Review: Araliya Lounge Colombo Bandaranaike Airport

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Review: Araliya Lounge Colombo Bandaranaike Airport
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This was my first time in Sri Lanka (albeit a very short hours-long transit) and also my first time landing at Colombo’s Bandaranaike International Airport, but the airport and lounge experience sadly left a lot to be desired.

My flight from Kuala Lumpur landed late at night, and I was surprised to see that the airport terminal was so crowded at that hour. I suppose Colombo serves as a major transit hub for passengers traveling from South Asia to destinations in the Middle East and Europe, hence the flights would have to suit onward connection timings.

There was a long walkway in order to reach immigration, and one is greeted by a huge Buddha statue at the end of the walkway.

Buddha statue at Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport

The queue for immigration took forever, and I discovered to my horror when I reached the front of the queue that I had to fill up an immigration form even though I was only transiting within the airport. So to the back of the queue I went, after filling up the form at a counter by the side. This process easily took 45 minutes.

I next collected my (seriously heavy) luggage and had to lug it over to the departure hall to check-in for my connecting flight on Qatar Airways Business.

The arrivals terminal was crowded with families anxiously waiting to pick up their relatives, and I had to wade through the crowd while lugging my bags and looking out for where the departures terminal was.

Dressed in a long-sleeved T-shirt and sweatpants, I was drenched (!!) by the time I made my way through the heat and humidity of a Sri Lankan night, across the driveway to the departures terminal situated in the next building a few hundred meters away from arrivals.

The level of security to reach the airline check-in counters was beyond me. One has to show valid travel documents to proof that you are boarding a departing flight, then put your bags through a security scanner and yourself through a metal detector in order to even reach the departures hall.

There were some shops in there, then it was through another bag scanner and metal detector to reach the airline check-in counters.

Finally having found the Qatar Airways check-in counters, I quickly made my way to the lane for Business Class passengers. By this time I was sweaty, tired, and getting sweatier from the lack of A/C in the airport terminal. The air-conditioning was weak and it felt like the terminal was kept at a constant temperature of 28 deg C.

There was just one family in front of me at Business Class check-in, but it took the agents close to 45 minutes to check that family and their mountain of bags (!!) in. Looking over at the Economy queue, there must have been about a line of 50 at each lane, and they didn’t seem to be much more efficient either.

I was so relieved when my bags were finally checked in and I received my boarding passes and lounge invitation.

Invitation to Araliya Lounge

Imagine my horror when I saw that I’d been marked for “SSSS” (secondary security screening selection) security screening at Doha Airport. More on that later, but FML. I figured it must have been due to my weird flying pattern: SIN – KUL – CMB – DOH – BOS.

By this time, I was dead tired and quickly made my way to the decidedly uninspiring Araliya Lounge.

Araliya Lounge seating area

This was a contract lounge, offering access to passengers of several airlines including Qatar Airways, Cathay Pacific and others.

The lounge was pretty quiet, and consisted of some sofas and armchairs arranged around coffee tables. Most guests were trying to catch some shut-eye at this hour.

There were some reading materials in the local languages, English and Korean, though I did not peruse them.

Reading materials in Araliya Lounge

Food selection was meh at best, and consisted of some cold sandwiches, cakes, as well as a small section of rice, curries and savoury fried pastries.

Some wine, whisky and other libations to help you cope with the painful transit experience.

Alcohol selection at Araliya Lounge

Dilmah Ceylon tea and Nescafe instant coffee, and you would note that by this time the lounge attendant was giving me strange looks for taking pictures of the lounge and food selection.

Tea and coffee at Araliya Lounge

I smiled politely, took some pastries and made my way to my seat for much-needed rest.

Pastries and tea at Araliya Lounge

The seating area provided decent views of the tarmac, and I’d imagine it would look better in the day.

Soon, it was time for me to board my Business Class flight on Qatar Airways and bid goodbye to the hot, humid and severely inefficient airport that was Colombo Bandaranaike International Airport.


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