Disappointing experience with Sri Lankan Airlines

I have flown 37 flights so far this year and traveled to Singapore at least four to five times.

Usually, when I travel to Singapore, I prefer the Air India flight around 11 in the morning from Chennai. So by the time I wake up, I have had a good sleep and am ready for the four-hour flight from my usual port of travel — Chennai. And by the time I reach Singapore, I have the evening to roam, relax and sleep in time for an exciting few days. And the return flight from Singapore is around 9 in the morning. Which means by the time I am back in India, I have the whole day to re-energize myself for the coming days.

However, this time, while traveling to Singapore for the Commerical Aviation MRO Asia Pacific conference, it was decided that Sri Lankan Airlines will be the carrier.

I have had the most wonderful and memorable travel by Sri Lankan back in 2016 June. Wonderful crew, good food, and comfortable aircraft seats. However, this time, it was nothing short of a nightmare.

My colleague and I took the Sri Lankan Airlines flight from Chennai to Singapore via Colombo (we flew UL 124 and then UL 306). Time for departure and arrival in Singapore suited us.

Let me first give a brief of the flight from Chennai to Colombo. I understand that the flight time between the two international cities is about 60 minutes or so, and as a result, the airline has decided to move to the narrow body Airbus A320. This particular aircraft had its first flight on December 2, 2004. And for the first next six and a half years, China Southern used it. Somewhere around April 2011, it was inducted by Sri Lankan Airlines.

The armrest of the aircraft on the seats where we were seated was broken. The seats were so uncomfortable that it gave us a neck pain.

But that wasn't the tipping point. It was when the food — a thick bread with minimal veg fillings was provided as a meal. There was no tea or coffee. A flight from Hanover, Germany to Paris, France takes about the same time. The meal provided early in the morning usually is a Croissant and a cup of coffee of tea. I don't think anyone minds that? A coffee or tea goes a long way, isn't it?

The crew, thankfully, was amazing in the flight. And to our amazement (and good luck), it was the same crew which flew us to Singapore, albeit in a different aircraft.

The crew, having already been acquainted, was very much happy (and so were we) to see us too.

The aircraft to Singapore was in a much better condition. However, here's the thing — for an international overnight flight, it was an A320-200. And, the food quality was bad. My colleague took one bite of the salad and threw it out. I really don't remember what food was served, but it was not at all impressionable. Even for the alcohol served was only one glass (considering that it was a night flight). Isn't it an open bar and one is supposed to inquire about a refill?

Anyway, we reached Singapore and thought that we will forget about our mild disappointing experiences — however, my colleague developed a bad tummy post the flight (he got a fever and the bad tummy irritated him for the next 2-3 days).

We had completely forgotten about our experience ahead of the flight back. However, the bitter experience, this time, started at the Changi Airport itself.

Have you seen how the ground crew calls for passengers — seat and class-wise during boarding procedure? Here's the thing — the Sri Lankan Airlines crew at Changi were most unpleasant.

First, they called for Business Class passengers and then families traveling with children. That was fine. But, then they called for passengers seating from row 20 to 30 and when we approached the boarding gate, we were directed to the whole lot (including more Business class travelers, and all other seats).

1. You don't make an announcement for passengers seated 20 to 30 and then ask them to join everyone.
2. Where is the standard operating procedure then?
3. Why make announcements at all?

When it was pointed out to one of the gentlemen from the ground crew, he just simply said, "Please join this line."

A haphazard boarding can cause delay in the aircraft being ready for departure.

Inside the aircraft, the crew were directing passengers to help themselves in loading their luggage and instructing them to the front of the aircraft to find spaces by themselves. Aren't the crew suppose to help the passengers? Luckily for us, we had only small backpacks. But, for many, it was suitcases (I still wonder how air carriers allow passengers to carry suitcases as carry-on).

Let's not forget, when the aircraft was finally ready, there were compartments which were not properly shut because straps of luggage were peeping out.

The aircraft for UL 309 was once again an A320, but a brand new one with a Leap engine. Glossy and shinning aircraft.

Food was much better than previous experiences. But, the seating experience was once again sad. I was seated on the window seat and there was a box, possibly the electrical support for the IFE system, in the already narrow and small seating configuration. And that wasn't enough!

Whoever designed the seat pitch had forgotten about tray tables. Whenever the person seating in front of me pushed the seat back, if the tray table was open, it was obstructing and hurting my lap. Even if the seat was upright, I had to use it half open. Pictures will say the full story.

So the tray table is supposed to be hurting my lap?

So if the person ahead of pushed the seat back, then the view of the tablet would be pointing towards my tummy. How is one supposed to watch the tablet then?
Even with the seat upright, I had to use the tray table half-open to use it.

For four hours, the unpleasant and uncomfortable experience guided me to Colombo. And for the final flight back.

By that time, we were so tired and mind and body irritated, we didn't care much about how the final flight and aircraft was. All we wanted was to reach our destination and back to our beds for a deep rest.

I have to say — the Indigo Airlines uses the same aircraft, however, the seating experience is far better than Sri Lankan. Even Air India's services feel much better than Sri Lankan. I never thought I will say that.

I strongly believe that if narrow body aircraft are being used by air carriers for international travels, they should at least consider the comfort factor. Also, the quality of food. For the money spent, I do not think, this experience justifies the past experience I have had with Sri Lankan in 2016. However, that was a long time back (even if it was two years back) and a lot has changed in these two years everywhere, in the whole industry itself.

But, will I travel Sri Lankan Airlines any soon? Probably not.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

Customer service is worst for srilankan airlines, they have only one help line number which will not help you in any case, just route your call from one department to other department and in the end you will be tired of waiting and cut the phone.
I have traveled from beijing to banglaore 2 weeks back in srilankan airlines and their ground staff requested me to submit my handbag to luggage due to some reason, he assured me that hand bag will not be damaged and will reach safely at destination. But when i collected my hang bag at bangalore airport it was damaged and i have waited 2 hours for their ground staff to note down my complain but no one came and i left.
After that i tried to reach them via phone call and email and twitter but no one responded. Its worst airline, i will never ever book tickets with them and suggest the same to others.

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