As I mentioned in my last post, the check-in for the flight was quick as there was nobody at the counter and I was off in couple of minutes. Thereafter, I visited the Plaza Premium Lounge B at Terminal 3’s International Departures area.
Related Trip Review: Reviewing Plaza Premium Lounge, Terminal 3 New Delhi
I left the lounge at 1745 hours, as the gate was a short stroll away from the lounge. I arrived to see most passengers still sitting, while the gate staff was preparing their final departure sheets. I quickly fired up FlightAware to check the status of the incoming aircraft from Colombo and it showed arrival 1708 hours. After a short wait Boarding was called and the usual gate crush rush happened. As my turn came, the agent told me that I was upgraded to Business Class (SCORE!) and he issued me a new boarding pass. I was assigned seat 2D.
SriLankan Airlines 196
New Delhi IGI (DEL) – Colombo Bandaranaike International (CMB)
Friday, December 19th
Departure: 18:53 hours (18 minutes late)
Arrival: 22:02 hours (8 minutes early)
Aircraft: Airbus A320-200
As I was glowing over the late upgrade and settling down on my seat, A SriLankan couple requested if I can move to Row 5 so they can sit together. I thought about it considering the last cabin row usually has limited recline but then I was not going to come between two lovebirds. I happily obliged and shifted my wares to 5D.
This was my first time on a SriLankan aircraft, and I was looking forward to checking out their hard and soft product. The SriLankan Business Class seat on A320s is recliner type and unfortunately has no leg support. It is a 20 seat Business Class cabin in the front, with a 2-2 layout. The seat pitch is pretty respectable for regional operations at 39-40 inches, and overall I felt comfortable while seated. Fair to say this has nothing on their new A330-300 Business class product, which features lie-flat beds along with WiFi & mobile calling, but those aircraft are used on the medium to long haul sectors, with higher yields.
The economy section at the back has about 120 seats, and is in the usual 3-3 layout. This particular flight looked completely sold out to me, in the front and back cabins.
The seat already had a pillow, a blanket and a pair of headphones. Pillow & Blanket looked & felt comfortable, but I must put in a quick word about the headphones provided. Quite honestly, besides looking poor (for a business class headphone), they sounded poor too, I even had to replace my first pair, as they weren’t working properly.
The captain came on the PA to tell us our flight path and apologised for the slight delay in boarding and expected departure.
Business class was served by two very friendly and cheerful attendants. One was a middle-aged gentleman, who probably was the cabin supervisor, and he was assisted by a young lady. Both of them were great and it showed that they enjoyed their jobs. and Did I mentioned that I absolutely loved their SriLankan accents? To me it is probably up there with the Carribean accent, smooth off the tongue and a song for the ears 🙂
I digress. As final checks for the flight were ongoing, we were offered a hot towel, followed by a welcome drink. The choice was between Apple, Orange and Mango juices, and I went with Mango.
Soon I turned my attention to the IFE screen in front of me. My first thoughts were it is too small for a Business class cabin, especially considering that economy seats these days get bigger screens than that.
As we rolled down the runway and rotated towards Colombo, I had spent approximately 12 minutes with the touch-screen system, without getting much done. The lag exhibited by the system was quite a bit, and I noticed similar experience for my seatmate as well. He was a Sri Lankan businessman and later told me that he flew SriLankan mainly for their genuine service, which was definitely hard to argue against.
The common area between the seats also featured two USB & two electrical plug points, which is always very useful.
Few minutes after we were airborne, the cabin attendants sprung into action and distributed well-designed business class menus. Little touches like this matter a lot and it staggers me to think how few airlines, notably Air India, still are so inconsistent with this practice in their premium cabins.
Weirdly, post this we were offered a selection of newspapers, which I thought should have been offered during boarding or in the earlier stages of the flight. The crew has lots going on while preparing the cabin and serving simultaneously, so I’m prepared to overlook such matters, provided it is a rarity and not a regular practice.
After few minutes, the cabin attendant came over to ask for our orders and I requested Chicken Rogini, which was served with Saffron rice.
The meal came over with Dahi Bhalla salad and a Fruit bowl. All this was plated before hand and served together. I did enjoy the taste of meal, where the Chicken and Rice were well made and tasteful. I’m personally not an Okra fan, so did not even bother to touch it. During the meal, both attendants made frequent hot bread rounds, which was appreciated. They even had thin stuffed paranthas in aluminium foil, and which were pretty decent too.
However, I did not personally liked the presentation of the meal. Serving the meal on course basis does lengthen the process, but I think it considerably ups the ante in presentation and overall impression as well. May be SriLankan ought to consider that.
All that of course was gulped down with a hearty dose of the local favourite, Lion Beer.
Post meal, we were offered a round of coffee or tea and I politely declined. Only to ask our attendant about the champagne they had on-board 🙂
They had Jacquart and me & my seatmate were happy to raise a toast to our journey. I had a good conversation with him spanning politics and cricket, and realised both of our nations had many things in common. The re-fills kept coming without even asking for them 🙂
As we started our descent into Colombo, the attendants came by to offer a bottle of water, an arrival form, and most important a fast-track pass. Always useful.
The final round of the cabin before landing was another round of hot towels. Few minutes later, we made a smooth landing at the Bandaranaike International Airport in rainy Colombo. In the words of the late Tony Greig, “They must be playing Cricket somewhere”.
Did I enjoy my business class experience, although a short three hour flight, with SriLankan? Absolutely Yes! Was it because of their hard product? Not at all.
The fact of the matter remains that SriLankan right now is running an older product on their regional routes to India, and even markets like Singapore. That is certainly not an ideal position but keep in mind SriLankan is not running on unlimited oil money. For a carrier having a limited fleet, they are doing a phenomenal job, coupled with a great soft service proposition, one world affiliation and being the only game in town, as far as direct flights between DEL & CMB are concerned.
It is certainly more challenging for them to operate out of Mumbai and other southern states with direct competition from Jet Airways and other Indian carriers. Bottomline: Fly SriLankan for their genuine & warm hospitality but don’t expect wonders in their cabin product, unless you are on one of their latest A330-330s.
Have you ever flown on SriLankan before? What were your thoughts on their service?
I will be continuing this series with reviewing SriLankan’s flagship Serendib Lounge at Colombo International, followed by UL195.
In the last week of December 2014, I traveled to Colombo, Sri Lanka for business purposes. Naturally SriLankan became the airline of choice, my thirty third airline, more on that in the following trip reports. Once I completed my check-in formalities at the New Delhi Airport, Terminal 3, it was time to spend the next hour or so before boarding the aircraft. I had decided I would be using the Plaza Premium Lounge B before hand and thus made my way towards it, past the Duty Free area.
The entire airport was decked in festive spirit, complete with a massive Santa overlooking everyone and spreading cheer.
There are a total of 7 Plaza Premium Lounges at the Delhi Airport, spread across Terminal 1D & Terminal 3 (International & Domestic areas). T3 specifically has 2 Plaza Premium departure lounges for international travel. Lounge A is the smaller lounge of the two, located near the food court, and Lounge B is the bigger lounge with more facilities and a dedicated area.
One needs to take the lift up to Level 4 of the airport, where the Plaza Premium Lounge B is located. These lifts also take passengers to Lufthansa, Emirates & Singapore Lounges on Level 3, and the Eaton Transit Hotel on Level 5.
Depending on the which of the three lifts you take, you will have to turn left or right, once you reach Level 4. You will find the “infamous” T3 carpeting here as well 🙂
At the reception I was met by an efficient agent, who quickly checked me in after verifying my ICICI Sapphiro Jet Airways Visa card. This lounge is part of the Visa Lounge Access program, which earlier used to have Delhi Daredevils Bar at Terminal 3. I was also asked if I required the Wi-Fi password, which I turned down.
One can also get in to this lounge through a Priority Pass Membership (the standard derivative of which comes complimentary with most airline affiliated credit cards). For the uninitiated, Priority Pass is the largest independent airport lounge access program in the world, with over 700 locations in 123 countries. The greatest advantage of the program is that you don’t need to be flying with a specific airline or in a specific class to access these lounges.
There are three membership plans:
- Standard Membership: $99 annual fee, plus $27 for each lounge visit
- Standard Plus Membership: $249 annual fee with 10 free visits; additional visits are $27
- Prestige Membership: $399 annual fee with unlimited visits
At this point, I must also mention that this lounge is the contract lounge of choice for most international airlines out of Delhi Airport, and thus has been quite busy most of the times I have been there. As this visit was during an off-peak late afternoon hour, the lounge was fairly empty. Keep in mind, this is open 24 hours.
One thing this lounge is not short of, is comfortable seating. There are plenty of sofas, in the forward section of the lounge, as well at the back, near to the bar and food area. The Lounge also has a flight display board near the entrance.
Apart from comfortable sofas, there are also tall chairs by the bar side, next to the snack section.
The bar itself looks pretty stocked up, but for a beer lover like me is a big dud. The only beer they serve here is Kingfisher, although there is nothing wrong with Kingfisher, I would like to see at least one more option to be served.
The other side of the bar counter is the food section, having soups, mains, fruits, sandwiches and sweet options.
I was at the bar during late lunch hours and the staff was regularly filling up dishes. There were about 4 main options including chicken, mutton and vegetarian, accompanied by Rice.
The vegetarian options included Matar Paneer gravy (Peas & Cottage Cheese, cooked Indian spicy style), and Chinese Manchurian gravy, neither of which I tried.
Just behind the bar, there was a wooden cabinet stocked with water bottles, and a refrigerator next to it, which was stocked with aerated drinks.
To its right, a coffee/tea machine was placed, along with some cookies and tea flavours.
The juice dispenser was next, serving orange and apple juice.
Which was followed by a bread basket, containing 5 different varieties.
I was feeling slightly hungry, and wanted to have a quick meal before boarding so I got myself Chilly Chicken, on top of Rice. I gulped that down with a beer. I can’t say much about the dish except the fact that it was typical contract lounge food, devoid of any flavour, with a average chicken quality. Thank god for the beer.
After a while, I thought about trying a paneer sandwich, along with Shahi Tukda as a dessert. Wrong move, as the sandwich was filled with paneer (cottage cheese) only on the sides, with the insides completely empty. As far as Shahi Tukda is concerned, I would like to describe it in two words: Sweet Rubber.
The lounge had couple of magazine/newspaper racks with a variety of publications. As a magazine/newspaper aficionado, I was quiet impressed with that offering.
Just behind the bar side sofas, there is a small entryway which leads to restrooms, as well as couple of enclosed VIP Rooms, Massage & Shower Area
During my stay at the lounge, the masseur was unavailable. There were two massage sofas and two neck and shoulder massage chairs in the room.
The massage service is not complimentary, and is chargeable at the following rates:
|Deluxe Shower (with full amenities)||600|
|Shower with 30 minutes Seated Massage||1300|
|Massage and Beauty Service||INR|
|15 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back)||500|
|30 minutes Seated Massage (head, neck, shoulder and back)||900|
|15 minutes Foot Reflexology||500|
|30 minutes Foot Reflexology||900|
There is also a business area, which features 4 Windows OS based laptops, and a Printer/Copier.
During my stay I found the staff to be attentive, polite and not overbearing, which is my preferable option. Ideally I’m not fond of lounge staff trying hard to please, after all, passengers are in the lounge to escape from the noise and find some down time.
To sum up, it is certainly a worthy alternative to sitting in a crowded and noisy terminal, and for Visa card holders, certainly a big upgrade from the environs of the Delhi Daredevils Bar at the ground floor. Would I pay $27 to gain access as a Priority Pass holder? I’m not sure. The food & drink selection have never enthused me too much and this lounge is certainly not in the category of Plaza Premium lounges at Hong Kong, Jamaica or London. However, if you hold an eligible Visa credit card, this lounge should be a no-brainer for you.
Have you been to the Premium Plaza Lounge B at New Delhi, Terminal 3, what you thought of its services?
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