Big Lessons learned booking flights to Sri Lanka

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Sometimes, you should pay more for certain things – such as flights. I’m not saying to pay a LOT more but be a bit choosier. $50 could be the difference between lost luggage, having to pay more for checking luggage with bait and switch marketing and… lastly, dealing with crappy employees and flight attendants.

This was what we experienced when we booked our flights from London to Sri Lanka.

We are a family of 4 so booking flights can be expensive normally when booking way in advance but more so for us because we generally book only weeks in advance. Our travels are all spontaneous so are our booked flights.

Timing of travel is also important to us. We like leaving either early in the morning or late at night. No midday flights for us. So when booking I need not only the right budget but the right times.

Layovers also matter. You think that all layover locations are the same but they aren’t. If we are going to be in a certain airport for more than a couple of hours for a layover then I look up the facilities online. What kind of restaurants, coffee, amenities, etc.? I’ve chosen different flights because of having only donuts or a Tim Horton’s. We need more options than that. So, don’t forget to research the layover airports.

Length of layover matters too. Traveling is exhausting so spending 10hrs at an airport after a 2hr flight. We try to find layovers that give us time to not rush between flights, get potty breaks and grab some food and drinks so we don’t have to purchase anything on a flight. 2-3hrs is the perfect window but we will deal with 4-6. Anything longer sucks.

I’m a bargain shopper. Here’s how I go about looking for flights:

  • Google Flights – I take our location and enter in the nearest international airport and then pick any destination and ONE WAY Flight with a fly out date and then click search to find the flights to choose from. I then click on the Map to the right. I zoom in on the red dots to see how much it costs to fly from London (All Airports) to all the red dots. We wanted to head to somewhere in SE Asia so I just looked around all those areas and then found 3 or 4 locations that fit the price range I was looking to pay. In our case I wanted to stay under $400 per person  – TOTAL. I click on the dot of the airports in my price range and then I see what airlines are budget lines and where they all travel to and flight options. I also play with my outgoing airport and in our case I chose London Gatwick to Colombo Sri Lanka as my go to airports.
  • Direct airlines are almost always more expensive then looking at Cheapoair or other deal sites. but I always start with them for booking flights unless they don’t show flights for the airline I’m wanting. In this case I found 2 flights taking us most of the way to Sri Lanka, to Doha Qatar for $948.40 via Pegasus Airlines. I also purchased flight insurance – which I never do.
    • Pegasus Airlines: Flight 1– London Gatwick (LGW) to Istanbul Sabiha Gokcen (SAW). 4hr layover. Flight 2– (SAW) to Doha Qatar (DOH).
    • Etihad Airways: Flight 3– (DOH) to Abu Dhabi (AUH) and Flight 4– (AUH) to Colombo Sri Lanka (CMB)
    • Our first 2 flights were 7.55hrs flight time. We left at 11:45am from London and arrive in Doha at 2:50am late that night. All together, 12hrs of travel time. The 2nd set of flights were 5 1/2 hrs of flight time and a total of 3 1/2 hrs layover. A total of 9hrs on this set of flights for a GRAND TOTAL of 21hrs Traveling. WE WERE POOPED!
  • When searching for flights like this you might have to purchase each leg or 2-3 legs together or separately. This trip I had to purchase 4 legs. 2 separate purchases of 2 legs each. So, I had to make one purchase of $948.40 for Pegasus flights and $689.88 for Etihad flights for a grand total of $1638.28. BOOM! Right on Budget for flights.

Now, when booking these flights I had only 2 options that fit into our budget for our 3rd flight. It was either a 4:05am departure which left us only 1.15 hrs to get from flight #2 to flight #3. I hate cutting things close and worried because Pegasus Air has a history of leaving late which also means a late arrival.

Option 2 had a 8hr layover between these two flights. Shawn and I talked and we chose to run instead of having that big of a layover.

We were all set… or so we thought.

I had researched Pegasus Airlines policies on Carry On baggage. I even purchased a plan that allowed us to take 20kg bags on the plane along with a personal bag.

Again, we were all set right?

Um NO!

Upon arrival at London Gatwick we had to wait in line at Pegasus Airlines because they don’t have any online check in systems. After waiting we got to the counter 1hr later.

The Airline agent, upon seeing our passports started questioning us in a rather aggressive manner regarding our recent election of Donald Trump.

She was giving us her opinion on it and politics, etc. We were trying to not argue nor told her to please focus on her job or any other comments as we just wanted to get everything taken care of so we could be on our way.

Just when we thought we had our boarding passes and were on our way she informed us that we needed to weight our bags.

She told us that we needed to check all of them…ALL OF THEM!

Oh crap. Oh No. WHAT?

I explained that we purchased the ability to bring them in the cabin with us and she let us know that they only allow bags no larger than 8kg in the cabin. We could check our bags for free or go on another airline. Our bags were around 15 each.

We were freaking out.

Normally it wouldn’t be a big deal. We’d check our bags and just get on with it but in this case we had a VERY BIG PROBLEM!

We didn’t book all our travel together. Why is this a big deal?

Well, when we fly into Doha Qatar we have 1hr (if the plane was on time) to get through Customs, pay for a VISA just to go to baggage claim, collect our bags, go back through customs and run to our gate in time.

I was stressing out big time. We didn’t have enough money to really pay for that kind of change in plans so we had to make these flights and just see what we could do.

So, we checked our bags. The entire process at the counter took 20 minutes.  We finally were off and sat waiting for an hour to find out what gate to go to.

In the UK you don’t actually go to your gate and wait and hang out. No, you must wait like cattle in a holding zone – or go shop and eat – so there is not getting settled and just hanging out until you leave.

Once our first flight took off – something hit me. We Didn’t get our Baggage Claim forms!

You know those little stickers and tags you are given to claim your bags that match those on your checked bags?


The ticket counter agent, that one who had all the Trump opinions? Well, I was so flustered by everything that I became a total flake and forgot to ask for our claim tickets and she, not focused on her job at hand, didn’t hand them to us.

How were we going to get our bags without these if the Doha Airport required them to collect bags? What if they were lost, how would we track them?

I was a stress ball for our first flight which sucked by the way.

The flight attendants were not friendly at all. They had frowns on their faces and were shoving things at people. Someone in front of us asked for water and they just said ‘No’ and walked away. My daughter and I were appalled.

Pegasus airlines in the UK are sticklers for weights of bags but not so much in Istanbul – where they are based. No, in Istanbul people had bag after heavy ass bag being brought into the cabin. No bags were weighed and it was a free for all.

In Istanbul we headed to the food court and I called Cheapoair and also read our insurance papers. After over an hour on the phone I was told that in addition to there being a $50 per person flight change fee, it would cost us $1400 to change our flights.

This is what I looked like in the food court…

Stress out about our flights
Do I look tired, stressed out and not happy or what?

Our hands were tied and I was just kicking myself for booking the legs too closely together and for even booking with Pegasus at all.

We just sat and ate some food while we waited for our 2nd flight.


We Shawn just said – lets take our chances

On our 2nd flight a fight broke out between one man and about 12 others. He was talking crap – in another language – and the other passengers were taking issue with it and proceeded to talk crap back in a heated manner.

The Flight Attendants tried to calm things down but it took over 30 minutes. Again, this flight was the same service.

Also, the flights were late to leave and late to arrive. BOTH of them. FML.

50 minutes! That’s all the time we had.

We got into Doha and RAN to the Customs area. There we found an agent and told them our situation and wanted to know if we could speed our way to the front of the lines of be escorted to baggage.

No. We would have to wait in line, pay for a Visa to get into Doha just to get our luggage or just leave them and have them sent to us in Sri Lanka at a later time.

Hell No!

We had them bring us to lost and found. There we explained our situation and begged them to FIND our bags in baggage claim and bring them to our next flight.

They wanted to see our baggage claim tickets.


We explained what happened and they looked at us with sympathy but regret as there wasn’t anything they could do right then as baggage claim didn’t even have any bags from our flight yet. They told us they would see what they could do to get all 4 of our bags but without tags it would be difficult even though we gave them descriptions of the 4 bags.

We were all upset. Especially me since this was my doing.

Upon leaving the counter we were escorted back through the security gates which were actually empty as it was 3:30am, and went straight to our gate counter.

Etihad Airways staff greeted us. The sign stated that our flight was delayed as our plane wasn’t in yet.
For some reason we thought it was delayed because of us and our situation. That was not the case but regardless, we were ECSTATIC. We had more time to find our bags.

We told the Etihad staff what had occurred and they too looked at us like – without your claim tickets you are screwed – but we will see what we can do.

All 4 of us looked online and found the photos of our bags and showed them to an employee who was going to personally go to baggage claim and look for them for us. Our carry on bags for Flights
After a lot more calls and conversations and one hour later…a gentleman brought his phone over to me and showed a photo of all 4 of our bags lined up together.

Are these them he asked?

I started crying. Ugly crying specifically.

Here’s the problem. Everything we owned in the world were in those 4 small carry-ons. Everything. 

Sure, we could replace our Underwear, clothes, vitamins, and all other items but…when that’s all you have you have a huge fear of loss. It’s a big deal.

The relief I felt at knowing that our kids wouldn’t lose all their dance shoes, personal items, and clothing were just – there’s no words really.

Our bags were loaded under the plane and we were given our baggage tickets for these next two flights.

I finally was able to relax and breathe.

Our flight was about 2hrs late but that was okay because we had a lot of time before the 4th flight.

When we boarded the plane we were so excited.

The plane was almost empty. We had bulkhead seating and all the seats were like first class. Heated seats, snacks, blankets, pillows and great service.

The first thing Sam said was “Can we PLEASE fly Etihad on all our Flights?”

Great service, excellent pilots and the service of this airlines employees was fantastic. We couldn’t have been happier and…our flight still came in exactly on time!  WOW. They are magicians.

Our 4th flight was also great. We landed in Colombo with no issues at all.

So, what we learned this round:

  • Never take Pegasus Airlines no matter the discount
  • Take Etihad Airways every chance we get
  • Don’t forget to always get baggage tickets
  • Never engage in political conversations with ticket agents
  • Don’t book Flights separately into countries with Visa fees with less than 3-4hrs layover time
  • Label all baggage and have pictures on hand of them all in case anything crazy happens again.
  • Flight Travel Insurance doesn’t do anything for you unless you are hurt on a flight
  • It costs a LOT to change flights so make sure you know EXACTLY what you are doing before paying.
  • again, NEVER book with Pegasus



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