Welcome to Trip Report 34!
With my work in Delhi and Ajmer complete and a well spent, memorable experience in North India, the icing on the cake with regards to every trip would be to have a great flight back home.
SriLankan Airlines managed to do just that!
Even with a few flaws here and there, the overall product delivered by UL on this sector back to Colombo can be rated as my personal best Best Narrow Bodied - Medium Haul flight in Economy on SriLankan Airlines to date
Departure was scheduled at 0515 hrs (+0530 GMT), which meant that we'd have to forgo our breakfast at The Ritz and thereby have an early morning checkout, breaking rest and head to the airport by at least 0230 hrs
Having returned to the hotel at 2300 hrs the previous night after dinner, sleeping wasn't going to be an option and I gave some priority to last minute packing, catching up on the news and making sure that my GoPro had sufficient memory for the return sector back to CMB
Watch the Entire Flight Report Here!
Having finished off online check in a day earlier, I was expecting a A321ceo. SriLankan Airlines currently operates two aircraft of this type, both being ex-Qatar Airways Aircraft namely 4R-ABQ and 4R-ABR. Having flown on both aircraft in the past, I was looking forward to flying on either of them again
However UL had other plans in store!
FR24 revealed that the incoming aircraft from CMB was an Airbus A321neo (4R-ANE) flying on their first of two daily services to the Indian Capital Delhi (DEL) as UL191
A Summary of today's routing:
SriLankan Airlines (UL/ALK)
Flight Number: UL192
Equipment: Airbus A321neo
From: Delhi- Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL/VIDP)
To: Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport (CMB/VCBI)
We then booked ourselves an Uber to get us to Delhi-Indira Gandhi International Airport (DEL/VIDP)
Delhi Airport was busy as always even at 0300 hrs in the morning, with flights set for departure within India, The Middle East and I did notice a few long-haul services to San Francisco and London (Operated by AI) , Alitalia to Rome, KLM to Amsterdam and Aeroflot to Moscow being the standouts on the Departure board, Another airline which caught my eye was Iraqi Airways who operate 5 weekly frequencies to Baghdad from Delhi on their Boeing 737-800
UL's Check-in counters were open and quite surprisingly wasn't crowded which made the process a breeze.
Bags dropped off, we proceeded to immigration which thankfully was quick and it was on to the departure concourse to have some breakfast
At 0400 hrs, I really wasn't expecting any restaurant to be open or have a full menu available, however McDonald's didn't let us down. The service as on the slower side and they did manage to mess my order up but in the end I did get my freshly prepared Fillet-o-fish
Was nice to see shops and restaurants open at this hour unlike at Kuala-Lumpur International Airport (KUL) where almost all shops and restaurants close after specific times - something I really dislike about KLIA
Finished up a bit of last minute shopping and It was time to head to the gate. A really long walk awaited us!
Boarding had already begun and we were the last set of passengers going through
I Probably misjudged the size of DEL… this airport was massive!
Departure was as scheduled, however boarding was called pretty early which lead to a bottle-neck effect at the jet bridge.
A solid 10-15 minutes saw the build up of passengers boarding the awaiting Airbus A321neo due to horrible coordination between the ground staff and the aircraft which was a pretty annoying start.
Being a Medium Haul early morning flight, the crew which had a pretty short turnaround seemed exhausted. It was understandable. They being humans too and weren't machines.
While boarding, I was instructed to turn off my GoPro due to security concerns which followed up with a little chat with the Cabin Manager at the door of the aircraft even before getting to my seat.
Unlike many international carriers, UL isn't accustomed/exposed to Flight-Reports and it would be just a very few Sri Lankan's having published reviews and Flight-reports of the airline.
Anyhow it wasn't a problem as I managed to introduce myself and what I do which lead the Cabin Manager and the crew gave their consent and the green light was given to go ahead with my work freely without any restrictions (sadly missed out a rare opportunity to visit the flight deck of this A321neo)
A on-time departure assured us that we'd reach Colombo before schedule some fantastic views over Delhi
As this was my first time on SriLankan's A321neo economy class, the seats were perfect far better than their Airbus A320neo which in my opinion was cramped and not the best aircraft to fly on for a 3+ hour sector and even better when compared to the older Airbus A330-200's seats which lacked any form of comfort far below Full-Service carrier standards
Sri Lankan Airlines is currently in the process of retiring a few of its older aircraft with the possibility of 2 to 3 A330-200's leaving the fleet in the near future. Their replacements? probably the A330-900Neo which I feel would be the most suitable replacement
Service was overall pretty good for a red-eye flight even though this was the crew's second leg for the day and a quick turnaround.
However, Sri Lankan's catering looked impressive on the menu, which included a Vegetarian and Non-Vegetarian option however I ended up with a totally different dish
As per dietary requirements, I had signed up for UL's frequent flyer program some years ago and had recently specified my meal requirements as well, then again it should be noted that all meals served on Sri Lankan Airlines do comply with my dietary preferences and it isn't necessary to pre-order a Halal/Muslim Meal (MOML)
What was dished out to me was more of a fusion with a mixture of Indian and a continental breakfast which was pretty disappointing
Due to poor lighting, i was unable to take a picture of the food or the menu.
It is available on the video link above. Do check it out
For a red-eye flight such as this one Sleep was far more important ,compared to IFE which was a mere bonus.
I switched the Map on and put my phone on charge
A beautiful sunrise and scenic approach into Colombo-Bandaranaike International Airport followed thereafter
Revamped service, Economy Class Product, Comfortable Aircraft accompanied by superior service by the crew on board!
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That'd be all for now,See you in the next takeoff!