Are you planning to visit Sri Lanka, the island affectionately known as the ‘teardrop of India’? If so, it’s altogether likely that your flight is arriving at the country’s main airport. This is frequently called Colombo Airport or Katunayake Airport, although it’s official name is Bandaranaike International Airport, named after Sri Lanka’s fourth Prime Minister, Mr S. W. R. D. Bandaranaike.
As part of your preparations for your trip, you may have some questions about Colombo Airport. For example, how far is it from Sri Lanka’s capital city, also called Colombo? Or what are the transport links between there and the city centre? What are the duty-free shops in Sri Lanka’s main airport like? How can you check the airport’s arrivals and departures?
Well, take a look at the text below to learn the answers to all these queries and more. Also, if you want to find out how to get your visa to Sri Lanka, check our handy page here.
What Is the Sri Lanka Airport Code?
By this, you probably mean the International Air Transport Association (IATA) 3-letter code. Well, in the case of Bandaranaike, the 3-letter code is CMB. You’ll see this code prominently displayed on your baggage tag if you drop off luggage there.
In addition, Sri Lanka’s main air hub is also known by its initials BIA (which stand for ‘Bandaranaike International Airport’). However, according to the IATA’s convention, this is actually the 3-letter code for Corsica’s Aéroport de Bastia Poretta. So take care not to confuse them!
Lastly, Bandaranaike is also known by the International Civil Aviation Organization’s (ICAO) 4-letter code of VCBI. You’re likely to see this code on an online flight tracking service like Airportia.
What Other Airports Are There in Sri Lanka?
In total there are 17 in Sri Lanka. If you’re flying into Colombo, the other one you may have heard of is Ratmalana International Airport (RML, VCCC). This enjoyed the distinction of being Sri Lanka’s only international air hub until Colombo Airport’s inauguration in 1967. These days, it mostly serves domestic flights around other parts of the island.
After Colombo, Sri Lanka’s biggest airport is Mattala Rajapaksa International Airport (HRI, VCRI). However, since it opened in 2013 demand to fly to this location has been low, and these days Mattala enjoys the dubious distinction of being “the world’s emptiest airport” (in close competition with Spain’s similarly-deserted Ciudad Real Central Airport!)
Here’s the full list for you:
- Mattala Rajapaksa
- China Bay
What Is ‘Airport.lk’?
Airport.lk is the official website for Sri Lanka’s Aviation and Airport Services Ltd. Here you can discover all sorts of useful information about CMB, including among other things:
- The status of flights arriving and departing from Colombo.
- A list of airlines serving Colombo with their customer helpline numbers.
- A list of shops, restaurants and hotels in and around the air hub.
- Descriptions of the 3 lounges, the Lotus, Araliya and Executive Lounges.
- Descriptions of Sri Lanka’s best sights, like Colombo City and Arugam Bay.
All About Duty-Free in Sri Lanka
Colombo Airport’s duty-free service is quite sophisticated, and an efficient way to enjoy some discounts and savings! So long as you’re flying into or out of Sri Lanka, then you can use its online pre-order service to:
- Browse all the available products.
- Add them to your shopping cart and pay for them in advance.
- Collect them before or after your flight when you go.
Handily, even if you’re returning to Sri Lanka from a trip abroad, you can still pick up your pre-ordered goods.
The only restrictions on the duty-free service are that you must pre-order between 30 days and 24 hours before your flight, and your order will be ready 2 hours before your flight time.
Sri Lanka’s duty-free shops boast a wide range of world-famous brands for many different kinds of products, including but not limited to Burberry, Calvin Klein, Giorgio Armani, Mars, Veuve Clicquot and Yves Saint Laurent.
Where Can You Find Out the BIA Arrivals and Departures?
You can find the flight arrivals and departures from Bandaranaike either on its main website, airport.lk, or using a flight tracking service such as FlightRadar24.com.
If you decide to use airport.lk, then simply click on ‘Flight Info’ in the main menu, then under either ‘Flight Status’ or ‘Flight Schedule’, click ‘Arrival’ or ‘Departure’. You’ll then see:
- The list of incoming or exiting flights, arranged in chronological order.
- Each flight’s carrier, name, and origin or destination.
- Each flight’s status, such as whether it’s ‘On Time’, ‘Delayed’ or ‘Cancelled’.
- For flights arriving or departing as normal, you’ll also see their Gate number.
In addition, flight tracking services like Airportia display similar information. So you can easily check online if your flight is on-time, if it’s been delayed and by how long.
What Does the Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka Do?
The Civil Aviation Authority of Sri Lanka (CAASL) is responsible for the safety of Sri Lanka’s skies. Every flight coming to or from Sri Lanka must adhere to the CAASL’s regulations which, in turn, follow international best practices. For example, among other things the Authority aims to:
- Ensure the secure operation of flights in the commercial aviation sector.
- Make sure that flights arrive and depart on time.
- Develop environmentally-friendly and sustainable aviation practices.
- Expedite passengers’ arrival to and from Sri Lanka’s airports.
- Train Sri Lanka’s pilots and other “Next Generation Aviation Professionals” (using CAASL’s term!)
Now you should have the most important points you need to know when flying into Sri Lanka. However, if you have further questions then check out our Frequently Asked Questions below!
What Is the Distance From Colombo to the Airport?
Assuming you’re talking about CMB, it’s 35km from the city centre. The journey takes from around 45 minutes to 2 hours depending on the traffic.
On the other hand, if you’re travelling to Ratmalana Airport from the city centre, it’s only 16.7km away. So you don’t have to set off for your flight quite so far in advance in this case!
What Transport Links Go to and From Bandaranaike?
There are many services transporting you to and from CMB. These include the taxi ranks located outside both main terminals, plus a regular bus service. Here’s what you can roughly expect to pay for each of these and how long they take:
- A Sri Lanka airport taxi costs 17-18 USD (3,000 – 3,500 LKR) and takes around 45 minutes to get to the city.
- The bus service departs every half an hour from 05:30 AM to 08:30 PM. It costs 0.60 USD (110 LKR) and takes around an hour to arrive in Colombo, depending on the number of stops that other passengers make along the way.
Information About the CMB Lounges
There are 3 lounges in Bandaranaike International, called the Lotus, Araliya and Executive Lounges. Here’s an introduction to each of them to help you relax while you’re there.
- Lotus Lounge: This is a first-class lounge available for all airlines except Sri Lankan and Emirates. You’re permitted to stay for up to 6 hours, and the lounge offers a range of facilities including:
- Breakfast, lunch and dinner buffet.
- Complimentary drinks and snacks.
- Wine, beer and spirits.
- Newspapers and other reading materials.
- Internet and television.
- Fax, printing and photocopying.
- Araliya Lounge: This is a business-class lounge for all airlines except Sri Lankan and Emirates. You can also stay for up to 6 hours and it offers all the facilities of the Lotus Lounge.
- The Executive Lounge is a pay-per-use lounge available for stays of up to 3 hours. Entry is 20 USD per person, except for children under 2 who can enter for free. It offers most of the facilities of the other 2 lounges, except for alcohol and fax, printing and photocopying services. On the plus side, there’s a private washroom facility.
Information About the Colombo Airport Hotels
The hotel located inside CMB is called the Serenediva Transit Hotel. It’s found on the second level above the Arrival/Departure area, close to the duty-free shops, lounges and restaurants. It’s intended for people taking a short rest before or after their flight.
In addition, other hotels located in proximity include:
- Airport Garden Hotel: a 4-star hotel, 45 minutes away by bus.
- Ronaka Airport Transit Hotel: a 3-star hotel, a 25-minute journey by bus.
- Airport City Hub Hotel: a 3-star hotel, 40 minutes away by bus.