male

SRI LANKAN AIRLINES, CMB - MLE

Date: July 2015.
Flight Path: Colombo - Male
Seat: Window.
Class: Economy.
Alliance: One World.

CHECK IN: Fast and efficient. I was running late due to Colombo traffic and the staff issued tickets and checked luggage swiftly. Bags arrived with no issues.

PLANE: Airbus A340-300. Seats were new and comfortable for the short flight, with 275 seats in economy and 24 in business.

ENTERTAINMENT: The selection was limited, with only a few sitcoms, but enough to be entertained during the 1 hour flight. USB input was available for phone charging and the touch screen system was responsive.

FOOD: A full meal was served with curry, rice, bread and cake. It was ok, but lacking something fresh - a piece of fruit would have done the trick. A snack would have sufficed considering the one hour flight time, but being a midday service and with check-in required three hours prior to take off it is understandable lunch would be served. Drinks and Ceylon tea were available throughout.

SERVICE: Alert and friendly. The hosts were smartly dressed and impeccably presented. Water refills were remembered and the service was warm and professional. Our flight was delayed 30 minutes waiting for an incoming flight with connecting passengers but as soon as they were boarded we were off, with the captain keeping us updated along the way.

CONCLUSION: The full service airline has a tight operation in chaotic surroundings. Their flight routes operating from Colombo to the EU and Asia shouldn't be overlooked, because new planes and good service make them a viable choice in a growing market.

I flew with the assistance of SriLankan Airlines.

MALAYSIA AIRLINES, MEL-KUL

Date: July 2015.
Flight Path: Melbourne - Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur - Colombo, Male - Kuala Lumpur, Kuala Lumpur - Melbourne.
Seat: Between row 20-30, aisle for each segment.
Class: Economy.
Alliance: One World.

CHECK IN: Queues were long but the wait time was minimal with plenty of staff moving us through quickly. Service was grumpy. Playful banter was met with an abrupt response bordering on rude. Not a great start. Bags arrived at every destination though, so the task was met adequately.

PLANE: Airbus A330-300. Width - 17.5, pitch 32. The seats felt tight, compared to Singapore airlines where the width is a few inches more. The recline was adequate and blankets and pillows were plentiful.

ENTERTAINMENT: The movie selection had limited new releases, but enough for medium haul flights. Sitcom selection was poor, comedies in particular. The entertainment system was responsive and equipped with USB ports.

FOOD: Average. Really below full-service airline standards. Options were beef curry or fish. Beef was dry and tasted old, served with rice and a handful of beans. A side of a bread roll was stale and a sickly sweet cake really left me hankering for something fresh. No fruit is available either. Water is hard to come by, leaving you feeling dehydrated. It's a big step down from other airlines where there usually a decent snack bar on board.

SERVICE: Blunt and aggressive. There were very few smiles and everything seemed to be an effort. Requests for water were repeatedly forgotten and many fliers were asked to changed seats to accommodate large families who weren't seated together. I was fortunate to have 3 seats between myself and companion giving us room to spread out. I lay my head down to nap which was an inconvenience to the hostess during service. I got a smack on the head with a brutal "UP!". It was unnecessary and I felt like I was on a school excursion.

CONCLUSION: Some flight paths are difficult to co-ordinate and you're left with very few options. Malaysia Airline's safety record is less than stellar lately so their fares are very reasonable. This is attracting all sorts of fliers. In particular, families. And why not? It's tough to take a brood on holiday and Malaysia Airlines is making this feasible for a lot of people. I'm sure tending to a significant amount of parents and children overworks the staff. From what I could see on all four of my Malaysia Airlines segments, the staff were stressed and exhausted, I assume to cope with the demand (lots of mess in every aisle from kiddies). Unfortunately the staff attitude makes it difficult for me to consider booking with them again because my flights were mostly unpleasant. In reality, Singapore Airlines was only $150 more and in the scheme of things probably worth it. Malaysia Airlines now feels more like a low cost carrier than a full-service airline, and while their fares are discounted, it's not quite enough.

I flew at my own expense.