Review: Hong Kong to Bangkok, Sri Lankan Airlines flight UL 891

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Ticketing

Sri Lankan has some excellent ticket prices on this route currently, in both economy and business class. I booked a return ticket through the travel agent Travel Expert for $1,387 all in the week before travel. Sri Lankan had been running a deal through Groupon which is cheaper still but I decided not to go to the effort of booking through Groupon.

The flight only operates thrice weekly, so there is limited flexibility in terms of selecting flight dates and times.

My primary concern with an airline with which I have not flown, such as Sri Lankan, is safety. Their safety record is pretty respectable. Their passenger losses to date were all linked to the civil war in Sri Lanka, which fortunately ended in 2009.

At the airport

I arrived a bit more than an hour before takeoff and went to the Sri Lankan checkin counters at row F, which had no passengers waiting. I had been pre-assigned an aisle seat and was given my boarding pass and, due to my OneWorld status, a lounge invitation for the Plaza Premium lounge.

Boarding

The boarding gate was 209, which is in the midfield terminal. I don’t find this convenient, as it involves taking the internal train to get there, and the midfield terminal lacks decent amenities, so is not a comfortable place in which to hang around if there is a delay.

I arrived there about twenty minutes before departure and boarding was in full swing.

Journey

The plane was a fresh, new feeling A330-300 (registration number 4R-ALR). Upon boarding there was a blanket on each seat.

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Economy class was about ninety per cent full, and based on how many people disembarked at Bangkok it seemed that the majority were Bangkok bound, not continuing with the flight on to Colombo.

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The seatback had a personal entertainment screen, and USB port. The inflight entertainment system had a good selection of films from the west as well as the subcontinent, and music. The comedy programmes were slanted towards American tastes. The system started from on the ground, but cabin crew did not distribute headphones until after seatbelt signs were switched off in flight, and collected them again before descent into Suvarnabhumi.

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We pushed back dead on schedule, at 6.05. The flight was mostly smooth, and we arrived on time in Bangkok. The gate was C7, which as with many gates at Suvarnabhumi is a long walk from immigration. My luggage was already on the belt by the time I got there.

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Service

The service on this flight stood out for me as it was hospitable and friendly, without feeling false. The staff were well-groomed and seemed to work hard to make the flight a comfortable one for passengers. I also appreciated their gentle manner, for example when passengers stood up at the wrong moment in flight or some such, they very politely motioned for them to sit down again, without making a scene.

There was a water service before takeoff. Once the seatbelt signs were off, the cabin crew were fast to start service, first with headphones and landing cards for Thailand, then pretty laminated menus for the meal service. They then started the meal service, followed by a hot drink service. Finally they came around to collect the menus, headphones and used blankets for passengers not continuing to Colombo.

Food and drink

I was impressed by the use of a real menu card.

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I chose the fish entrée. The starter was delicious and fresh, the fish was okay but a bit dry, while the dessert of banana cake though simple was well-executed. There was no bread with the meal, which is something that in my experience most airlines provide in some form.

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I took the Sri Lankan beer, Lion, but on close examination noticed that it had in fact been brewed in Burma by Carlsberg.

Conclusion

I was pleased with this flight and enjoyed my first experience flying with Sri Lankan. Their current prices are hard to beat, and the comfort, inflight entertainment and food are a match for Cathay and others.

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