Malaysia-based Air Asia, the largest budget airline in South East Asia, is making good on its claim that “Now Everyone Can Fly”. The airline’s brand is young and fun like their cabin crews, and their TV adverts look like K-pop videos starring Wayne Rooney. But beneath the irreverence is a serious airline with impressive productivity and safety records and an extensive flight network that offers great value for money.
In the last seven weeks, I’ve booked five flights on Air Asia’s website. My travel dates were flexible so I used their one month fare comparison tool to get a couple really good deals. With no price penalty for one-way tickets, I was able to fly somewhere, see how I liked it, and book my return flight when I was ready to move on. Air Asia keeps their base fares very low by charging additional fees for checked luggage, seat selection, baggage insurance and inflight food and drinks. I know some travellers find this nickel-and-diming annoying, but I liked the flexibility of paying for only what I needed.
Check In and Boarding
Air Asia allows online check in up to a week before departure, and if you print your boarding pass at home you can bypass lines at the airport. The plane interiors were clean and the leather seats were still offgassing new car smell. Boarding was quick each time and four of my flights left on time. Air Asia often runs there-and-back shuttles so if the outgoing route is delayed, the return trip will be too. Increase your likelihood of an on-time departure by booking early morning flights.
After a few welcome words from the Commander (that’s what Air Asia calls the captain), the cabin crew did the synchronized dance of the live safety demonstration, with the fake blowing into the life vest and the gesturing to the emergency exits. This pantomime was the only inflight entertainment as there were no video or audio services on my flights.
On each flight the cabin crew were friendly and efficient. Most of the inflight food choices were the usual plastic rectangle of half rice and half some sort of meat in a gelatinous sauce. But they did serve a very tasty mango sticky rice; I actually skipped eating before the flight so I would have room for this dish. Payment for food and drinks is cash only, either US dollars or the currency of either the origin or destination country.
Landing and Luggage
In Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur, Air Asia flies out of secondary airports. Both low cost terminals have seen better days and don’t have rail connections to the city centre. Sometimes we disembarked on a jet bridge attached to the terminal and other times we unloaded on the tarmac. Luggage handling was prompt in all cases and my uninsured bag was not lost or damaged.