Last time I left you, I was making my way to transfer desk. Turned out that we didn't need to do anything so we were left wandering for a place to camp for a couple of hours and get some food in the tummy.
Since my partner had Top Bonus Gold from Air Berlin and UL is in oneworld, we thought we should go to a nearby Serendib lounge. This lounge is the main lounge for UL's business class and elite passengers. So we went in and we were welcomed by a lounge attendant in her beautiful Sari. She walked us to the main desk where her colleague requested to see our boarding passes. I could see micro expressions formed on her face. I knew something was not quite right.
Agent: I'm very sorry Sir but you are in economy class. This lounge is only for business class passengers and our frequent flyer program
Partner: Oh yes, sorry, i forgot to give you my Top Bonus (He handed his Gold Top Bonus card to the agent)
Agent: (smiling) Ah yes, this should work. One second, what airline is this, Sir?
Partner: It's Air Berlin. It's also part of oneworld alliance
Agent: (checking her computer monitor) Ok, I see. Let me input it in our system and check your eligibility. One moment please. (typing typing typing and frowning frowning frowning and calling calling calling). I am very sorry Sir but I cannot find you in our database.
I got a worried about it because 1) there were 2-3 other passengers lining up behind us and they seemed unhappy having to wait 2) It seemed that AB and UL are not best buds to begin with 3) AB might have cut the benefit short because we were in April while my partner's Gold status would have expired at the end of May. Anyway, the conversation continued
Partner: (reciting oneworld lounge access rules This does not make sense. Is there other solution to this?
Agent: You could certainly go to our other lounge, it is called Serendiva Lounge. Just follow the signs for Emirates lounge and you will find Serendiva lounge right next to it. I will call them to make sure that you will be granted access
We said thank you to the lounge dragon and left the lounge feeling defeated and awed with such incident. She was nice and polite throughout the conversation though.
We followed the signs to go to Emirates lounge. Silly me I had set an expectation that this lounge would be comfortable enough to rest for a couple of hours. However to our dismay, Serendiva Lounge turned out to be a small windowless room located at the end of a long corridor. The lounge was quite dark and empty when we arrived. True to lounge agent's words, we were immediately welcomed in by the agent without having to show our boarding passes and Air Berlin card.
This was what greeted us. Three men sleeping soundly (the man with white shirt had a companion, not seen in the picture, also sleeping)
There was a very young lounge attendant and he was so happy to have visitors to this off beaten track lounge. He was asking us if we want something to drink or eat. I felt bad taking pictures because he was constantly moving around. So I decided against it
This is the 'business center' located right behind where I sat
The food did not taste like anything. Quite bland. The curry was also very watery.
The only remedy was this Sri Lankan tea served in beautiful UL branded cup. My partner had champagne but by the time I wanted to take a picture he had finished it all. If I remember correctly it was Piper Heidsieck champagne. The same offering as in Serendib lounge
Without nothing to do in this lounge, we decided to just leave and headed to the gate.
The Flight Route: CMB-MLE Date: April 30, 2016 Flight: UL101 Equipment: A330-300 Registration: 4R-ALN "City of Kolomtota" Seat: 21C (moved to 20A during take-off and landing) Scheduled Time Departure: 07.20 Actual Time Departure: 07.22 Estimated Time Arrival: 08.15 (GMT +5.30) Actual Time Arrival: 08.30 (GMT +5.30)
By the time we reached Gate 7, the queue was already snaking far outside the holding pen. I think Colombo is really bursting at its seams. I noticed that this long queue formed at almost every gate. The queue was caused by security check where we had to take out everything, shoes off, belt off, watch off,etc. Quite strict I must say. With only two machines shared by two gates (gate 7 and gate 8 share the same entrance) chaos ensued.
The A330-300 behind A321 was our ride from Shanghai and would be our ride to Male.
When we finally reached the holding pen, boarding was already commencing but from the mob around the jet bridge, I think priorities were not strictly enforced. Plus, from what I scanned, most passengers are in holiday mood. Many westerners, many local Sri Lankans, many Indians too, and some Chinese and Japanese tourists.
Since there was no enforcement on priority, we just made our way to the jet bridge and joined the fun!
Yup, the registration confirmed that this was in fact the same aircraft we had previously flown in. We changed our seat allocations to 52A and 52C
The obligatory fuselage shot
Upon entering the aircraft, we had a set of new flight attendants working for this almost shuttle like flight. First impression was exactly the same as the crew from Shanghai. They were standing around the cabin, not really greeting incoming passengers, occasionally helping passengers, but no smile or no eye contact. A bit void of basic human emotion. Not impressed at all with UL's cabin crew because their ground staff were very nice.
Whatever.. I didn't really care much. The flight is super short anyway. Captain made PA to welcome and inform us that this flight will take approximately 1 hour and 5 minutes to complete and we should be arriving on time in Male.
The same seat with decent leg room
The flight was 100% full
This time we chose to sit behind the wing in order to see unobstructed view during landing at MLE
Exploring the seat content, the magazines, air sickness bag, etc were the same as found onboard my flight from Shanghai. However, what's interesting is to see these two new cards. One for onboard wi-fi and the other one is a guideline for proper behaviour. Perhaps this is mandated by the Maldivian government? Btw, the onboard wi-fi worked though a bit choppy.
We were pushed back pretty much on-time at 07.22. The flight attendants walked down the cabin with spray again
Don't you just love that colourful peacock?
Nose wheel camera was working! Yayy!!!
I guess since our A330 was light (only 1 hour flight), we did not go all the way to the threshold of runway 22. But instead, we turned left on taxiway B, entered runway 22 and immediately took off ala B757. I was impressed! I saw the marking on the ground that from taxiway B, there was 2,522 meters of runway available (runway 04/22 is 3,350 meters in length)
We were headed towards Male so that meant an almost straight route from Colombo. As we left Sri Lanka, the flight attendants came and distributed breakfast. They worked quite fast considering the short time they had to cater to a full bus. There was no choice at all, everyone received the same meal. I believe it was a vegetarian meal. The lentils were okay but the vermicelli was bland.
The trays were quickly cleaned and I just enjoyed the beautiful blue sky outside
By 08.00 the Captain made a follow-up PA. He explained that in about 10 minutes we would be starting descent to MLE. At 08.13, we reached top of descent and the engines thrust was reduced. Ears popped too! I was beyond excited to be in the Maldives very soon
I constantly looked outside and oh my god… the beautiful scenery was just out of this world!
As you can see here, The Maldives consist of thousands of islands. Usually, the set up is one resort/hotel occupies one island/islet
Now you know why I was very happy the nose camera worked! Landing at MLE was just so unique!!!
We touched down on runway 36 at 08.29 and this required a very tight backtracking procedure to the main apron. You will see that there is no parallel taxiway at MLE, in fact no taxiway at all at least at the international section of the airport. The apron is also very narrow measured from the runway to the terminal building. So as soon as we turned right to enter the apron, then that was it. That was our parking spot. Having said that, airplanes are parked straight-in and sometimes the management will jam different sizes of airplanes left and right, parked straight or slightly to the left or right. It's like playing tetris :) :) :)
We deplaned from the rear door which is quite a unique experience. I have deplaned from the rear of a narrow body / propeller aircraft but not from a wide body. I was not sure what to make out of it though I did feel slightly confused when the male flight attendant who stood by the rear door said "Sawatdeekhrap" to me and made the famous Thai 'wai' gesture. I replied "Ayubowan" which is a common Sinhalese salutation. The look on his face when he heard my reply… ;-) I gave him credit for the effort to thank me for flying UL but man… it's a risky business. If he got it right, kudos for him. In my case, he got it all wrong and his good-will intention failed to deliver
Can't never get enough of this colourful peacock! Oh wait… have I said that thousand times? hahahaha
It was definitely a surreal feeling to finally be in The Maldives. I could feel how strong the sun was when I walked down the stairs and reached the tarmac. It was an awesome feeling to walk under and between massive wings of EK's 77W and UL's A330. The ground staff also did not seem to care that many passengers took pictures. Perhaps this is the island vibe :) I can't complain! Since there was no bus and it was just a really short walk to the arrival terminal, I took my time to take a lot of pictures
I have never seen the sky so blue like that. It provided such a nice backdrop. This is the tiny arrival hall where there was toilets and immigration. Immigration lines were super long and it took us almost 40 minutes to complete
Right behind immigration counters were the baggage hall. By the time we were there, our bags were already off the carousels. From there, it was a very short walk to be in the arrival area where many resorts had their quasi check-in counters and many resorts representatives waiting for their guests. We immediately found our resort rep as he was dressed in bright red outfit. He took our bags and walked us to the lounge while we waited for our connecting flight to Gan airport which is located in Addu Atoll
On our way to a separate terminal building that houses domestic flights and the lounge, we passed many shops, offices, and tourism related booths.
So there you go! I will leave you here while my partner and I rested for a couple hours at the lounge
PS: Our trip was in end of April until early May. Finally, in June, oneworld website updated its official policy regarding this confusing lounge access policy in Colombo. Notes: Due to the ongoing development of facilities at Bandaranaike International Airport, the Serendib Lounge is currently only available to customers traveling in First and Business Class cabins on Srilankan Airlines and other oneworld members flights. Emerald and Sapphire status customers traveling in Economy Class cabins on long and medium haul flights are invited to use the Serendiva Lounge.
Colombo - CMB
Malé - MLE
Considering that this is the same aircraft that flew us from Shanghai, I have no problem with it at all. I find the seat comfortable, good leg room (I am 178 cm tall), and the enough padding. I gave higher score for the entertainment because for this flight the nose camera worked so it was so good to see the whole approach to MLE. We also managed to connect to inflight wifi albeit spotty.
The flight attendants remained lackluster. They seemed to be very robotic. It's 2 consecutive flights that I had cold and unmotivated set of flight attendants. And also, though I had to give credit for trying, that 'sawatdeekhrap' and 'wai' gesture to me during deplaning left me feeling rather confused
The meal was also quite bland. Though I guess this was a minor point considering the flight only lasted for an hour and many airlines on the other side of the world won't even bother to serve hot meal.
The lounge incident was another joke. It seems that many airlines within oneworld alliance not willing to adhere to the lounge access rule. Sri Lankan and its Serendib lounge, Qantas and its LAX lounge, CX and its SFO lounge, etc
When we left this flight, my partner and I were still hopeful to experience the famous Sri Lankan hospitality though it got dimmer and dimmer. Maybe the 2 two flights will prove us otherwise
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