We first used AirAsia on our first trip to Southeast Asia two years ago. Along with other budget airlines like Ryanair, I think AirAsia gets a bad reputation. It was a saving grace for us when we were backpacking because it shaved hours and hours off of our travel times, made border crossings much less complex for just a little more than what we would have paid to travel by train or bus.
The airline offers a points scheme – referred to as BIG points – which customers are able to earn through registering their flights online. When booking flights via the AirAsia website, you’re able to see the cost of flights either in your local currency or in BIG points. They also have a lounge in their primary hub airport, Kuala Lumpur International, in Terminal 2. It operates across a large area of Southeast Asia, India, Japan and Australia and typically the price of flights undercut the majority of their competitors.
I think the biggest issue people have with AirAsia is the extra costs the airline implements in a variety of different, and sometimes subtle, ways. The biggest cost that will be applied to passengers will usually be concerning luggage. For hand luggage, each customer is permitted to bring on board a small suitcase with the dimensions 56cm x 36cm x 25cm and an additional small bag equal to or smaller than 40cm x 30cm x 10cm. Both bags must together weigh no more than 7kg, and in some instances before boarding a flight our bags have been weighed. To check a 20kg bag costs 45 MYR during the flight booking, or 355 MYR at the airport desk so be sure to add baggage onto your itinerary. Other additional fees include reprinting a boarding pass for 10 MYR per person, so be sure to have either a paper copy or download the AirAsia app and have your boarding pass downloaded onto your phone. Extra legroom, in-flight meals and entertainment all come at additional costs, so see the official website for more information.
Excluded in the price of airfare is any on board food or drink. Brochures with meal options, snacks and alcohol (depending on the flight route alcohol may not be offered). You can always bring drinks or snacks on board in order to avoid overpaying for them on the flight, but if you do end up buying from the trolleys they sell everything from packets of crisps, sandwiches and plenty of juices. Hot meals can also be booked in advance to suit different dietary requirements and if you’re willing to pay, you have a generous selection to choose from.
My only real negative point about AirAsia is their punctuality. I’ve flown with them on at least ten separate occasions, and I haven’t ever left the airport at the designated time. As well as this, once the flight begins to board I’ve often felt quite rushed and hurried instead of what I would usually expect which would be the crew apologising for the delay. Quite often landing time is a little later than the ETA and so it’s worth keeping that in mind if you’re organising flight transfers or collections on the other end of your flight.
Other than the mayhem of boarding and alighting their flights, the staff on board are usually incredibly warm. In my opinion and in my experiences, it was projected to me by the flight crew that customer service and satisfaction is a priority.
The airline operates from large city airports as well as smaller ones, making it a useful airline to use both when visiting more remote locations such as Luang Prabang and Phuket, or large cities like Singapore and Hong Kong. As the company is developing, routes are beginning to expand both South and West, with more flights to Australia and the Middle East being developed and announced.
If you’re backpacking, I’d definitely recommend taking only a small backpack within the cabin baggage limitations and save both time and money from checking a larger bag. To check a bag you have to catch the check-in desk while it’s open and wait after your flight to collect your baggage, and at a cost of 45 MYR per bag per flight, it will quickly add up if you decide to drop the large bag.
Overall, AirAsia is a really useful airline to keep in mind when booking a trip to Asia. If travelling any real distance it can cut hours and sometimes days off of your travel time. If you keep on top of the additional costs and ensure you’re organised, then you won’t be caught out with extra fees.