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Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Silly Lankan Airlines

Is how they should have named Sri Lankan Airlines. Let me tell you about my journey back to Japan yesterday, and you will surely agree with me.

To begin with, my flight was scheduled to leave at 11.50 p.m. which was supposed to be a direct flight to Japan. Having lived in this Paradise Island close to three decades, one thing I'm accustomed to is that nothing really works the way it is supposed to, so I arrived at the airport three hours earlier, just in case. And of course the first fuck up of the day started as the flight was delayed by an hour or so. But that is customary, as I've mentioned a couple of lines ago, so I just took a seat in the area just before the check-in counters. I was with D and his family, so it wasn't boring.

Now, though the flight was supposed to be direct, the screens on the wall said it will go via Male (Not male in the sense opposite of fairer sex, but the island Male. I always wondered why they couldn't write it as Maley, or with that little dash above the e. Oh well, who cares) and the flight was delayed. WTF, was my first thought but then again it's something I cannot change so I stopped worrying about it and started concentrating on a particularly hot chick who was seated in a distant seat. Lucky I have a good eye sight. So then after some time, at about 12 midnight the screen changed saying the check in counters were open; thus we proceeded to the counters. Strangely, there were no people there and the her majesty who was at the counter barked (I mean no insult to the good old dogs here, by the way) at us saying we were too late and cannot be let in. WTF, was again my thought though I had no idea that it was only the second of many such thoughts to follow in the following hour or so. And she thoroughly denied that the screens displayed any information about flights getting delayed. Third WTF. However we finally came to an agreement and she agreed to check us in for the flight that was going to depart in twenty minutes according to her.

Now, I was allowed 30 kilos plus additional 7 as hand luggage. But since I did not want to carry the hand luggage I put it inside the other making it close to 37 in total. Now her majesty sees this and;
You'll have to take out 7 kilos

Umm... why? I'm not over, am I?

No, but you have to put the 30 and 7 separately. Take 7 kilos out and put it in your hand luggage!
Another WTF.
Oh sorry. I thought they both go in the same plane. My bad.
Seriously, it's like that old story where the guy traveling in a cart carried his back pack in his hands as opposed to putting it on the cart, intending not to give extra weight to the Buffalo. Her majesty was full of wisdom like that. As the plane was supposed to depart soon I didn't want to waste my time arguing so I put 7 kilos in a backpack and allowed her to fulfill her wish.

Then we proceeded to the emigration counter. Now his majesty at the counter wants to know why I travelled to Indian a decade back, which passport I held at that time, and why I went there. Another WTF. All the while, he punches keys at a frequency of one key a minute. When the plane is supposedly due to leave in a few minutes. WTF #... well I've lost count. I was like, OK, go on asshole; let's see what'll happen if I miss the flight. Then after some more minutes we finally arrived at the departure lounge.

And know what? The plane that was supposed to departure in a few minutes, which was so close to depart that we cannot be let in, was calmly sitting there while still being loaded. WTF, again. Finally it left this Land Like No Other after another hour or so.

Oh and almost forgot. We finally got to know, after the pilot announced, that it was a direct flight after all, as opposed to the information at the airport. That was a relief, but still it was worth another WTF - passengers getting to know where they are going only after boarding the plane. That is unheard of, I'm sure.



  1. From Paradise-land to WTF-land.. how nice! lol .. BTW why did the emigration guy wanted to know why you travelled to India ages ago?? WTFFFF?! lol

  2. Ooh someone's chirpy :P :D

    Sucks that you had a bad experience. I, on the other hand, had excellent treatment at the airport on Saturday. My flight was delayed by 3 1/2 hrs due to bad weather in London, but they let everyone check in and gave us vouchers for an awesome lunch at the departure lounge restaurant. The girl at the check-in counter knew exactly what was going on and was extremely pleasant, and the airport security guys let me sit near the barrier and chat with my parents for ages after checking in. The emigration guy was really nice and very efficient, and the duty free staff were super friendly, even with hundreds of Russians trying to buy out the entire liquor section before boarding their flight.

    With regards to the luggage restrictions...as far as I'm aware, luggage is packed into the hold based on weight, and there are safety issues (both for the plane and the baggage handlers) with having bags that are over the prescribed weight. So the fact that they're all going on the same plane is irrelevant. I hope that clears that up!

    But yeah, maybe a lot of people were just having a bad day? :-)

  3. Hi! I too have faced nasty experiences with Sri Lankan. Why don't you send the link of this to Sri Lankan CEO Manoj Gunawardena? Here is the contact: manojgun[at]srilankan.aero

  4. @Rommy
    Ha, that's a cool term! WTF-land! I should use it more often. And who knows about that asshole, he just was wasting time.

    Are you talking about BIA or the airport in London? Because I'm surprised! Almost too good, it sounds. Though I must admit the in-flight crew was pleasent and helpful. Then again, I've noticed that the service tend to be better if you speak in English, while the non-English speaking passengers were, well, not treated as well.

    Regarding the luggage, I doubt if it's the case because almost everytime I travel I don't have a hand-luggage with me and the only thing I usually carry with me, if at all, is my camera. But it was never a problem. Until y'day.

    On top of that, they were speaking like we were a pain in the ass for them. I mean, we do fucking pay and they should offer a reasonable service. I was really pissed off.

    Will that help, really?

  5. Too harsh and a bit ill-informed; there is a big board at Sri Lankan check in desk at Colombo saying no bag may be heavier than 32kg. My guess is that is to protect the staff who have to lift these bags onto belts.

  6. Travelling academic, to clear things up, I had two bags - not one - with one weighing about 22 kilos and the other a bit over 13. So the staff being in danger is out of the question. Reading my own post again seems I haven't made that fact clear. Sorry about that.

  7. lol... wtf indeed! :D

    But that is to be expected isn't it, with our oh-so-noble government running the airline and all? ;)

  8. Well, I wouldn't like to attribute every shit thing in this country to the government to be honest.

  9. There are two approaches to solving the 30+7 problem (actually your 22 + bit over 13 adds upto a bit over 35, not 30, but let's ignore that issue for the moment):

    Approach (a): go to the counter, declare that the 30 is what you want to check in, show that you have a 7 for the cabin; then quickly give a charming smile, look straight into the eyes of the staff member, and say "I wonder if you could take the 7 as well, it is a bit of a pain in the cabin" -- with high probability this will get the results you want, I have done it many times.

    Approach (b): go and declare that "30+7=37, all coming in the same plane, my logic vs your stupid rules" -- this appraoch is bound to fail, as you seem to have experienced first hand.

    My approach, i.e. (a), works not just with airline staff, but also in expressing strong political views in public, without attracting abusive comments in return -- honest!!

  10. Well, in the post I've said I had close to 37, not bit over 30 as you've said.

    Yeah, what you says probably makes sense, but perhaps it's not practical always. You see, before discussing the luggage we had argued for like over five minutes as she was saying we cannot be let in. We were already pissed off by then and it was a bit difficult to muster a charming smile by then.

  11. Last time I went to SL, my plane left 3 hours BEFORE the time on the ticket - luckily I was in transit and got on... from now on only Air Asia

  12. Haha BIA obviously...Heathrow officials might as well be robots. Well I spoke English with the check-in counter girl and Sinhala with everyone else, so I can't say if your language-based discrimination claim holds. I personally find it easier/more effective to plead in Sinhala.

    What I will say is that treating staff courteously and acknowledging that they have a shitty job will probably work better than being argumentative (something travelling academic has already touched on). I'm a bit confused by your baggage description, but it sounds like you were violating some kind of airline regulation...being argumentative probably wouldn't get you the special consideration you were seeking, regardless of how stupid the regulation might've been.

    And if you were finding it difficult to muster a smile, imagine how it was for her...you must've been the 100th person arguing with her that day!

  13. @Nee
    Now that's unheard of too!

    About the language, I have noticed that with the on-flight crew mostly. Not that they discriminate, I wouldn't go that far but if you speak English they just are a bit more friendly, I'd say. So I resort to that on flight usually.

    OK let me explain the baggage thing. I had two large bags one 22Kg and the other 13Kg. Since I did not want to carry a hand luggage I had packed all my stuff in them, along with my empty back pack. But since they wanted me to carry the hand luggage, I unloaded some of the stuff from one of the bags to my backpack and carried it with me.

    About being friendly, I agree that maybe aruging was not the best idea, and I wouldn't have normally. But all this started as she was insistant that we were too late and that they did not display any info on screens saying the flight was delayed! I mean, I admit there can be delays, but at least they could admit it and be nice about it? Honestly, tell me, what would you do if you were trying to get back to London after your vacation and the lady at the counter says you cannot be let in cos you're late? That's why I got pissed and then we came to the point of arguing about luggages. Shit happens, I know, but this was stupid.

    And tell you what. If you read my blog you should know I'm not the biggest fan of Japs, but when I arrived in Japan the treatment could not have been more contrasting. They were goddamn friendly. I love Sri Lanka, I love Sri Lankans, but sometimes our people tend to be a bit assholes.

  14. Ah right...I dunno about in-flight. My in-flight conversation is usually limited to "chicken, please" :D

    Re your baggage, I can't comment 'cos I don't know what the baggage restrictions are for travel to Japan. For the UK you're only allowed one piece of hold luggage and one piece of hand luggage, and I'm guessing Japan's different.

    Actually I always check-in online so I'd like to think that I wouldn't have had the problem you had. But if I did, considering that whether I get on to the flight or not is the decision of the airline (and hence the check-in personnel), I'd probably ask to speak to the supervisor instead of arguing with the check-in counter person. But hey, at least you got on your flight :-)

    And as for the difference in treatment from the Japs, like I said in my first comment, you probably just bumped into a lot of people at BIA who were having bad days.

  15. Hmmm yeah, all's well that ends well I guess. Let's see the next time, I'll take yours and travelling academic's advice and smile all along.

  16. so did you have one bag that was 37kg or two that added up to the same amount

    airlines usually have a weight limit per single piece of luggage.

    for eg. the first time i flew to aus i was given 40kg limit but one single piece of luggage could only way 32. this is due to the baggage guys being unable to handle it, bag breaking etc i think

    maybe sri lankan or jap airlines have a 30kg limit per piece of luggage rest need to go in another bag.

    ps- if ur single bag was 37 kg how the fuck did you even lift it. unless you're o/ding on steriods since i last met you :)

  17. Damith, I had two luggage adding upto 35kg. One about 22 and the other 13. So, it wasn't the case I guess.

    Oh and since I last met you I worked out and stuff, now I look all herculean. So even if it were 40kilos, I wouldn't have had a problem.