FRA-CMB-BKK-CMB-FRA on SriLankan A332 & A343 (Part II) + 15 pics

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FRA-CMB-BKK-CMB-FRA on SriLankan A332 & A343 (II)

Please note: due to the image limit on this forum I have split my original report - part one can be found here:

http://forum.keypublishing.co.uk/showthread.php?t=69061

Bangkok Suvarnabhumi Airport

Arrival
The new airport's architecture is not just impressive from the distance but also from a viewpoint in the terminal. Though the halls appear a bit cool and the restroom facilities in the arrival area are definitely not large enough. Even men had to wait in row - and it wasn't really rush hour!
It was quite a distance to walk to the luggage carousel but that shortened the waiting for the suitcases.

Departure: Check-in mess
On the way back six days later we arrived some 2,5 hours prior to departure and were surprised by the masses of people in the check-in hall. Many people were sitting and lying on the floor, making it nearly impossible to move forward without hitting anyone. It was even worse around Emirates' check-in counters and it was quite a task to get in row for UL's check-in. Interestingly, each other queue seemed to move faster than ours and then we even had a "special case" directly ahead – a family with little kids and countless pieces of luggage which seemed to have a special problem with the agent. I was getting a bit impatient since I wanted to explore the observation deck as soon as possible and time flew by for waiting. Finally we received our boarding passes and after dipsy-doodling through the sitting and lying masses we could leave that hall.

Observation deck
It took me only a few seconds to find out that the indoor observation deck is not very useful for registration spotting. Sure, it was dark which made it more difficult to see anything in the distance, but double glass and panels even prevented good views of aircraft parked at the gates directly ahead. The heat up there was another negative aspect and we decided to leave again in order to check spotting opportunities from the gate area.

Air conditioning & artwork
After paying the departure tax at a dedicated counter we proceeded to the central departure hall with shops and restaurants. As expected, views were also very limited there and it wasn't any better in our deserted concourse E which was only accessible after a security check. The air conditioning system in the whole terminal area is a nightmare, thanks to the coolers installed on the ground. There are either very cool or very warm areas, but no section with a constantly comfortable temperature. At least the optical appearance of the hall is pleasing the eye, with Thai artwork located in the middle of the concourse:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.hall.jpg

Saturday, 09 December 2006
Bangkok (BKK) - Colombo (CMB)
SriLankan Airlines UL423
20:55-22:50 (20:49-22:45)
Flying time: 03:07 (hrs)

Airbus A330-243
4R-ALC (msn 311), delivered 12/1999
Economy Seat 60A

Flying the same reg twice…
After 4R-ALB and 4R-ALC I had hoped for another different A332, but then 4R-ALC showed up again...and I had serious concerns that 4R-ALC would also operate onwards to Frankfurt. Prior to the trip I had heard of someone who had also traveled on the same routing (BKK-CMB-FRA) in November that the same aircraft had operated on both sectors. I also had in mind that - according to UL's timetable - two other A332 wouldn't be in line for the FRA service on that day. So chances were high I would encounter a "flying the same reg thrice"-scenario... :o

Boarding
4R-ALC had arrived on time so boarding was started early as usual. However, there were no boarding calls and at once almost all people in the gate rushed towards the entry. We took our seats in row 60 and it seemed this flight was packed just like the CMB-BKK sector. Legroom is limited by the IFE-box under the window seat:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.legroom.jpg

We left the gate some minutes early and took off 14 minutes later:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.takeoff.jpg

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.takeoff2.jpg

Dinner
A hot dinner was served shortly after takeoff:

[i]Hors d’oevre
Smoked Red Snapper with Pasta Salad

Main dishes
Stirfried Chicken with Cashew Nuts, Kale, Sauteed Peppers and Steamed Rice

Baked Tilapia in Ginger & Black Mushroom Sauce with Yellow Bamee Noodles, Sauteed Bok Choy and Baby Carrots

Vegetable Green Curry with Stirfried Pack Choy and Steamed Rice

Dessert
Coconut Pudding with Taro in Raspberry Sauce[/i]

I tried the chicken and was really disappointed for the first time. The sauce was not my taste and the peppers were really spicy. The red snapper was dry, the pasta salad tasted strange and the coconut pudding tasted somehow artificial.

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.dinner.jpg

TV operational
The video screen worked again almost one week after it broke down and I could also enter the once critical game section. Though, I watched the map most of the time. 40,000 feet over the bay of Bengal:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.map.jpg

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL423.map2.jpg

Noise cancelled…
The flight was mostly smooth and uneventful, with many passengers sleeping. Though, I noticed a young German sitting only two rows behind in the middle section who was loudly talking - seemingly persistently throughout the flight. He spoke English, and his addressee – a man probably from India or Sri Lanka – didn't seem to be very active during that conversation (or better: monologue). At least I could cancel that constant noise by switching on my MP3 player... ;)

We touched down at Bandaranaike Airport on time at 22:40 and could disembark only a few minutes later.

Late-night surprise
First of all I tried to find out the gate number for the Frankfurt flight - and surprisingly it was different from the arrival gate. We went over to the other side of the concourse and an aircraft was already being prepared. I spotted a large "A" above the cockpit windows and concluded it would be A332 4R-ALA. However, as we walked to the transit area I could spot a large part of the wing and I suddenly noticed TWO tiny engines under the wing - the aircraft was an A343, or more precise, 4R-ADA, UL's first ever A340-300 and also a -311 version which was still missing in my flight log (only had -313X models before).
So apparently UL had decided on short notice to upgrade the flight - which was almost full, btw.

Sunday, 10 December 2006
Colombo (CMB) - Frankfurt (FRA)
SriLankan Airlines UL553
00:05-06:30 (00:06-06.25)
Flying time: 10:31 (hrs)

Airbus A340-311
4R-ADA (msn 032), delivered 09/1994
Economy Seat 60C

Boarding
The gate was packed and some young guys - equipped with seemingly totally oversized cabin luggage - lined up directly at the entry to the jetway. After being called, some C-class passengers, disabled passengers with wheelchairs and families with kids almost couldn't pass. And the guys who blocked the way simply wondered why they still weren't allowed to board...listening to boarding calls would be helpful sometimes. :roll:

Meanwhile I had discretely taken a picture of 4R-ADA’s nose:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.gate.jpg

Cabin, seating & IFE
The A343's interior isn't different from the A332's, same seats, same pitch, same IFE. However, the IFE controls seemed to be in better condition – I guess 4R-ADA's cabin was upgraded quite some time after the A332s' deliveries. Front camera view:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.screen.jpg

A343 takeoff…
We left the gate at 00:06 and ten minutes later the crew already started to accelerate the aircraft while still turning in. 4R-ADA rolled, and rolled, and rolled...and rolled...and rolled...finally raised its nose...and slowly lifted off. Just as the aircraft had become airborne, the last row of runway light disappeared on the screen...then it flew a long left turn, at a really slow rate of climb, barely gaining speed. Taking off in a heavily loaded A343 is always a pleasure... ^

Dinner
Half an hour later it was dinner time yet again:

[i]Main dishes
Beef Bourguinonne with Stirfried Vegetables and Parsley Potatoes

Panfried Chicken with ****ake Mushroom Sauce and Pesto Marinated Tagliatelle

Vegetable Lasagne on Tomato Coulis

Dessert
Apple Almond Gateau[/i]

I ordered the chicken which was an excellent choice. Everything tasted good, no reason to complain. Drink: ice-cold Carlsberg.

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.dinner.jpg

After the meal service FAs closed the window shades and I killed time with the IFE system. Several hours later we flew along the Iraqi border once more again, cruising altitude 38,000 feet:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.map.jpg

Breakfast
Two hours prior to arrival the lights were switched on and the cabin crew distributed hot towels and served a hot breakfast.

[i]Appetizer/Desert
Fresh fruit and yogurt

Main dishes
Savoury Scrambled Eggs on Toast, Sauteed Mushrooms with Onion, Grilled Herbed Tomato and Hash Brown Potatoes

Spanish omelette with broiled chicken sausage, grilled mushrooms, tomato and Roesti potatoes

Vegetable Bhurji, Bakherkani, Palak Til Croquette[/i]

I chose the scrambled eggs and enjoyed yet another tasty and filling meal:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.breakfast.jpg

Cabin shot...

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.cabin.jpg

...and an aisle shot: that's how the female flight attendants' dress looks like:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.aisle.jpg

Remote...
The remaining flight was uneventful and we touched down at runway 25R at 06:17 in the morning. I soon realized we wouldn't taxi for the terminal - instead we taxied to a very remote position near the fuel depot where QF, SA and other aircraft are parked during the day. Since I hadn't expected a remote position at FRA in the early morning I had packed my jacket into the suitcase, so I had the pleasure to walk to the bus at zero degrees...at least I had the chance to take a picture:

http://www.thevital.net/udo/fra-cmb-bkk-cmb-fra/UL553.wing.jpg

Arrival chaos
After the bus had dropped us off at Terminal 1 countless people "stormed" the escalator, so we decided to wait for a while. As we finally arrived at the top end of the escalator, a crowd of people blocked the way out and we almost fell down together with other people, who loudly complained about the chaos. There was simply not enough space for all these passengers from several longhaul flights who were stuck due to the slow process at the immigration counters. Finally we arrived at the luggage carousel, where we had to wait quite long again until our suitcases arrived. Only once did I wait longer – that was in 1997 when United misplaced my luggage at ORD... :o

Conclusion
Flying SriLankan was a satisfying experience, though I discovered certain deficiencies and room for improvement. FAs are professional, service-orientated and mostly friendly. Meal portions are appropriate, the food's quality is mostly good, but there can be exceptions. The choice of three main dishes is outstanding, FAs are quite generous with beverages. Though, UL's catering doesn't match EK's, both in terms of quality and presentation.

The non-AVOD IFE system is outdated by today's standards and needs a refurbishment (e.g. controls on A332s), though UL still offers more options than many other longhaul carriers. Front & and down cameras are always available which is very useful. Cabins are usually clean, seat comfort can be rated average, pitch (32 inch) is not different from other carriers.

Colombo Bandaranaike Airport is a convenient, functional airport for changing planes, but I wouldn't want to spend more than three or four hours in transit. Bangkok Suvarnabhumi needs to be improved, but I guess that is a matter of time. Several sections of Terminal 1 at Frankfurt Airport are totally outdated and should be refurbished and re-designed as soon as possible.

As usual, comments, opinions and questions welcome!

Best Regards,
PlaneHunter

Original post
Profile picture for user gatwickjosh

Member for

13 years 5 months

Posts: 459

Great reports. Both of them. I remember flying UL back in August from LHR on the A343. Was much better than some airlines i have flown before.(bwia Monarch easyjet and virgin.) I think they do need the improvements with the IFE but other than that i think its great.

I LOVED colombo. Such a great place. I wouldn't have worries about not getting your bins and camera out. The sri-lankans are very friendly and wouldn't give you any hassel. The only problem with CMB(which if you transited you wouldnt have seen) is baggage reclaim. it is very outdated and need's to be refurbished soon.

But yeah. Great read:cool:

Profile picture for user T5

Member for

19 years 11 months

Posts: 6,503

Excellent reports and really great shots, too! :)

I must admit that Suvarnabhumi Airport does have one or two flaws, but compared to Don Muang, it's a dream.

Member for

16 years 7 months

Posts: 12,842

I think that's one of the most comprehensive and enlightening reports i've ever read on this forum

Profile picture for user Jamie_787

Member for

13 years 1 month

Posts: 555

And another great report, The front camera is an interesting feature, need to look out for this!

Thanks

Jamie M

Member for

16 years 5 months

Posts: 939

As per my comments on part 1 - superb. Keep them coming.
OG