Thursday, December 4, 2008

New Favorite Airline: Air Asia

As we started planning our month in Asia, it quickly became apparent that intra-regional air fare would be a major component of the total cost - maybe even a show-stopper. Flying Singapore Airlines is a delight, but too much such delight can empty the wallet quickly.

Enter the low cost airline phenomenon, which has fully hit in southeast Asia. Although there are a number of players in this space, we heard good things about Air Asia. We compared their offerings with conventional airlines. Very quickly it became clear that Air Asia’s pricing could make the difference between “affordable” and “undoable” for the itinerary we wanted.

Air Asia’s no-assigned-seat policy (al la US carrier Southwest Airlines) and super-low prices gave us a moment’s pause, but we decided it would make for an interesting experiment.

Short version?

We flew Air Asia seven times in 23 days. We each checked one bag on every flight. We experienced one delayed departure. No lost bags. We were never stranded or uncomfortable. Service was pleasant and efficient in all cases.

And the prices? Check out what we paid per head (converted to US dollar since Air Asia charges in the currency of the point of departure).

Bali to Jakarta: $60

Medan to Kuala Lumpur: $67

Singapore to Kuala Lumpur: $55

Kuala Lumpur to Siem Reap: $73

Bangkok to Krabi: $31

Krabi to Bangkok: $52

Bangkok to Singapore: $102

And this is for international standard service on new Airbus and gently used Boeing aircraft. No livestock in the overhead bins (anyone else every flown Daalo Air?). No duct taped control surfaces. The uniforms were even cool.

Air Asia’s motto is “Now Everyone Can Fly”. At these prices? YA!

** Oh, that one delayed flight we experienced? Ya. There was an Air Asia voucher for about 1/3 the cost of the flight in our email box the very next day.

Air Asia

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