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SriLankan Airlines Airbus A330-300 Business Class Review [MLE to CMB]

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Daniel Ross

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Airline: SriLankan Airlines
Aircraft: Airbus A330-300
Flight No.: UL116
Route: Malé (MLE), Maldives, to Colombo (CMB), Sri Lanka
Date: November 27, 2023
Duration: 1 hour, 9 minutes
Cabin and Layout: 1-2-1
Seat: 1K
Cost: $508

Rather than flying back to the U.K. after a weeklong Virgin Atlantic press trip in the Maldives, I thought I’d tag on a few days to visit Sri Lanka, which would be my 60th country.

I was surprised by how many options there were to fly between the capital cities of Maldives and Sri Lanka.

In addition to flights operated by Sri Lankan carriers like SriLankan Airlines and Fits Air, carriers from other countries such as Emirates, Etihad, Gulf Air, and Turkish Airlines operate fifth-freedom services between the 2 cities.

My first idea was to fly Emirates for the first time and splash some points on the airline’s first class product. After giving it more thought and considering that the inflight service and amenities would be a scaled-back version of what Emirates offers on long-haul flights, I saved my points for another time.

In the end, I gave SriLankan a try instead. Here’s how it went.

Booking Sri Lankan Business Class

Booking my flight with SriLankan was a quick and simple process.

I started, as I always do, with a quick search on Google Flights to get an idea of the options available. When I found the flights I wanted, I booked directly with SriLankan Airlines rather than one of the many third-party options that Google Flights displayed.

Hot Tip:

Tempted to pay less and book through an online travel agent or other third parties? While it might feel like you’re saving some money in the short term, you can often be left out of pocket later down the line should you need to make changes to your booking or if your flight gets delayed or canceled.

I noticed the wide-body Airbus A330 operates on a select few of SriLankan’s 1-hour hops between Colombo (CMB) and Malé (MLE).

As these jets boast fully lie-flat business class seats, I booked myself onto the 3:35 p.m. departure (operated by the Airbus A330) so I could enjoy the full business class experience.

I paid the $508 fare with my U.K. version of The Platinum Card® from American Express. The U.S. version of the card is great to use when paying for flights, as it awards you 5x points per $1 spent when booking directly with an airline or with AmexTravel.com (up to $500,000 per year).

Sri Lankan Airlines Airbus A330 business class booking
I was surprised that Sri Lankan offers 4 different business class tariffs! Image Credit: Sri Lankan

SriLankan Airlines is part of the Oneworld Alliance, which meant I could add my British Airways Executive Club number and earn those all-important Avios (BA’s air miles currency) and elite-status-earning Tier Points.

Sri Lankan Airlines Airbus A330 business class booking
Image Credit: Sri Lankan

SriLankan is one of the few remaining airlines that doesn’t charge its business class passengers for seat selection, so I went straight in and secured my spot in 1K.

Sri Lankan Airlines Airbus A330 business class booking
Image Credit: Sri Lankan

Velana International Airport

Velana International Airport is the sharp pin that brutally pops your luxury Maldivian bubble.

For starters, departing the airport isn’t as simple as arriving at the check-in desk, as there’s an additional security checkpoint to clear that you might not be used to.

The landside area of the airport is split in 2: an expansive, covered, outside space with no air conditioning where members of the public are free to wander and welcome or wave off family and friends, and an inside check-in area where only ticketed passengers are permitted.

The first step, which I’ve experienced in a few Middle Eastern and Asian countries, was that all baggage, including checked bags, and each passenger must pass through security scanners before being allowed into the check-in hall. Once you’d passed this stage, you got to enjoy the air conditioning.

I was told that this was in part to stop passengers traveling through with alcohol (the nation has strict alcohol restrictions). Of course, I had to put that theory to the test and can confirm my Champagne made it through without a problem.

It was midmorning and peak hour for departures, so the line was long. Thankfully, as a business class passenger, I was able to use the priority lane, which bypassed most of the line before joining it again close to the end.

I’ve departed Malé on both morning and evening flights and have always encountered no line here at all.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE terminal
Ticketed and non-ticketed passengers are separated in the landside area of Malé’s airport.

Check-In

SriLankan’s 3 check-in desks were easy to find, and there was no queue of people, which was nice.

Just moments after arriving at the business class desk, I had my boarding pass in hand.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE check in
Sir Lankan check-in desks.

Next up was the second of the 3 checkpoints: passport control. Again, first and business class passengers, as well as diplomats and officials, could use a dedicated priority lane.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE immigration
The next step is a passport check.

Despite the long queue of passengers waiting to get into the terminal, I breezed right through to the final checkpoint: security. Having access to the priority lane didn’t speed me up much here, as there were only about a dozen passengers waiting in the economy line.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE security
The final step: security.

Leeli Lounge

Remember what I said about an abrupt end to your luxury Maldivian dream? Well, the airport’s only lounge did not fit with the narrative that the Maldives is one of the most luxury destinations on the planet.

The Leeli Lounge is very basic, to say the least.

It had barely any natural light and was dated — roll on the opening of the new terminal! I’m intrigued to see what the lounges are like when it opens in 2025.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge Leeli
The entrance to the Leeli Lounge.

The lounge’s dull cream-and-beige corporate color palette exacerbated the feeling of sadness about leaving the Maldives.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge computers
Not the most exciting lounge.

It was more like the reception of a stuffy office or a waiting room at a doctor’s surgery.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge decor
Drab walls.

The only section of the lounge with any natural light was cordoned off during my visit. I figured this must only be closed when the lounge was quiet, as I passed through here again one evening and the whole space was open and busy.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge cordon
The cordoned-off zone.

In terms of entertainment, there were 3 computers and a single TV that was playing Sky News with the sound on very low.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge TV
Sky News on the screen.

For some reason, I was unable to connect to the Wi-Fi with my phone. Other guests I spoke with had no problems. On the topic of gadgets, try to arrive at the airport with your phones, tablets, and laptops fully charged, as there aren’t enough power outlets for everyone.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge WiFi
This was definitely a “me” problem.

While minimal, the food was surprisingly good. I helped myself to a couple of servings of flavorful rice and hearty fish to pass the time during the rolling delay.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge tuna and rice
Rice and fish for the win.

The carb-heavy menu also included roasted-ish potatoes and noodles.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge carbs
More carbs.

There was also a salad station for lighter bites.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge salad station
Healthier choices.

Cold foods included unappetizing sandwiches wrapped in plastic. I didn’t go anywhere near the factory-made slides of bread for making toast, either.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge sandwiches
I swerved past the unappetizing sandwiches.

However, I was tempted by the Belgian chocolate brownie over at the dessert section.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE cakes
Vanilla muffins, pineapple cake, and Belgian chocolate brownies.

After demolishing my first piece in a matter of seconds, I may have helped myself to 1 (or maybe 2) more.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge brownie
I only had 2, I promise.

There were also candies and cookies.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge sweet snacks
More sweet treats.

Drinks were also self-serve and included soft drinks, nonalcoholic beer, and a coffee machine. I didn’t actually try the coffee, so can’t report on its quality.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge soft drinks
Hot and cold drinks.

There was also a decent selection of teas.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE lounge teas
Lots of tea!

Boarding

Eventually, airline staff confirmed a new departure time of 4:50 p.m. — some 75 minutes after the scheduled departure time.

I made my way to the boarding area, which was down a level from the Leeli Lounge and consisted of a row of 6 to 8 bus gates.

Thankfully, a new international airport is currently being built on the same site as Velana. You don’t have to spend long as a passenger in the existing airport to understand why this is necessary.

Each gate area was separated by cordons and featured nowhere near enough seats for a fully laden little Airbus A319, let alone the wide-body Airbus A330 that would take me to Colombo.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE gate area
The luxury of legroom was lacking.

The line to board the bus formed on both sides of the seating area: a line for premium and priority passengers and the other for those in economy.

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE gate cordon
Boarding lane.

After staff squeezed as many of us as possible onto a bus, we made our way to the aircraft. I loved catching my very first glimpse of Beond’s Airbus A319!

Sri Lankan A330 business class MLE Beond
Hi, Beond!

On Board SriLankan’s Airbus A330

I was welcomed on board the 9-year-old Airbus A330 by a super smiley SriLankan Airlines crew.

Business Class Cabin

The forward cabin of SriLankan’s Airbus A330s is made up of 28 lie-flat seats in a 1-2-1 configuration, all with direct aisle access.

When these seats were installed 9 years ago, they were pretty advanced for their time — and even in 2024, there are airlines that still don’t have direct aisle access on all their long-haul jets!

Sri Lankan A330 business class middle seats
Welcome aboard.

Seats along the windows (A and K) face outward towards the window while the center seats face inward toward each other.

I found the color scheme dull, but I did appreciate the pheasant detailing.

Sri Lankan A330 business class middle seats
The pheasant is Sri Lankan’s symbol.

Business Class Seat

I picked seat 1K for no other reason other than I like to sit in the front row if it’s available.

A plump pillow encased in soft fabric was the only amenity waiting at my seat when I boarded.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat 1K
Seat 1K.

The seat controls, inflight entertainment remote, universal power outlet, USB and headphone jacks, and a reading lamp were within easy reach on the panel by the window.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat 1K
SriLankan doesn’t play hide-and-seek with the power outlet.

I couldn’t reach the footwell while in the seated position, and it didn’t feel too cramped when the seat was in the lie-flat position. The wavy orange-and-blue stripes of the carpet made the space look dirty.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat footwell
Floor and footwell.

I didn’t go to sleep, given the flight was so short. But the seat did recline easily into the lie-flat position.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat lie flat
The seat in the lie-flat position.

In terms of privacy, being in the front row meant the only way I could see others or be seen myself was if I turned and looked out of my seat area.

Sri Lankan A330 business class middle seats
Privacy was pretty good despite having no closing door.

If you travel with a companion, I’d recommend the middle seats of row 1, as they’re the most private in the cabin.

On the other hand, I wouldn’t recommend any of the middle seats to solo travelers if privacy is important, as there is no partition.

Sri Lankan A330 business class middle seats
The middle seats in row 1.

The main downfall of this seat was lack of storage. It’s commonplace with more modern business-class products to have some kind of cubby to store personal items like headphones and wallets.

There was only this wood-effect surface on one side of the seat where items couldn’t even be stored during takeoff and landing.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat storage
This about as good your storage will get.

From underneath the side panel, out swiveled the tray table with ease.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat table
Tray table mid-rotation.

My 13-inch MacBook would have sat atop the fully extended tray table easily.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat tray table
Tray table fully extended.

The IFE left a lot to be desired: The touch screen lagged slightly, and the picture quality was rather pixelated.

I realize when writing this that although this aircraft was only 9 years old, similar IFE screens were the norm around a decade ago.

Still, 30 films were plenty for such a short flight, and I decided on “Don’t Worry Darling,” which, if you haven’t seen it yet, makes for an entertaining watch.

Sri Lankan A330 business class seat IFE
IFE screen.

Food and Beverage

For a flight of just over an hour, my expectations for food and drinks were low.

That soon changed when flight attendants offered predeparture drinks of water, apple juice, and orange juice.

Sri Lankan A330 business class FnB welcome drink
Soft drinks only for predeparture drinks.

A hot towel service quickly followed the round of soft drinks, which made for the next surprise. The SriLankan branding on the towel was a nice touch.

Sri Lankan A330 business class hot towel
Branded hot towel.

A bowl of warm cashews followed.

Sri Lankan A330 business class FnB nuts
Nuts.

In quick succession, along came the third surprise by way of a food and tea menu!

Sri Lankan A330 business class menu
A feast awaits.

The flight attendants served the meal all at once on a single tray. I know this is a bugbear for some frequent flyers, but this really didn’t bother me.

In addition to being a generous portion, the chicken masala and fried ladies finger (okra) main course was cooked to perfection. My taste buds were left singing and dancing in anticipation of the Sri Lankan cuisine waiting for me on the ground.

Though a random accompaniment to a SriLankan meal, the garlic bread didn’t disappoint, either.

Sri Lankan A330 business class FnB meal
Meal service.

However, the star of the show was the dessert.

I enjoyed it so much that I spent the 5 days that followed searching for this exact same delight.

It turned out that nobody I asked or showed this picture to could give me a definite answer as to what it was actually called. The menu listed it as bibikkan, but people who saw the image thought it was wattalappam, a Sri Lankan coconut custard. Alas, no matter how many variations I tried, none were as good as SriLankan Airlines’.

Sri Lankan A330 business class FnB dessert
I could have eaten 10 of these.

I loved the subtle pheasant branding on the cutlery.

Sri Lankan A330 business class FnB cutlery
Branded cutlery.

As I sipped on a glass of bubbles (I forgot to ask which exact brand — apologies), I wondered whether the absence of alcohol as a predeparture beverage might have had something to do with the strict no-alcohol laws in the Maldives. Rest assured, these restrictions are lifted once you’re at a resort.

Sri Lankan A330 business class Champagne
Cheers.

As SriLankan is the flag carrier for a nation that’s famed for its tea, my meal service concluded with a peppermint tea poured from a shiny silver pot. Another nice touch by SriLankan.

Sri Lankan A330 business class FnB tea
Tea to finish a wonderful meal service.

Amenities

Other than the large and plump pillow, there were no other soft amenities to speak of, including amenity kits. This is typical on short flights, even in business class.

I asked for a headphone set when I realized I was the only person without, as there wasn’t one at my seat on boarding.

The sound quality of the SriLankan-branded headset was average and, unsurprisingly, noise cancellation wasn’t a feature.

Sri Lankan A330 business class headphones
And old-school headset.

Bathroom

I was pleasantly surprised for a final time when I visited the bathroom.

Though on the small side, the space was stocked with toothbrush kits, mouthwash, some moisturizer, and a couple of other lotions and potions — that’s more than you’ll get on some U.S. carriers!

Sri Lankan A330 business class bathroom amenities
I’m not sure about that doily.

The angle of my head and hand taking this photo emphasizes what I said previously about the size of the bathroom.

Sri Lankan A330 business class bathroom
Is it even a flight review with a bathroom mirror selfie?

Service

My time on board this SriLankan Airlines flight was very short but very sweet.

I absolutely loved the crew on this flight — as you can probably tell by the smile on my face that matched.

Throughout the flight, the crew’s beaming smiles from ear to ear were infectious.

Sri Lankan A330 business class crew
Thank you for giving such an excellent passenger experience.

Arrival

We touched down at Bandaranaika International Airport (CMB) at 6:42 p.m. — over an hour after our scheduled arrival time.

After a smooth flight, I found the visa and passport control slightly confusing and was annoyed that I had to pay $60 for an on-arrival visa.

I should probably start researching these things before I travel. Then again, I probably won’t.

Hot Tip:

Need a place to stay in Sri Lanka? Check out our guide to the best Sri Lanka boutique hotels.

Final Thoughts

For a short-haul flight where I wasn’t expecting to be wowed in any way, this was a truly memorable experience, and for all the right reasons.

Most importantly, the meal service got me excited for my first time visiting Sri Lanka and all the new foods I was about to try.

I also loved the genuine friendliness of the crew. Even though you can never tell what’s going on behind the scenes, I got the impression that they enjoyed their jobs, which isn’t always the case in a post-pandemic aviation world.

Soft product and service aside, if I were flying long haul and I had the option of going direct with SriLankan or going with another (likely Oneworld) competitor, I’d probably choose the latter in favor of a more modern seat and better IFE.

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Frequently Asked Questions

Who is Sri Lanka's flag carrier?

SriLankan Airlines is the flag carrier of Sri Lanka.

What alliance is SriLankan Airlines a member of?

SriLankan is a Oneworld member.

What's the name of SriLankan Airlines' loyalty program?

SriLankan’s loyalty program is FlySmiLes.

What SriLankan Airlines plane offers fully lie-flat business class seats?

SriLankan’s wide-body A330 has fully lie-flat seats in the business class cabin.

Daniel Ross's image

About Daniel Ross

Daniel has loved aviation and travel his entire life. He earned a Master of Science in Air Transport Management and has written about travel and aviation in publications like Simple Flying, The Points Guy, and more.

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