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Thanksgiving in Maldives

Thanksgiving in Maldives
via Etihad & Malaysia A380 First Class
December 2013

SriLankan UL 116
Male (MLE) to Colombo (CMB)
A320
3:40P-5:20P
December 2, 2013
Seats 2AC

Time to board our A320.

Nice cabin with comfy seats and nice legroom for a regional flight.

And one of the nicest crew of FAs in quite some time. One FA saw me taking pics and told me to wait until she "checked her makeup". LOL.

Most adequate IFE for a short flight.

Wow, impressive menu for a 65 minute flight.

The Peppered Lamb Curry was very good.

Bandaranaike International Airport
Colombo, Sri Lanka

Our first stop was the SriLankan transit counter where we checked in the UL first leg of our ex-CMB First Class fare. For years, CMB was known as the home of bargain Asia-US First Class fares, in the $2,000 one way range. SFOJr and I took one on these last February on our return from India. While fares are still attractive, the cheap $2,000 OW fare is pretty much disappeared and both OW/RT are now much more restrictive.

With 7 hours to kill, we decided just to stay at the airport and get a room at the in terminal transit hotel. I had booked it by email earlier in the day, request and confirmation within 30 minutes. For $55, we got a spartan yet comfortable double room that let us get about 4 hours sleep. The lounge is easy to find on the upper level just beyond the Emirates Lounge.

Pleasant staff checked us in and proactively asked if we needed a wake up call.

One of strange features in the hotel is a Srilankan Business Class Lounge (Serenediva Lounge). Absolutely no idea why since the new renovated Serendib lounge is much nicer and now open on the main concourse. Nevertheless, we stopped in to pick up a Coke Light and some cookies.

While Mrs. SFO went to sleep, I headed out to get some pics.

And Sri Lanka's most famous export to Bollywood, Jacqueline Fernandez.

The newly renovated and attractive Serendib Lounge.

And other contract Lounges.

At around T-50, we headed to Gate 12 to wait for our SriLankan flight to Kuala Lumpur

SriLankan Airlines UL 318
Colombo (CMB) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
Airbus A320-200
12:40A-6:55A
December 3, 2013
Departed 4/20
Seats 3DF
 

Second UL flight of the day and I have to say that this is one great little airline and another wonderful addition to OneWorld. That and the fact that were only two other pax tonight made it a pretty painless flight. Same type A320 with 5 rows of J. Pics from our earlier flight.

PDB

And a G&T right after takeoff.

My Sri Lankan Prawn curry was very good.

As was Mrs. SFO's chicken.

Someone has a sense of humor.

After dinner, Mrs. SFO went to sleep and I moved across the aisle to download pics, then fell asleep until we began our descent into KUL. Another excellent SriLankan flight with two simply exceptional FAs, an older male purser and very attractive younger female FA. Both were professional yet friendly with amazing attention to detail. We were addressed by name throughout the flight. Mrs. SFO and I thought that the female FA would be perfect for our still single SFOJr and thru the course of the conversations, told her that. Her first reaction was "but I'm 30 years old!" as if she was over the hill. LOL. When we told her that our son was in his mid-30s, she got excited. And as we departed, she said she was going to look us up on facebook.

 

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia

What a beautiful and spacious newish terminal...

...with an array of shopping options.

First stop was the Malaysia Airlines Transfer Desk to get our BPs which SriLankan was unable to issue in Colombo.

I'd heard that the MH First Class Lounge was closed for renovations so we headed for the temporary Malaysia Lounge. Wow, this one is pretty pathetic and depressing. They need to pick up the pace on renovations.

 

After a quick two minute recon, we moved next door to the much nicer Cathay Pacific lounge.

Although a pretty pedestrian selection of breakfast offerings.

While Mrs. SFO slept, I moved over to do a little work in the Business Centre.

And renewed some old acquaintances and made new ones.

At around T-50, after a stop at Starbucks, we headed out to A380 Gate C27 and our first experience with another great Asian airline.

Malaysia Airlines MH 0004
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to London (LHR)
Airbus A380
10:35A-4:15P (sked and actual)
December 3, 2013
Departed 4/8
Seats 1DG and 1K and 2K

Additional security check prior to entering the Gate.

And the A380 gate waiting area.

After handicap and pax with kids boarding, First and Business Class pax were invited to board. From the jet bridge, a separate F pax bridge to 1L and our home for the next 14 hours.

The K suites...

And the DG suites...

Around the very comfortable and well designed suite...

Nice hanging closet.

And incredible amount of personal storage space. When closed, lots of flat space for stuff, pillows and arms and elbows. Very nice!

PJs and amenity kit.

And an excellent IFE system with great video quality and a good selection of movies, although not in the EK/SQ IFE league.

And just behind us and the galley. Yikes.

On time push.

And a short taxi.

Ready to go.

My usual G&T to start

Today's menu.

Small but very nice wine list.

Showtime...

And the famous MH satay...

Sensational. I could have been happy pigging out on just the satay.

Satay and Dom. It doesn't get much better.

OK, well maybe Satay, Dom and Caviar!

While I had the caviar, Mrs. SFO opted for the Seafood Tom Yum, spicy soup with prawns, snapper and mushrooms.

We both had the tasty short rib.

The 2010 Schubert Marion's Vineyard Pinot was excellent.

For dessert, the Pistachio Franzipan Tart was simple but delicious.

And more Dom.

And a little music.

After downloading and editing pics, time for bed. With nobody on the K side, our FA made both 1K and 2K into beds for us. Slept great for about 4 hours.

One of the disadvantages of the F cabin on the main deck is a lot less room for spacious bathroom. Indeed, no room for spacious baths.

Snack time. The noodles were outstanding.

Time to head upstairs and explore the J cabin.

Much more spacious than the F lavs.

Back downstairs.

More IFE, music and Red2.

A couple hours to go and time for another snack. Thought I'd try the Pepperoni Pizza. Yikes. Bad choice. Essential a piece of bread with a few toppings, not one of which was pepperoni.

Next, the Wild Mushroom Custard Tart was fabulous.

On our descent.

And approach.

We really enjoyed our first Malaysia experience. Outstanding service and other than the no-pepperoni pizza, excellent food. IFE was very good, better than EY but still not quite as good as the gold standard for quality and quantity... EK and SQ. The IFE guide was too short, lacked detail and seemed to be an afterthought.

The suite was excellent, seat and bed comfortable. But the biggest problem was the fact the F cabin is on the lower level. Way too much traffic and not enough space for proper sized lavs. But the biggest flaw is the position of the galley. Major design flaw in positioning it north-south instead of east-west which means that the work and noise is way too close to the cabin. Every little noise is audible throughout the cabin, not just row 2. The lack of doors means open shades which can be annoying if you have a jerk in 1A that refuses to lower one of his shades.

In spite of these flaws, the service was so good that I would not hesitate to fly MH and the A380. It is still light years ahead of 2nd rate carriers like BA.

Up Next: A day in London and our day with the airline that has supplanted United as the worst airline in the first world.

Not arriving at cavernous T5 is apparently the trick for a quick exit. It was no more than 10-12 minutes from the moment we stepped off the plane until we had cleared customs and were in the arrivals hall. Unfortunately, our usual driver was stuck in traffic and at least 40 minutes out. So we hopped into a taxi and headed into the City.

To the newly renovated Corinthia Hotel on Whitehall Pl near the Thames and Parliament.

Great staff at the front desk and we were upgraded to a beautiful Executive Room on the 2nd floor...

The view from Room 201...

After we freshened up, we headed out to the flagship Burberry store on Regent Street, one of two stores on Mrs. SFO's London checklist.

Check.

And into another taxi to the Savoy.

A drink in the classic American Bar and then dinner at Gordon Ramsay's Savoy Grill. Great atmosphere but terrible food. I'm thinking his empire is now too big for consistent quality food.

We checked out and met our drive at 9:45AM for the short drive to #2 on the shopping list for this trip.

Swim and resort wear boutique Heidi Klein just off of Sloane Square in Chelsea.

OK, this might take a while.

After a successful hour, we stopped in across the lane at CocoMaya for tea and a bite.

Traffic was light on both the A4 and M4 and we arrived at First Class end of T5 in less than 30 minutes. The meet-and-greet porter service that we experienced last year was apparently only a test, with BA perhaps deciding that their premium pax are too pampered and, in the words of the CFO of the worst airline in NA, over-entitled. And unless it was very understated, there was no outside indication of the First Class check-in area. I guess you are just supposed to know.

With no bags to check, we received our BPs and were off to Fast Track security. Despite few people in line, Fast Track security was slow and manned by staff that made TSA look like a model of efficiency.

British Airways Concorde Room

Dunno about this one. I used to think this was a great lounge, but each time I visit... meh. It's OK, but doesn't do anything for me. Nicely appointed with reasonably attractive seating areas both inside and "outside" on the terrace overlooking parts of T-5. But after lots of time this year in the Lufthansa, Etihad and Emirates lounges, it's just not that exciting anymore. Some pics from last year...

Dining room? Meh. A lot of the booths are really claustrophobic and some feel like you are eating in a closet. Fortunately, the place was not crowded and we were able to find a nicer table with a "view".

Today's menu. Another meh.

And the wine list. Not bad, at least with respectable champagnes.

I decided to try the soup. Way too hot to enjoy. And when it did cool down, meh.

Nothing on the menu really interested us. OK, how about a burger.

Naturally, it only comes one way... well done. Our burger today was so bad that we gave up after one bite. And how can one screw up fries?? Ugh.

To quote Mrs. SFO: "This is the worst burger ever. This menu is terrible. I never want to eat here again."

Inside anywhere near the restaurant was now depressing so we headed outside. A little more pleasant...

... but there are no power outlets to recharge, forcing one to improvise and unplug a lamp and use its outlet.

With no lunch, how about some nibbles? OK, why are the nibbles hidden behind the bar and not out in the open where one can serve themselves instead of waiting for the waitstaff to fetch and deliver? To quote Mrs. SFO: "This is stupid. Why don't they have a place where you can just walk up and fill up your trough like the Admirals Club." Ouch, she'd rather be in an Admirals Club.

At around T-55, we headed down to limo dispatch for our S class ride to the C concourse. LOL, yeah right. Of course, no S class limo service like in FRA or MUC, no direct boarding to the plane like EK in DXB or JFK and no buggy like TG in BKK. No, we're just another number as we walk and walk and take a train to the C concourse, two train stops away. 
Fifteen minutes and a train ride later we are at C56.