Flying across Sri Lanka is an amazing experience, in good weather. We tried a Cinnamon Air flight to Batticaloa and it's definitely the best way to get there. However, it's also quite expensive.
Cinnamon Air is a new domestic airline. They're not cheap, but they're comfortable and have new planes and excellent service. The main proposition – getting around the island without spending hours on the road – is an appealing one, especially if you're a tourist with limited time to waste. The Batticaloa flight takes 45 minutes and is a magical way to get to the charming lagoon city. Until March 31st, the Batticaloa flight is available on a 25% discount for USD 172 (Rs. 22,500). That's per person, one way.
The Batticaloa flight takes off from Katunayake and arrives in Batti after a thrilling 45 minutes. Driving would take around six hours, and it would suck. Flying, the miles just glide by as you watch them unfold below. You pass Kandy, see Adam's Peak in the distance, pass the Maheveli, maybe see some wild elephants and before you know it you're there.
The plane is really nice. I've flown Helitours to Trinco before and that's a military transport plane converted to civilian use. It only has a few window seats. It gets you there well enough, but it's clearly not intended for regular people enjoying the view. The Cessna that Cinnamon Air flies to Batticaloa is more like a private plane you'd see on celebrity Instagram pages, only smaller. There's bench seating in the back, four chairs facing each other in the center and two seats behind the pilots. Every seat has a view, they're mostly captains chairs, and they're plush.
The flight itself is really quite stunning, in good weather, which we got on the way there. There are panorama views across the whole island and you're flying at or just above cloud level the whole way. As long as those clouds aren't kicking up rain or turbulence, it's awesome. These planes handle quite capably in rain (which we encountered on the way back) but if there's lightning or really bad weather they don't fly.
Given good weather, the experience is magical. On the road you don't realize how beautiful and compact our island is, stuck as you are in traffic. Even on the new highways, the distance can get boring. When you're flying everything below is new and wonderful.
Landing and take-off, of course, are the main points of concern. Both events are over faster than you think. For take-off the plane just taxis and sprints for a few hundred meters and you're in the air before you know it. On our way back we were flying through rain and landing was a bit more, shall we say, bumpy.
Cinnamon Air flights are not cheap so the service has to be quite good. It is. You start by getting picked up from the Bandaranaike Departures entrance in a van. Then you drive a bit further down to the Air Force side where you go to a small waiting room. This flight is a max of eight people so there isn't much waiting. There's a basic check of bags and passports and then you walk out to the plane. It's basically a private plane experience. The staff is very nice, and there are enough staff to make the experience painless. There's someone to drive the van, someone to deal with the Air Force, someone to load the bags, someone to receive you when you land. The pilots are also very nice and – most importantly – seem quite professional.
We're using the location heading here somewhat liberally. If this flight had a location it would be a wormhole between Katunayake and Batticaloa. That's what the experience is. It basically takes longer getting to the airport than getting to Batticaloa and that completely changes your experience of the place. We left Colombo at 10 AM, landed in Batti at 10:45 and had the energy (and excitement) for a pretty full day there. Not driving there means you arrive fresh and happy and it makes a big difference. You're suddenly out of the city and in this bright lagoon land. For tourists who have only a few days in Sri Lanka, we definitely recommend internal flights over spending hours on the road.
Cinnamon Air's flight to Batticaloa is the best way to get there. It's also pretty expensive. If you can afford it, do it. You can check out their full schedules and fares on their website. The Batticaloa flight is usually part of a trip that stops in Sigiriya, but they do fly direct sometimes, and they do have packages that include hotel stays in Pasikkudah.