Flight-Report

Review of SriLankan Airlines flight Colombo Chennai in Economy

Flight UL127
Class Economy
Seat 28A
Aircraft Airbus A321
Flight time 01:30
Take-off 02 Oct 18, 13:35
Arrival at 02 Oct 18, 15:05
UL   #81 out of 127 Airlines A minimum of 20 Flight-Reports is required in order to appear in the rankings. 53 reviews
aaqib67
By 463
Published on 18th October 2018
Hello and a warm welcome to Trip Report 26

CMB-MAA: "Sir,Today's flight has been Overbooked" Sri Lankan Airlines | Colombo to Chennai | Airbus A321 (UL127 | 4R-ABR) - 02nd November 2018
With this being my overall 50th Rotation, as well as a personal milestone of 1K Subscribers on YouTube, I'd like to express my heartfelt gratitude to all my subscribers,viewers as well as Flight-Report for making this happen!

Introduction



With Chennai being on the cards for a while now and upon having to cancel a Umrah Pilgrimage scheduled in November/December 2018 due to Saudi Arabia's baseless Umrah Visa Restrictions for us pilgrims. My Planned Umrah this time would take me via. Kuwait (KWI) on Kuwait Airways on their Airbus A330-300 and my personal favorite their Boeing 777-300ER or otherwise flying direct on Saudia's Boeing 777-300ER which a direct flight was more like a second option for our kind.
However, upcoming legislation suggests that Umrah Pilgrims from Sri Lanka are to fly only on two designated carriers for Pilgrimage purposes and would not be permitted en route from another country, with the only options available being SriLankan or Saudia

With Plans being postponed for 2019, I decided to fly out to Chennai for a couple of days, this time with Mom.
8 Flights Operated daily to Chennai with UL flying a mixture of their fleet 4 x Daily to MAA along with India's Best LCC IndiGo operating flights 2 x daily with the rest being made up of Air India and SpiceJet's daily connection


Fare's this time around had dropped significantly mainly due to IndiGo's scheduled services to Chennai and Bangalore which thankfully brought fares well in check compared to a year earlier which Sri Lankan priced their fares at a premium on this high yield route

SpiceJet was the cheapest, however they operated their Boeing 737-800 on a red-eye flight, which was immediately taken out of the equation for obvious reasons…. Daylight was a basic requirement
Air India on the other hand was the most expensive while IndiGo and Sri Lankan fell in between
IndiGo offered 2 options but unfortunately on their Airbus A320-200, an aircraft that i was trying my level best to avoid on this sector since I had already flown 11 times on it. An Airbus A320NEO would've been fine, but definitely not a A320CEO

Sri Lankan seemed to be the last and final "practical" option. Fares were priced at LKR 24,000/-, a fraction more than IndiGo which gave passengers 40 Kilos of baggage allowance when compared to Sri Lankan's upper limit of 30 Kilos.

I managed to Cash in on UL's "Miles+ Cash" promotion which meant that my ticket came in at around LKR 18,000/- thereby redeeming my Sri Lankan Airlines "FlySmiles" that were to expire in March 2019, which was a great deal!

Having scrutinized FR24 for a couple of weeks prior to finalizing my itinerary which was adjusted accordingly to avoid the Airbus A320CEO and also the ex-Mihin Lanka Aircraft.
According to FR24 as well as the Sri Lankan Airlines reservation system, I was scheduled to get their Airbus A321 on my outbound leg as well as a possibility of their A321NEO on the MAA-CMB sector which was downgraded from their Airbus A330-300

The itinerary looked good and was thereby finalized!

Watch the Entire FR here!


Pre-flight


With Departure scheduled at 1340hrs, in gloomy weather we left home to Colombo-Bandaranaike Airport (CMB) at 0900hrs since I wanted to go as early as possible to witness something special
Taking the Airport Expressway, we managed to get to CMB within 1 1/2 hours having beaten the morning rush hour

On reaching, I was surprised to see that CMB was empty! Usually it is quite tedius to stop a vehicle and unload baggage due to the influx of Passengers, however this being a Weekday Morning departure was probably the reason for lesser crowds

The usual First Security Baggage scanner and body check which wasn't required post-war had been taken off with a manual passport and ticket check being done upon going into the airport therefore increasing the airports first impression and overall efficiency
It looked very much that CMB was under renovation and expansion with many areas being cordoned off… this indeed was a good sign of much needed development to Colombo Airport, which was long overdue!
photo img_4511


Having Checked in Online, we just had to make it to the Online Check in counter and have our bags dropped off and our BP's Collected which was done in a matter of minutes
We filled in our Departure Card and made our way to Immigration, but something didn't seem right. It was then when I realized that the entry point to immigration had been changed which was pretty confusing as it lacked any form of signage

Immigration was fast since ques were minimal and we headed up to the air side.
Our assigned gate was R11, the ones with aero bridge access

With enough time remaining prior to boarding, I managed to catch a special visitor at CMB (and yes, the reason why I came to CMB earlier than scheduled)
Here we have Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900!
photo img_4514

SilkAir Boeing 737-800 being pushed back, ready for departure to SIN


Our Airbus A330's : 4R-ALM, 4R-ALG and 4R-ALA
photo img_4518

Oman Air Boeing 737-800 (A40-BH)
photo img_4524

UL's NEO's and CEO's
photo img_4525

4R-ABQ one of the Ex-Qatar Airways Airbus A321's in UL's Fleet
photo img_4527

Departure



Alpha Bravo Romeo, the ex-Qatar Airways 10.1 Year old Airbus A321 (4R-ABR) was assigned to take us to Chennai on this rotation
Even though it was a A321CEO, I was happy to be flying on it rather having to fly on the ex-Mihin Lanka A321 (4R-MRC) which had a tendency of technical faults reported over a couple of weeks prior to my flight. A delay this time was not something that I would look forward to since my planed stay in India was just for 4 days.
photo unnamed

SriLankan Airlines (UL/ALK)
Flight Number: UL127
Equipment: Airbus A321
Reg: 4R-ABR
Seat: 28A
From: Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB/VCBI)
To : Chennai Anna International Airport (MAA/VOMM)


After some impressive spotting at the air-side, Boarding was announced and we made our way to Gate 13 after a much needed coffee to kick off the trip, with my target being a good meal on board the Airbus A321 since lunch time was nearing

The usual pre-boarding security check was complete and they insisted that passengers could only carry a maximum quantity of Water or any other liquid.
Moving to the Gate area, mom received a surprise from Sri Lankan Airlines ground staff thereby being upgraded to Business Class due to the flight being apparently "overbooked"
No Upgrade for me though since Sri Lankan and its management as well as the ex-Mihin Lanka Management probably hate me for obvious reasons and its definitely possible that i've been monitored by them ever since I published my article titled "Mihin Lanka: Profit Anytime soon" back in the day. The fact that the management disliked me were put across to the Ground Handling agents who were extremely friendly (even though I was declined the option of an upgrade) and we all had a good laugh about it

As the Gate filled up with Passengers including French, Spanish, South American and Japanese as well as the regular Indian and Sri Lankan Passengers, UL127 seemed to be full flight without a doubt
Boarding was announced with J Class Pax and Pax with Children being asked to board first, with mom too making her way into 4R-ABR before I did and settling in seat 3A

The usual rush of us regular Y Class Pax began, creating a bottle-neck at the entrance to the Aero Bridge
A warm welcome and the usual "Ayubowan" greeting was made with Crew being busy in the isles greeting passengers and directing them to their seats

I then realized why the flight to MAA and South India were known as Chaotic Flights to Crew as well as those like me who are in the aviation industry
Credit to the Cabin Crew member who successfuly managed to establish some sanity on board, having all passengers seated in their allotted seats

Comfortably settled in with a great view - Here we see the ex-Mihin Lanka Airbus A320-200 (4R-MRE)
photo img_4533

Push back!
photo img_4541photo img_4544

Conditions for flying were on-point!


Climbing to a Designated Altitude of 35,0000 ft
photo img_4555


In-flight



The Cabin was an older by upgraded version of UL's Y Class, fitted with interactive IFE
Due to the short nature of this flight, time proved to be insufficient for me to check out the IFE systems in detail. However a glance at the IFE system showed a variety of movies and content and a smooth user interface too. It was good to see that UL had rectified the problem of the moving map on ABR which worked perfectly and was my kind of In-flight Entertainment
Overall the cabin was obvious bigger and better compared to the older Airbus A320's in Sri Lankan's fleet
The Seat and Legroom on the other-hand were top notch and I would say that it was much better than UL's A330-200's and I wouldn't hesitate on flying the A321 on a longer route
Comfort wise, the seats were well above par, much to my satisfaction

Post-takeoff Cabin Shot
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Northbound
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The Meal or in this case a "Sad Excuse for a Meal" was served shortly after departure from CMB.
As I had been informed earlier by my boss at work, I would've expected this on maybe mid day or red-eye flights but certainly not for lunch!
This sorry excuse had an influx of comments on social media just a couple of months ago with the "meals" of UL being compared to Korean Air's meals that was served on a flight to Male from Colombo in which too, UL happily dished out a "Cold Bun" and a box of Juice in a Paper box. It sad to say that food dished out on LCC's are far better than this.

UL has been very negligent on the service and in flight catering to India and The Maldives in the recent past, However i honestly felt that after much criticism that they would take an innervate to revamp their in flight catering namely on these short-haul sectors

photo 43289675_10155898552397194_6075151091807289344_n

The Crew today were efficient and helpful just like those on the Ground and overall pretty good for a short haul flight even though they were just flying in from another country and this being their 2nd or 3rd flight on the days shift

Descent began into the Clouds
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With this being a short International Hop, the Crew like the ones on this flight had to be on the top of their mark. Not only because this was a "Chaotic" flight but simply for the fact that they had very limited time to complete all of their assigned tasks that were done quickly and cautiously due to the short nature of this flight, since the moment the snack boxes were cleared, the FO came over the intercom to announce our Decent and Landing at MAA

The Descent was Picturesque as always


No sooner ABR touched down, the passengers on board were standing up and trying to open the overhead luggage bins even though we still were on the runway!
I found it pretty amusing though even though the crew did its best to have everyone seated again

Here we have Oman Air's Boeing 737-800 being prepped for departure to Muscat (MCT) and an Air India A320-200 coming in
photo img_4582 - copy

The Air India Airbus A320-200 parked next to us, with this being probably one of my best shots (Zero Edits)
Presenting VT-EXB!
photo img_4586 - copy


I was one of the last to Disembark as I took a bit of extra time to pull of a perfect shot on my iPhone 7
Catching a Glimpse of J Class
photo img_4585


Having met mom at the Aero Bridge we proceeded to Immigration which turned out to be absolutely chaotic just as the flight was.
We were lucky that we were the only flight in at that time at the Old Terminal, with just three officers being assigned and on duty

Minutes turned into hours standing in line to pass immigration where many voiced out their frustration
The Immigration officer turned out to be pretty friendly though, which followed a chat in Tamil in which I was informed that the rainy season was just on the verge of beginning in Chennai and to always carry an umbrella just in case. The Immigration Systems were slow according to them which was why we had to spend more time than usual which they apologized for.

The Old Terminal was in ruins and just the same as I remember in 2014, just that It had gone from bad to worse.
There was no place to purchase even a bottle of water

Moving out of the airport, we decided to book a Pre-Paid Airport Taxi to take us to the Shopping Area (T.Nagar)
Prices quoted by the companies were by far on the higher side just like in Colombo where taking an Uber was the most practical decision

Doubting the facilities at MAA made us think twice before stepping out and booking an Uber since I wasn't sure what to expect and we settled and Pre-Paid INR 450/- to the Taxi Company
We were then escorted to a Ambassador car which I declined to get into because it shared similar characteristics to the Terminal, both of them had passed its time and were in a pathetic satiation altogether. We were then transferred onto a decent looking Tata Indica and were en-route to the Hotel, reaching there in under 45 minutes with moderate traffic

That's all for now,
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Comments are welcome!
See you in the next takeoff!
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Verdict

SriLankan Airlines

6.0/10
Cabin8.0
Cabin crew7.0
In-flight Entertainment8.0
Meal/catering1.0

Colombo - CMB

7.4/10
Efficiency7.0
Access7.0
Services8.5
Cleanliness7.0

Chennai - MAA

2.3/10
Efficiency2.0
Access4.0
Services1.0
Cleanliness2.0

Conclusion

Information on the route Colombo (CMB) Chennai (MAA)

The contributors of Flight-Report published 6 reviews of 2 airlines on the route Colombo (CMB) → Chennai (MAA).


Useful

The airline with the best average rating is Jet Airways with 7.3/10.

The average flight time is 1 hours and 24 minutes.

  More information

6 Comments

  • Comment 470898 by
    jish.b SILVER 212 Comments

    Hey there - nice TR again! :)

    A few points -
    No more SG Q400 to CMB at least - this flight alongside the better timed Madurai flight made for a solid day-only rotation for one Q400.
    Do UL still operate wide bodies to MAA?
    Was that Silk Air flight a SQ flight back in the day? I do not remember seeing when MI came to CMB.
    Always a chaotic scene on India/Sri Lanka flights…
    WTF IS THAT MEAL?!?!?!?
    Chennai is a roaring mess, something they probably will never fix at all, me thinks… sigh.

    • Comment 470982 by
      aaqib67 AUTHOR 39 Comments

      Hi there mate!

      Thanks for reading! SG uses their 738's on the red eye rotation to and from MAA
      On the other hand UL still uses its A330's on this sector as well and also to TRV, but they constantly keep changing from the A330 to the A321 depending on Pax and Cargo traffic
      If i'm not mistaken SQ did operate a second daily rotation for a couple of months to SIN before MI came into the picture and took up this slot
      I'd rather not say anything more about the meal as I feel that the picture could speak for itself and it was an utter disappointment. I honestly feel that buying food on board 6E would've been way better (I'd probably fly with them the next time though)

      MAA has always been a disaster as far as I remember, CMB is indeed a thousand times better

      Cheers!

  • Comment 470928 by
    KévinDC TEAM GOLD 4600 Comments

    Hi Aaqib67, thanks for sharing this nicely detailed and well-written report. The cabin looks nice and fresh and the IFE modern. Can't say the "meal" looks too appetising, but then again it's better than tiny bag of pretzels or cookie we get in the US on a 1.5 hour flight. Thanks for sharing!

    • Comment 470987 by
      aaqib67 AUTHOR 39 Comments

      Hi Kevin,
      Appreciate your feedback!
      From what i've heard and experienced first hand, I wouldn't mind flying on UL's A321's even on a Medium-Haul sector.... They were definitely beyond expectations!
      I agree that UL's "meal" is indeed better, however what I'm worried about is UL's strategy on becoming a strong regional carrier, thus serving a solitary Vegetable on these short but high-yield sectors (Maldives and India) wouldn't be the best of ideas if they are looking to hang on to their market share with LCC's coming in to the picture. I'd except UL's meal if they were to have meat options available as well, but then again they're in a financial mess as a company who never bother taking corrective measures and Pax Feedback more seriously

      Cheers!

  • Comment 470985 by
    Thurya 77 Comments

    Hi Aaqib,

    Thanks for the great trip report for this short flight.

    "The usual First Security Baggage scanner and body check which wasn't required post-war had been taken off "
    - Praise the lord! These multiple security scans were a true headache... and sometimes backpain too :P

    "It looked very much that CMB was under renovation and expansion with many areas being cordoned off…"
    - Can confirm this as a guy worked in the building services industry because recently I have received inquiries related to numerous small projects at BIA but sadly no sign of commencing T2 work.

    "Here we have Qatar Airways Airbus A350-900! "
    - Wow! Great to see one of these at CMB.

    "However a glance at the IFE system showed a variety of movies and content and a smooth user interface too."
    -Hah... A working flight map! When I took ABQ and ABR in 2016, flight path programme crashed in both of them.

    "The Meal or in this case a "Sad Excuse for a Meal" was served shortly after departure from CMB."
    - Horrible! For the premium prices often charged by UL, especially for MLE sector, this is totally unacceptable. Overall, my faith in UL has reduced drastically recently, with the latest setback being the withdrawal of HKG, which is a prestigious destination for UL even in the Air Lanka / Kai Tak era.

    Thanks again!
    Cheers!!

    • Comment 471133 by
      aaqib67 AUTHOR 39 Comments

      Hi Thurya,

      Spotting the A350 for the first time was simply mind-blowing!
      I read through both your FR's prior to seat selection and it was indeed very helpful (thank you!)

      UL has unfortunately become one horrible mess... need I say more?
      Thanks for reading and appreciate your insight:)

      Cheers!

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