number. Two more passengers showed up.
A bus was waiting for the three of us passengers. We were taken towards the bus…and for a while it looked like we’d actually be on 4R-MRD, one of the A321s! But that was not to last… We soon took a sharp u-turn and headed for the other side of the tarmac. It started raining. The rest of the Mihin fleet were there, 4R-MRC (A321 to Jakarta), 4R-MRE (A320) and 4R-MRF (A319 to Lahore). Unsurprisingly, we stopped by a 4R-MRE. Again. Well damn it! :(
It started pouring. I received a warm welcome as I boarded. Making my way towards the rear of the cabin, an announcement was made: passenger boarding complete. How about that! I was the last one to board the plane! I took my seat 23A. I noticed that the plane wasn’t very full… The couple beside me found a seat towards the end of the plane, so yay, finally all three seats empty for me! The pursor leading the team was Chatura Fernando. He along with five other crew members were in charge of the cabin. Captain Rakhita Wijeratne came over the PA to give us some information of the flight. 'Ayubowan, Vanakkam, Asalamalikum', was the greeting. Nice! Our 2hr35min flight to Kolkata would be through largely clear weather at an altitude of 35000 feet. The safety demonstration was done as pushback commended. 0637 hours. More or less on time!
Taxiing to Runway 22 was a bit long because it was a full length departure. The sun broke through the clouds of the passing shower as we lined up and took off from Runway 22, setting a North East bound course for Kolkata. Some minor turbulence occurred as we flew out of the cloud layer into the bright morning skies over Sri Lanka. Sadly, I couldn't see much of the lovely island during climb out, but it was a great end to the trip.
Announcements were made. First the usual keep your seat belts fastened while asleep etc etc etc.. And also that food and snacks could be purchased… Um what? No food on the flight? Turns out, these were any extra snacks that could be purchased in addition to the regular breakfast service. This started out with two beer cans (Heineken I think..) that passengers ordered, and the regular meal service soon after. Two trolleys were involved, one that went straight up the aisle to the first rows of Economy, followed by another trolley starting off from the rear itself. Since it was a lightly loaded flight, this was pretty easy for the crew, not much of a hassle. I was handed a tray with a hot main course. I asked the flight attendant - is this non vegetarian? She replied in the affirmative. The tray had fresh fruit, but strangely without any cover.. Bread with pretty hard butter, mixed fruit juice (Smak - a personal favorite!) and the main course. There was a small chicken sausage, scrambled eggs and potatoes. While small, the main course was lovely to taste. Another great meal from Mihin, and yet another positive surprise!
After the meal service, I took advantage of the three empty seats and walked down the aisle to the washroom. Christmas decorations were still around which was a nice touch! The washroom um well…there was stuff of a specific color stains on the seat. Before grossing you out more, I will talk about the hand wash soap which was of SriLankan Airlines. Reasons why they should merge, another one right there.
As I came back, duty free sales were on. A flight attendant came and asked me if I had change for $100, which I did. Nope, not everyone was asked, so it made me wonder why I was asked :) Anyway. Service trackers were being handed out to some passengers only… Finished watching Iron Maiden’s Flight 666 movie/documentary while I kept peeping out. One could see the coast lining up just under us, or moving back. It was a great sight. Once the coast disappeared completely and the sea disappearing, it only meant one thing: it was close to arrival time!
Mihin Lanka's network (in blue), served by the A320 family
Ahasa - Mihin Lanka's magazine
4R-MRE's safety card…again!
And spot on! Capt. Wijeratne’s First Officer advised us arrival information into Kolkata. He said it would be a cold 15C out. 15C. Cold. Heh. :) Soon, 4R-MRE’s nose dipped and we descended into a very hazy Kolkata. Just the one turn, which surprised me, and we were on our final approach. Nope, I couldn’t see my residential complex this time around. I just about saw the E.M. Bypass and the flyover to Rajarhat. We were closing in on to a runway 01R arrival.
Prior to the very smooth touchdown, I noticed the damaged ATR42, Air India’s Star Alliance 787 VT-ANU, and to my surprise (but not for the first time in CCU), a Volga Dnepr Antonov 124 in the cargo (I think?) bay! 0914 hours and I was in Kolkata, an on time flight. We docked at Gate 14.
Legroom was pretty okay
The *A Boeing 787
Immigration was quite confusing. Some said we needed to have our boarding passes out and some wanted the ticket. Unfortunately for me, I got one of the people who wanted to see the ticket of all things….how does that matter to them? The boarding pass made more sense hmm. Anyway.
The calm before the storm… A whole load of passengers would follow us from the Emirates flight, we avoided the crowds!!
Baggage…took a while. It took exactly 43 minutes from docking to the first bag arriving. So, it gave me enough time to head to the restroom, see A6-EMI arrive (again!), go to the FOREX to find out how screwed I was (because I only had Rs. 300 in my wallet, while it was Rs. 350 for a taxi. Dang it), until bags arrived. And when they did arrive, mine took quite some time. And heartbreak, as I found out my Mihin Lanka fragile stickers were wonderfully torn off.
At the pre-paid taxi line, knowing how screwed I was, I tried reaching a settlement of paying the taxi driver later, but the computer wouldn’t allow it :( The nice man, however, told me to go to the departures level and see if I could get a taxi from there. Made sense, since many people would require a taxi to get to the airport. Found one, and took me 1.5 hours to go home. 1.5 hours of loud and dusty traffic. Honk honk honk. By the time I reached home, 4R-MRE was nearly half way there on its return flight to Colombo. THAT’s how long it took. Taxi man didn’t agree with the fare on the meter, when it clearly said pay what the meter says.
I didn’t bother, I just paid him whatever (Rs. 450 was the fare…he asked for 500..yep, I got ripped off majorly). As I found out Dobby would not be home for another couple of days, I got even sadder. Right from the start at the baggage security line in Kolkata to the end of the trip when I found out Dobby wasn’t home, it was an uneasy feel. What didn’t feel uneasy and quite relaxing was in fact, the flights itself. A great job by Mihin Lanka, an airline truly full of surprises, mostly great ones in my case!
What a remarkable year 2015 was. Starting off with a fantastic flight on the 'new' Jet out of Colombo, to the Mihin one here, also out of Colombo. In between, there were 5 different new airlines, the longest flight at nearly 16 hours, my first (and second) chopper rides, and probably some of the best memories created, on the KLM 747s. With that, its the end of my 2015 trip reports, all of it coming in quite late, the fourth quarter of 2016! :P
Stay tuned for more!
I'm sharing some pictures from my quick Colombo trip, in the bonus section here:
Buy on board9.0
Colombo - CMB
Kolkata - CCU
Once again a fairly decent flight with Mihin Lanka. Unlike the first one however, it was an uneventful sleepy flight - most passengers were asleep because of the ungodly hours, while also being a fairly empty flight. The food was pretty good again, a standard western breakfast. However, I wonder what the alternate option of the breakfast provided would be. Crew were pretty nice and relaxed, too. What I cannot forgive is the terrible state of the restroom. But that then could be down to the passengers as well..
Colombo Airport was a joy to go through. Be it back in January 2015 or December 2015 (as I said, my last and first flight in 2015 were out of CMB), while Kolkata's baggage claim continued to disappoint me, sadly.
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