Experiences of a med student with an incurable travel bug.

Sri Lankan Fiasco

Early Monday afternoon I went to the bus stop to grab my bus back to the airport to discover that the bus I wanted wasn’t coming despite the fact that I’d called that morning to confirm the schedule. Whatever, I’d planned to arrive at the airport over two hours before my flight and the next bus was coming in half an hour, so it should have been fine.

Of course, the next bus was late. Even so, I should still have arrive at the airport with plenty of time.

Surprise! The bus broke down/had engine trouble on the way. We weren’t laid up for incredibly long, but long enough that I was now really cutting it close on time but should have gotten there just early enough. The bus finally arrived at the low cost terminal about an hour and a half before my flight. They turned off the bus, so I asked when they were heading to the main international terminal, the one I need to be at that they are also supposed to go to.

Guess what? They weren’t going there that day, even though I’d asked them about it when I got on the bus. Fine, there was a shuttle heading over there shortly. As it turns out, these two terminals are not, in fact, anywhere near each other. The main terminal is about 30 minutes away from the low cost one, so by the time the shuttle got there I was 57 minutes out from my departure time. I’d had a sinking feeling in my gut for the last two hours, but I was still hoping it will be ok since my airline said to arrive 60 minutes prior to departure since I had checked in online.

Wouldn’t you know it? They’ve closed all the check-in counters. Now, this should have been no problem as I’d already checked in on-line and had my boarding pass, right? Wrong. Security refused to accept the boarding pass I was issued online. I ran around to the airline office (closed), the Help Desk/Passenger Assistance Counter (not helpful), and another check-in counter where I reprinted the pass in another format. They announced that the gate was closing while I was begging and pleading with security, again, to please let me through. Nope, they still wouldn’t accept the boarding pass issued online, they would only take the ones printed at the counter. What’s the point, then, of checking in online? Saving you a few minutes in the regular check-in line that everyone still has to go through, apparently.

Ultimately, I missed my flight. Wonderful. Now what?

Fortunately the “Passenger Assistance” people were actually extremely helpful after my plane left the ground without me. A random guy at Burger King to let me use the wifi on his computer to check a few things while the assitance guy made some phone calls to see when the next flights to Sri Lanka were leaving. I managed to get a flight out the next morning on an Air Asia flight; unfortunately, this meant spending the night in the low cost terminal instead of in a real bed at the resort Sri Lankan Airlines was going to put me up in during my 18 hour layover. yay! Who wouldn’t want to spend the night in a sheet-metal building that rattles every time a plane took off or landed? Plus, I had the bonus of having six wide screen tvs available for my World Cup viewing pleasure, and thanks to the time difference, there were games all night! There wasn’t a corner in the place that wasn’t echoing the tv commentary or audience response. To make everything even more awesome, every single bench in the place had arm rests between the seats — no fat-seats without arms like in American and other airports that don’t confine you to your own tiny space — so there was no way to lay down comfortably and really sleep. At least I had managed to get a good, cheap dinner and a few banana rotis and muffins for snacks to get me through the next 12 hours before I left the main terminal.

At 6:15am I was finally en route to Sri Lanka. After a three hour flight on an airline that charged for everything, including water, I was glad to be on the ground again. I stopped at the ticket counter to have them reactivate the second half of my ticket so that I could get on my flight to Dehli that afternoon, only to be told that my ticket had been suspended and she couldn’t get me on the flight. Um, excuse me, no. In Kuala Lumpur they assured me that it would be no problem to reactivate the ticket. “No, can’t.” Yes, Can. I paid for a seat on that flight, call your supervisor. Finally she conceded that there was indeed room for me on the flight and she could, in fact reactivate my ticket.

As soon as that was taken care of, I ran to grab a taxi into Colombo to meet up with my friend Lisa. This was my only chance to see her all summer so I had really been looking forward to spending my whole layover with her, so that had been the most frustrating thing about missing my flight. I changed in the car on the way to town to save time (thanks to a huge family and there being no such thing as a closed door and privacy at holidays, I learned a long time ago how to change without exposing anything, but I’m sure the driver was not thrilled with me) and finally met up with Lisa!

We walked along the ocean for a while just catching up on everything we’d been doing this summer before heading to another part of town. We got smoothies and mixed fruit yogurt for a snack and then walked along hospital row, the street by her school that’s lined with one hospital after another (women’s, intensive care, etc.). We ended at the Faculty of Medicine building where she’s been doing her research and had some tea before heading back to the airport — this time I took a taxi and arrived about three hours early, I wasn’t taking any chances. The airport allows people to come inside with visitors passes, so we were able to hang out in the waiting area for another hour before I checked in for my flight. It was so awesome to meet up with her half-way around the world like that, we had so much to talk about with both of our travel adventures. It’ll be almost two months before we’ll be in the same city again, so I’m glad that it worked out to meet up, even though it was for less time.

Fortunately, I did make it on my flight to Dehli. I actually had to check my bag for this one; it was the first time they’d checked the weight, and I knew that I had been over the limit for the last three flights. At least Sri Lankan Air checked it for free; Air Asia charges, so I was happy to avoid it. Also, I was way over on liquids thanks to the fact that there wasn’t a single 100mL bottle of aloe vera for sale in Malaysia, but none of my last flights checked that, either.

Finally, I was on my way to my final destination of the trip: India!

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Comments on: "Sri Lankan Fiasco" (3)

  1. Ouch – that bites. Glad you got to see your friend.

  2. Thanks for the tip about the free internet at Colombo airport–first time I’ve been able to get on in four days, as per usual!

    So, I HAD to tell you asap, and seeing how it’s especially ironic on this post: so today I planned to leave like 8 hours early for the airport (as we’ve found out, that’s really not unreasonable haha.) But Mrs. H says no, no, that’s stupid, get a taxi 4 hours early, that’s fine. So I compromise and get out the door 6 hours early, hit rush hour traffic, and then, 2/3 of the way to the airport we GET IN A CAR ACCIDENT.

    No kidding. It wasn’t too bad, but bad enough that the front bumper was completely off and we definitely weren’t going anywhere. 20 minutes of the driver ignoring all my questions and I finally call up the taxi place myself to get another taxi sent out to get me to the airport (by this point I needed to check in in about an hour and a half). A big argument later (you’d think it’d be common business courtesy to send a driver to pick up the passenger in the wrecked taxi, but no), sitting and waiting for another 40 minutes, finally get to the airport just in time to check in as the counters open.

    So, the moral of the story is, apparently you have to leave for the airport a day in advance to cover every single possible eventuality.

    HA HA HA!! Good times. Hope the rest of your travels have been amazing, and can’t wait to see you back in Madison!

    • HAHAHA unbelieveable. ugh. Here’s hoping that 1) I make it to the airport in time to check in and 2) my flight actually goes out tomorrow. Everything was shut down in Mumbai today because of a strike, so tomorrow is the only chance I have to do what I wanted to here. Assuming I do make it to the airport, there’s still the monsoon and the insane winds to deal with…we’ll see. I’m sure it’ll be interesting.

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