Over the last several months, we’ve had many experiences flying with AirAsia, both for short- and long-haul flights. They are a popular low-cost airline for traveling around Asia and to/from Oceania (which includes Australia and New Zealand), so there’s a good chance you’ll want to check them out if you’re going to Asia.
Most of the cheapest fares seem to fly out of Kuala Lumpur. Bangkok can be another good departure area. Note, however, that the low-cost carriers do not typically fly out of the main KL and Bangkok international airports.
It’s always a good idea to do a search through an aggregator site as well. Occasionally, I have found what seemed to be more expensive fares, but once you factored in checked baggage fees, the other airline was actually cheaper.
A couple of times a year, they have a really big sale with seriously low fares. Definitely worth watching out for!
When you are booking your flight, you’ll have many options for various services. It’s really a good idea to purchase them during booking as they are more expensive on the airplane or the ticket counter. You can buy many of these online after completing your ticket purchase as well. Some of the services you may want to consider:
- Checked baggage: AirAsia can be quite picky about baggage weight, so it’s better to spend an extra $2-3 to purchase more allowable weight unless you don’t mind weighing beforehand. They typically charge $18 per kg for overages. The weight is applied to the total weight of all your luggage. In other words, if you purchased 20 kg for your bag and 15 kg for your child’s, you can have a cumulative weight of 35 kg. This can be pretty helpful.
- Meals: Airport food is almost always more expensive than the meals they serve on the plane. If you’ll be traveling during a meal time, I would really encourage you to purchase your meal(s) online. Not only will you get lower prices, but you’ll be sure to get the selection you desire. The meal includes a beverage as well (water for lunch and dinner, coffee or tea for breakfast). The food is actually not bad for airline fare. For long-haul flights, you can purchase more than 1 meal (i.e., dinner and breakfast) in advance.
- Entertainment device: Flights do not provide movies. The airline does offer a Samsung tablet device for rent which is preloaded with a variety of movies, TV shows, music, and some games. If you’re traveling with children, these come in quite handy. Not all flights have them available for rent on board if you didn’t reserve it during booking, which makes it even more important to take care of this during booking or prior to check-in. Tigger highly recommends this for kids.
- Red carpet service: Some airlines offer this extra VIP service which gives you a dedicated counter for check-in and may include 2-hour access to the lounge, fast immigration and security, priority baggage handling, and other services. The services vary by airport and are not always available, so you can check their site before deciding if it’s worth the extra price.
- Seat selection: If you wish to have a premium seat or ensure your party is seated together, you’ll want to select your seats in advance. They charge a fairly reasonable rate for this service. I’ve only used it on long flights as they usually are able to seat us together during web check-in.
- Travel insurance: I would encourage you to look at the reimbursement and services of buying the travel insurance they offer before purchasing it. The rates for things like lost baggage are so low that I haven’t found it worthwhile to purchase the insurance, but it may be more worthwhile for you. They automatically sign you up for it during booking, and you need to tell them no before you finalize the reservation.
A cool option
Some of the AirAsia X flights have additional options you can purchase. They vary from preferred seats to discounted upgrades to getting a whole row to yourself. After you book your flight, you may get an email from Optiontown detailing the possible options available to you on your flight.
For our flight from Bali to Australia, we had the possibility of getting a whole row to ourselves for our segment from KL to Sydney, a flight of over 8 hours. We “won” our selection, and it made a huge difference in our comfort for the long, overnight journey. It only cost us $46 USD. If you don’t get your purchased selection, they refund you.
A win-win if there ever was one!
Web check-in vs ticket counter
If you have carry-on baggage, it is a great idea to do web check-in so you can avoid all the lines at the ticket counter. However, if you have to check bags, I really haven’t seen a huge time savings in doing web check-in. It may help you get seated together if you’re traveling with someone else, though. And, if you tend to be running late, it does buy you a buffer.
We’ve had different experiences, often in the same airport, in terms of wait times. One time I think it took us 8 minutes from entering the airport to getting through security, and the next time we flew out of that same airport (Bangkok’s low-cost carrier airport, DMK) we had a much longer wait. Generally, expect to have a line either way.
If you are not checking in bags and heading straight through security, make sure to visit the AirAsia document desk near the gate. You have to have the boarding pass stamped showing that they verified your documents. If you’ve visited the ticket counter, they take care of this during check-in.
As is common with low-cost carriers, there are no real freebies during your flight, including drinking water. Blankets, pillows, etc., all have charges. They only accept cash for these purchases, but they will accept currency from either the departure or arrival country, which is handy.
They do pretty well with customer service, especially at check-in and in-flight. I did have a situation where they cancelled a route and offered me a refund; however, it was quite difficult to actually obtain it. The email included no instructions. After using a combination of social media, their website, and emails, I finally had to tweet the CEO to get action.
But at least that was more successful than my current situation with Jetstar, which after a month of phone calls, emails, and social media conversations still has not resulted in an actual refund.
We have traveled with AirAsia many times, and I wouldn’t hesitate to fly with them again. The fares often beat the cost of overland travel, even for domestic flights, and the extra fees for checked baggage and so on are much lower than many other carriers we’ve used and seen.