Sebastian wrote last week (access here) about the temporarily delays at the Colombo international airport in Sri Lanka due to runway construction. Passengers are advised to arrive super early to make their flights.
A LoyaltyLobby reader left a comment on that piece about his experience at the airport the other day. Seems that it is as chaotic as it has always been.
Here’s the response from the reader:
UPDATE ON CMB
John, Last night I endured the departure, check-in, immigration process at CMB. In summary, if you are flying Premium, 5 hours is a joke. You need nothing like that. I would arrive 3 hours before* if I was you, but anymore than that is simply the airlines and the airport covering their collective backsides.
Departed QR 669 at 0325. I had driver pick me up from Negombo at 23.15. Highway was relatively clear. On approaching terminal less traffic than normal. They are keeping all the visitors out of the place while this work goes on.
To enter the terminal a guard checks your passport. You then go through a bag scanner, a guard frisks you. There was a few more people here than normal. 10 minutes. Done.
To enter the Check-In zone you will get passport checked again and your bag x-rayed. No line. Straight through.
I headed to the Check-In area for QR and the Business Class line had one person in front of me. They were Italian and as Italians are, they take twice as long as anyone else to do anything. 10 minutes.
Headed to the far end of the terminal towards Immigration. It is a tiny, non air-conditioned hall. There would have been 10-12 desks open, each with about 15-20 people. Patience is a virtue at CMB immigration because many people are NE SB and haven’t filled in forms properly, have language issues etc; etc; etc; I happened to pick the worst line ( ie; the slowest ) and it took 45 minutes ! I could see other lines moving much faster than my slow lane so allow 30-45 minutes for immigration clearance.
Through immigration, into the Serendib Lounge at 0040. ( if you are with UL or One World Emerald you can use this lounge ). Otherwise one of the awful small lounges on the main concours ( Aruvayla I think it is, bloody awful ).
If you are flying any airline in Premium except UL, allow 3 hours maximum. If you are in Y on any airline except UL, maybe 3.5 ( QR had a long line for the Y passengers, very long line! )
But if you are flying UL Y, all bets are off. You would need 4 hours at least. It was chaotic down that end. UL Premium though is probably OK because they have a separate check-in called Silk Road in another terminal.
I hope this helps anyone travelling through CMB whilst the works are being done to the runway. Also remember this is peak season in Sri Lanka so there are lots of ( too many! LOL ) Europeans here until mid-Feb. After that, when they all bugger-off back to where they came from, most of the times I have provided could be reduced. I suspect the airlines and the airport will also do a new press release with reduced waiting times.
I do remember the chaotic exit immigration experience in Colombo. Not sure why the airlines are not able to come up with some arrangement with their premium passengers? Seems that I always manage to choose the longest line (time wise) even when it has the fewest passengers!
This is the only airport that I have seen tax free shops selling refrigerators and washing machines for arriving passengers.
I have fond memories flying in/out from Colombo back in the day when Tamil tigers were trying to (or were said to) shoot incoming aircraft. Oh those ticket prices back then…..