I have not had a good run with Air Asia and have placed them in my bottom ten airlines for the last three years. I was challenged last year by a number of Air Asia supporters so I have been determined to give them a good testing. This month, I flew two flights with Air Asia and two flights with Air Asia X, their international arm.
Booking: 7 out of 10
Air Asia has an attractive website that is easy to navigate. The site even has a clear guide on how to book online. It also has a “friendly on line answering tool called Ask Lil’ Miss Red (see below). There is a calculator that you can use to calculate fees before booking. The booking engine has an easy search function. It displays all pricing options for flights in an easy to read format. The pricing for flights across the week are also displayed.
There are three fare types sold on Air Asia services:
- Promo – restricted discounted fare
- Regular- more flexible fare
- Premium (Air Asia X sectors only)- access to Premium Economy section of the plane
The fares include flight and carry on luggage. Everything else is extra. Air Asia sells checked baggage, meals, pillows and blanket kits, seat selection, entertainment, priority check in, priority boarding and lounge access. These can be ordered at booking for a fee that is approximately 20% lower than buying at the airport or on board. As mentioned last week, you can access some of these services with OptionTown for a much lower fee.
Be warned! The Air Asia booking system automatically selects the 20kg baggage option for you. If you are planning to carry no bags or need more kilograms, you will need to amend this. Baggage charges range from $8 to $45 for domestic flights and $12 to $60 internationally when paid on line. It costs more when you check in luggage at the airport. Compared to other low cost carriers, Air Asia is a more generous with carry on as passengers are allowed free one piece of cabin baggage weighing up to 7kg and one laptop bag or one handbag on-board.
Be doubly warned: the Air Asia system automatically selects a travel insurance policy for you. To opt out is more complex than it needs to be. Failing to be vigilant will result in you purchasing un-necessary non refundable insurance. On line forums are full of complaints about this process. Clearly it is a handy revenue generator for the carrier. This didn’t impress me.
Seats are sold for an extra fee. Hot Seat (Emergency Exit and extra leg room seats) and Quiet Section seats cost more than other seats.
Check In: 10 out of 10
I checked in for all of the flights using the incredibly easy and well thought out online system. You can check-in as early as 14 days before your departure date up to one hour before for Air Asia and up to four hours before for Air Asia X. The system provided options to change seats and add luggage. You can print your boarding pass onto paper or load it onto your phone. I presented myself at Sydney airport for a document check and at Kuala Lumpur for an upgrade. All check in staff were friendly and helpful. Hand luggage was weighed at Sydney and ignored on all other sectors. At KL, I was able to convert my mobile phone pass into a paper boarding pass.
Tip: The Kuala Lumpur Low Cost Carrier Terminal is a little faded, very busy and not well signposted. Checking in and dropping off luggage can be very confusing and can take a long time. It is 2okm (12mi) from the main Kuala Lumpur International airport terminal. There are some nice food outlets at the terminal which can help sate your hunger before boarding Air Asia.
Boarding: 10 out of 10
I waited until the end of the Boarding process on my flights. Because of the airline’s luggage rules, there was plenty of room in the overhead lockers so I didnt see any need to hurry! I got a warm welcome on all flights from the crew who gave clear directions to my seat.
Crew were very well groomed, very efficient and very friendly on all sectors!
On Board: 7 out of 10
The Air Asia X flights were on Airbus 330s and the domestic flights were on 320s.
- Premium Class with 12 full lie-flat bed premium class seats arranged in two rows of six: 2/2/2. These Flat Beds feature a power outlet, personal reading light, foldaway table, and adjustable head and foot rests. They are 152 cm (60″) long and 51 cm (20″) wide
- Quiet Zone available for passengers aged 12 and up located in rows 7 to 14. The seats in this section are arranged nine across in a 3/3/3 layout. I am not aware of any other airline flying the A330 that has more than eight across. Each seat is a squeezy 42cm (16.5″) wide. They have a 81cm (32″) pitch between seats which is not too bad. To fit the seats in, the aisles are narrower than usual. I found that I was bumped by flight attendants, passengers and trolleys when seated in an Economy aisle seat.
- Two regular Economy class cabins start at Rows 15 and 35. Again, all Economy seats are again arranged 3/3/3 except at the rear on the plane when they reverts to 2/3/2 for rows 44 to 51. Again, other carriers using A330s put seven seats in this part of the plane.
- Seven lavatories for Economy and one for Premium class. They were all kept very clean through the flght
The 320s are not as visually compelling as the 330 but feel very new. The aircraft consisted of:
- Hot Seats – 42 seats in the Exit row and the first five rows arranged 3/3 with a pitch of 31″ and a width of 18″
- 138 regular Economy class seats 3/3 They have a 81cm (29″) pitch between seats and are also 42cm (18″) wide.
- three lavatories
Air Asia have a notorious reputation for on time performance with 76% of flights arriving on time. Of my four flights, the two international flights departed close to time and arrived early. One of the domestic flights was a little late and one departed over an hour late which had the friend who was travelling with me very nervous as they ended up having a much reduced connection time. As it happened, their on going flight was delayed too!
Entertainment: 2 out of 10
Air Asia X rents a Samsung Galaxy Tablet for use during the flight. Air Asia had nothing on board. The crew passed through selling duty free but there was no hard sell.
Meals: 5 out of 10
Water, snacks and drinks were sold by the flight crew. The have a good range and prices are not outrageous. On Air Asia X, they also sold meals which could be pre ordered for a discount. Meal portions were small and okay ish. The fact that no free water is served is a bug bear of mine -especially on a long flight.
The airline has a rule that no outside food or drink is allowed on board. I brought my own water bottle that I filled up at the airport and no one commented. Others discretely ate and drank their own food.On the overnight flights, I was irritated by all the lights coming on two hours before landing, for a meal service where I had no intention of buying anything.
My Flight Rating: Overall 68% (3.4 out of 5).
My Overall rating of Air Asia: 56%- I would suggest Air Asia are on par with Jetstar and American Airlines (also in my ten worst airlines list).
Air Asia/Air Asia X has a 3 star rating from Skytrax.Its customers give the carrier a rating of 7.6 out of 10
Negatives:Meals, Entertainment, Sneaky charges on bookings, on time performance
Would I fly them again? Yes