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!
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!
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!
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!
SilkAir Boeing 737-800 being pushed back, ready for departure to SIN
Our Airbus A330's : 4R-ALM, 4R-ALG and 4R-ALA
Oman Air Boeing 737-800 (A40-BH)
UL's NEO's and CEO's
4R-ABQ one of the Ex-Qatar Airways Airbus A321's in UL's Fleet
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.
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)
Conditions for flying were on-point!
Climbing to a Designated Altitude of 35,0000 ft
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
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
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
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
The Air India Airbus A320-200 parked next to us, with this being probably one of my best shots (Zero Edits) Presenting VT-EXB!
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
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, Thanks for Reading! stay connected via. FR and YouTube don't forget to Subscribe link Comments are welcome! See you in the next takeoff!
Colombo - CMB
Chennai - MAA
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