Flying High... Sri Lankan Airlines!

Long-haul flights can be a bore for some, but I look forward to each part of a lengthy flight. Embarking on a new part of my life I was about to fly from one side of the world from London, England to Shanghai, China with a short layover in a place called Colombo, Sri Lanka. Sri Lankan Airlines had me flying high, from one continent to the next I was ready for take-off Sri! 

Long-haul travel had left my life after I had touched down from Newark, EWR with Virgin Atlantic Airways. Since that London Heathrow arrival in January 2013, with China happening I was itching for those cabin doors to be secured! I had accepted a teaching opportunity with METEN English in China, getting my ticket booked I wanted to fly directly from mother England to the Middle Kingdom. China, I'm not sorry because those direct flights were out of my price range! Getting that Sri Lankan Airlines flight booked was a relief but I wasn't prepared for the craziness that my seventeen hour journey would show me! 17 hours? Yes! With my bags packed and that Chinese visa in my passport, I was all ready to check my luggage in at London Heathrow's Terminal 3. Feeling scared yet excited, I had been waiting for that day of departure for long enough! Note to self, the London Underground can be an unforgiving place when a large suitcase is in your possession! Feeling stressed I had checked for my passport too many times! 

During my time working as a Passenger Services Agent during 2012, I had checked many people onto those flights, to be the passenger again felt strange! I questioned everything! I was ushered over to the Business Class check-in desk for Sri Lankan because I was travelling independently. That change of desks saved me time because my flight was busy with numerous large families with small children. I already knew that my connection in Colombo, Sri Lanka would be under two hours but that was thrown up into the air with the announcement that the flight would be arriving behind schedule from Sri Lanka. Really? Yes, I had previous experience of travelling long-haul before that day but it had been awhile so some nerves did surface. With my boarding pass in my possession, it was time to say goodbye to my parents, as goodbyes go by it wasn't tearful because I had to be on my game! I'm not one for tears! With a possible delay and scrambled layover, I headed to Departures for a very large Gin & Tonic! That drink calmed me! 

Boarding wasn't hurried along at all but the inbound Sri Lankan Airlines jet was being prepared with much gusto. With the feeling of trepidation and excitement felt as one, I was more than ready to be on my way! Departing one hour later than our scheduled time, I was relieved to feel my Airbus aircraft take me closer to the clouds! It was going to be hectic in about ten hours, so I just wanted the flight to be comfortable and quiet. Make mine a large one please, soon after take-off the traditionally dressed Sri Lankan cabin crew passed through the cabin with a warm flannel and our first refreshment of that long flight down to Colombo. Comfy as permitted whilst sitting in my Economy Class window seat, it finally sunk that I was going to start a new chapter of my life in China but that was slightly overshadowed by the pandemonium of boarding my Sri Lankan flight at Heathrow. Judging by the dimmed cabin lighting it was like that for eighty percent of the flight, no I didn't sleep! As much as I was feeling relaxed, I was still very excited!

As in-flight entertainment goes, I was impressed with Sri Lankan's Economy package as their were some Chinese films to watch as my flight soared across Eastern Europe on its way to Ceylon. Saying that I spent the next day on two Sri Lankan Airlines flights, so by the time my aircraft departed for Shanghai Pudong the choice of entertainment became somewhat limited. I switched between 'The Big Bang Theory' and segments of 'Meet Me In St. Louis' so I was well entertained on the first leg anyway. Why did I choose Sri Lankan Airlines in the first place? The price of a one way flight through Colombo worked out much cheaper than flying direct to Shanghai, China but the experience did counted for something in the end. London and home seemed like a distant memory as I made my way closer to China, I was distracted by the red wine and Chinese films provided to me by Sri Lankan Airlines. I was able to stretch out on the second flight due to that cabin not being very busy at all. It felt great to be flying long haul after 3 years! 

Getting my blog on, I made my way up to the front Economy Class galley for a photo with one or two of the beautiful Sri Lankan Airlines cabin crew. Firstly, I had a polite chat with the lady on my left hand side, when her colleague on the right of me returned I managed to get a snap. The two crew members that I spoke to were so friendly and didn't mind to have a chat with me when I mentioned my previous Virgin Atlantic Airways job. I was like 'will I make my connection to Shanghai?' The crew member in the dark blue reassured me that with Colombo Airport being small they usually hold the flight for as long as possible, so she stressed that I had nothing to worry about. I might look like I've just got out of bed in this photo but it can be difficult to look on-fleek when travelling in Economy Class on an eleven hour flight! So, back in my seat I tried to catch some sleep but my brain was on overdrive with the move ahead of me, I only napped. I felt all grown up talking with the crew, my Virgin Atlantic conversations had been so very extra! Oh!

Touching down at Colombo Airport felt like a race to the finish line, several other flights were being held because of our late arrival from London Heathrow. I had no choice but to politely shove my way to the nearest exit that was being used for the disembarkation process, I was sorry not sorry because I had one very important connection which, I didn't want to miss! A small airport Colombo thankfully was, I raced to through the security check-point! During that time I probably looked like the hottest mess the airport had ever seen before? Yes! Giving some of my British coins to the security officer because I didn't have enough time to put them in my pocket, he appreciated that offering nonetheless. Recognising one passenger from the Heathrow flight we agreed about the craziness of the transfer between flights. I must have been waiting less than five minutes before I boarded the Shanghai flight. It was a light flight so I got comfy, I was quite exhausted but so glad to be on the way to China! One more final flight, the second was shorter! 

Departing from London Heathrow at 22:00, dinner could have been a midnight snack by the time the crew commenced the first meal service of the flight, it was going to be a long flight. I went for the meat option, I believe it was some kind of chicken curry? My chosen meal tasted exceptionally good for Economy Class airplane food, I was definitely hungry because I even ate the salad and I never do that! I usually hate salad! After desert it was time for a cup of Ceylon tea, how I loved that Sri Lankan tea brew! Drinks were served twice by the crew but requests could be made to the cabin crew but most of the passengers slept the majority of the long flight. I had about three glasses of red wine so I was conservative to say the least, I know not to over-indulge when flying because alcohol isn't the best when flying at 40,000 ft! En-route to Shanghai I tried the sweet and sour chicken, if truth be told I wasn't very hungry and the previous flight was taking its toll on me. I wanted to be in China! I had no complaints regarding food and drink. 

Arriving thirty minutes before our scheduled time of arrival we touched down at Pudong International Airport. Thankfully, I made it to China's Mainland in one piece all thanks to Sri Lankan Airlines! When thinking about the late departure from London and the hurried transfer, it did feel good to land early into Shanghai! After all the hospitality, I was ready to disembark and attempt to make my way through immigration. That next part was a breeze and my luggage had made the connection even though it looked like my case had been thrown from one aircraft to the other. I had eaten well and was made to feel comfortable throughout my long flights from England to China via Sri Lanka. The cabin crew were great on both flights but shone especially on the first flight over from Heathrow. The delay may have added some stress to my epic journey but that didn't matter when I saw the Chinese signs as I made my way through immigration and baggage claim at Pudong. Sri Lankan surprised me, being back in the skies felt just wonderful! 

Yes, Ceylon Tea! Please?

Joseph Harrison


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