On to Sri Lanka on UL

I spent the night at the airport in Madras. My flight was scheduled for 6 am, but it’s mandatory that you be at the airport three hours early in order to through all the security checks and I decided to go early to avoid any delays. So, at 11pm I hopped on the night train and rode to the airport; it is ridiculously easy to get to the airport by train from the Broadlands.

Madras has a surprisingly small airport for such a large city; it’s uncomfortably open, noisy, and small with only two or three dozen uncomfortable chairs to sit on. On one of these I waited with a business man from Madras who was on his way to Colombo for a business trip, and at one point we were the only two people in the airport. He chatted lots about his family and with each laugh reminded me of Geoffrey Holder (the 7-UP guy).

I booked a first class seat because I didn’t want to mess around with delays, being bumped, or some other silly unknown business. I’m glad I did because in the end, first class allows you to avoid general airport hassles like line ups (you just butt in). This was pretty consistent through customs, security checks, and boarding, so much so that I ended up being the first person on the plane.

That said, the security checks on a flight to Sri Lanka are still pretty intense:

  • Before even checking in at the ticket counter, my bags went through two ultrasounds checks during which a sticker and tag were put on my bag.
  • After checking in is the “India-Out” customs and a bag search.
  • From here I walked to the next check point where my bag was again x-rayed and searched; another sticker was added.
  • Next I was x-rayed and searched by a woman behind a curtain.
  • Before leaving the building to go out onto the tarmac my luggage was searched again. Again, another sticker.
  • After walking across the tarmac both my bag and myself were searched one last time before getting on the plane.

The code name for Air Lanka is UL (usually late) and I can understand why. Imagine this amount of searching with 200 passengers. By the time I managed to get to the plane (three hours from start to finish) I had three separate stickers on my bag. They don’t mess around with flights into Sri Lanka because Tamils have been quoted saying that the next attack on Sri Lanka would be via airplane.

Once on the airplane, I was immediately grateful for the First Class ticket. Rather than be standing in line with everyone else, being in First Class afforded me the luxury of having a nap! And, as an extra bonus, when we arrived in Colombo a separate air conditioned bus with plush seats pulled up and drove all the first class passengers to the terminal. Everyone else had to walk.

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