Flying with Air Asia

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I thought it would be good to share my experiences I recently had with Air Asia as they have many bad reviews yet still seem to be widely used, and I was unsure why. So here is the full, unbiased, and true recount of my four international flights with Air Asia.

Booking the Flight

I decided to go with a budget airline for my volunteer trip because (a) I wanted to save money and (b) I wasn’t concerned about who I flew with. I was recommended Air Asia by two people and as it was the cheapest flight, I booked it. The flight was from Sydney to Phnom Penh with a stopover in Kuala Lumpur. The return flight was the reverse: Phnom Penh to Kuala L:umpur and then Kuala Lumpur to Sydney.

When I booked the flight I had to pay for the meal and if I wanted the “entertainment pack” or “comfort pack”. I figured that I could entertain myself on the flight and I could just take a blanket, ear plugs and sleep mask. So I only booked a meal on the longest flights.

The first booking did not go through (unsure why) and I had to try again. It was successful the second time around. Other than that small hiccup, the booking experience was fairly easy and straightforward.

 

Expectations

I had never flown from Australia via a budget airline. I had only ever used Qantas or Etihad. I expected that Air Asia definitely wouldn’t be as good as Etihad. Qantas never impressed me so I expected something a little bit lower than the standard of Qantas, but not too much lower.

I started getting worried about the flight when a few people at work mentioned that Air Asia is a terrible airline. I then went online, read a few reviews and was slightly worried abt the quality of the airline, but I wasn’t thinking that it would be terrible. The main complaints online were people complaining about the things they had to pay for (meals, entertainment, seat upgrades, comfort packs etc). I think those things are to be expected though when you use a budget airline. Like myself, I was annoyed about paying for seat selection, but it’s a budget airline. So people who don’t care about those things can actually save their money.

There were two things that I was worried about – firstly, that I would have to pick up my checked in luggage from Kuala Lumpur airport when I had my stopover. Luckily the woman at the bag drop in Sudney asked if I would like it to go all the any through. I said yes and there was no additional fee for this!

The second thing that worried me was a story where someone had their flight cancelled and then had to rebook at double the price. I feel like there must have been more to this story because that doesn’t sound right. I figured would just do the online checkin ASAP and then this should not be a problem.

Departure: Sydney

I decided to do web check in a week before departure as I wanted to pick my seat. It appears the “randomly selected seat” starts from the back of the plane and works it’s way to the front. I was annoyed that when I went to do web check in that I had to pay to move my randomly selected seat to a better one. At least I only had to do this on one flight and not both.

TIP: if you check in 48-24 hours before departure, your randomly allocated seat is likely to be closer to the front of the plane and therefore no cost on changing seats if you prefer to be closer to the front or wings of the plane.

The 20kg checked baggage allowance and 7kg carry on luggage allowance is now pretty standard on many international flights. I was worried about my baggage allowance, especially for carry on. However they did not weigh my carry on nor did they measure it in one of those metal bag outlines.

The woman at the bag drop appeared to lack the ability to smile. I found this strange as people working for airlines usually have exceptional customer service skills. I suppose this woman missed the memo…

Skip ahead a couple of hours… Near the departure time the plane was no where to be seen. It appears that the plane just landed (I have no idea where from or how long it had been previously flying) just before we took off. This is a little concerning as I thought planes should be cleaned and checked for maintenance before another long haul flight. But I quickly forgot about this when I needed to board the flight.

The staff made everyone queue up whilst they made a marking on the card. It took quite a while to actually get on plane. When we were on the plane we were told to turn all devices off as the plane was refuelling. I fell asleep waiting for take off, but I assume it was a while before we were actually in the air.

The food didn’t take too long to be brought to us. I was actually sleeping and woke up to a male staff member yelling my name (incorrectly pronounced) and it took me a while to realise they were talking to me. He took my boarding pass and crossed off the code relevant to the meal. I had ginger tofu and rice. It was better than I expected, especially the spiral tofu. I was also given a bottle of water. I had assumed (from the reviews I read) that water had to be bought. But it appears that water is complimentary with a meal. For everyone else, they have to pay.

 

Other than that the flight was fairly normal. The toilets do appear to have tissues for hand towels, which is annoying as they stick to your hands. There are the paper seat covers though, which I always appreciate in publicly used toilets!

There was a second meal service announced and I went to go back to sleep as I only remembered buying one meal. I was rudely awoken by the same male steward that yelled my name incorrectly at the last meal time. He said it was time for my second meal, so I gave him my boarding pass and he realised that I don’t have a second meal. He just rudely said that I don’t have another meal and then continued down the aisle. I was a bit annoyed that there was no apology for being so rude. However I just went back to sleep.

Later in the flight it was announced that the airplane is to undergo its regular and mandatory sanitisation and fumigation. The announcement said that it is recommended that everyone covers their nose and mouth while the fumigation is in process. I looked around in shock at all the other passengers. Many appeared unconcerned and just covered their face with a jumper or scarf. I covered my face with my scarf while it happened but I was not impressed. Isn’t this something that would occur when the plane is being cleaned after passengers had departed the plane?? I had never experienced this before and was in slight shock during this experince.

The landing was fine and everyone undid their seatbelts waaay before the seatbelt light was turned off. I guess everyone was very keen to get off plane! I was too and quickly gathered my belongings so I could get off the not-so-great Air Asia plane.

KLIA 2

The Kuala Lumper International Airport is called KLIA and KLIA2 actually seems pretty cool! There’s plenty of shops, restaurants, cafes and even a supermarket! However this was after I had gone through security. When you do an internationally transfer, there are obviously less choices. There are the standard higher end brand names such as Chloe and Michael Kors, a phone accessory store, The Body Shop, a few cafes and eateries, and a perfume store. Prices were slightly cheaper than Australia, but not by much.

I should have just stayed in the airport rather than paying for a hotel. They even have places were you can have a hotel style room for a couple of hours. I would suggest to others to do this if they have a long stopover. A lot of people slept on the ground in the airport overnight, so I would say it is safe to do this as an alternative to getting a hotel room.

It is a fairly big airport. I would say it is similar in size to Sydney airport, with probably just as many (if not more) things to do and places to eat. However once you pass through the second security point, there are only a few cafes to purchase items from. If you want bottled water – forget about it. It appears that water only comes in large plastic cups, which you have to purchase for $2 KM and all these places accept cash only. This is so annoying especially if you are just doing a transfer. The money exchange point is also before security which makes it even more annoying. I ended up finding a place that sold cookies and lollies and the cups of water. As there was a minimum on credit card, I had to buy all these lollies and treats I didn’t want just so I could buy some water. No very happy about this as I was soo thirsty already and just wanted to have a drink!

Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh

The flight boarded a lot quicker than the Sydney departure flight. It also wasn’t delayed which was a good start. It was a smaller plane with only 6 seats across the plane and one isle down the middle to split up the seats. Whilst it was a lot smaller than the long haul Air Asia planes, it was completely full.

As it was early in the morning I went to sleep. Little did I know that the flight staff decided to not give me the mandatory immigration and arrival papers! I’m fairly certain if this is something you need to be woken up for, or they could have at least put the papers in the pouch in front of me, where my iPad and travel wallet were. I was pretty annoyed they gave everyone else on the flight the papers and not me. Unfortunately I didn’t realise until I was going through immigration, and I was just lucky I spoke to someone on the flight who received spare paperwork by mistake…

Phnom Penh to Kuala Lumper

I was definitely not looking forward to my return flights with Air Asia. I already had a negative image of Air Asia from my flights to Canbodia. Leaving Phnom Penh, the flight was delayed, which didn’t surprise me at all. However we quickly were boarded, seated and the plane took off quickly.

I paid the extra $3 so I could have a view and have a window seat. I also booked a meal because the flight was around dinner time and I assumed I would be hungry. However, the meal was extremely disappointing. I got the chicken and rice. It was just plain chicken and rice that had been cooked in chicken stock. There was a chilli sauce to accompany the dish, but this did nothing to help out the dish. I ate 4 bites and decided it was not worth continuing.

The complimentary water given with the meal was a tiny cup of about 100ml water. I was pretty surprised at this because I was under the impression it would be a small bottle of water.

I also left the flight feeling stuffy and sick – probably because the air conditioning was being pumped full ball! It really wasn’t a very enjoyable flight. I’m just glad it was a short flight.

Kuala Lumper to Sydney

For this flight I decided to book the Quiet Zone seat. It cost me an extra $29 but considering I would have to pay $19 to pick a seat, $10 extra really didn’t bother me. The Quiet Zone area It is essentially the “business class” of Air Asia X. I did feel like I was treated somewhat better than the economy section. Although I would have thought there might have been a complimentary water or at least ports to charge devices like my phone. The only real difference between the two sections is that it is separated by a curtain and it is a section closer to the front of the plane.

When choosing my seat I noticed that not many people had booked seats in this area, so I had my fingers crossed that I would have a row of seats to myself… And I was in luck! It made me so happy that I could lay down and properly sleep on my flight… Well kinda… Four hours sleep was all I got but it was better than nothing!

The flight was absolutely freezing though and I was extremely cold throughout the flight. I’m glad that I had layers upon layers of clothing and my sarong to use as a blanket.

The flight was not delayed, but didn’t leave the airport until almost 30 minutes after it was scheduled to. This made me realise I will be in Sydney 30 minutes later than I wanted to be – not good when you have to catch a bus straight after your flight! But funnily enough, we were actually about 30 minutes early!

The food was average. I ordered the big breakfast as I was going to be landing in the morning and didn’t want to have to buy breakfast at the airport, or have a rumbling stomach as I waited in customs. The breakfast consisted of a cheese omelette, a pork chipolata sausage, four button mushrooms and a small serving of baked beans. There was also a bread roll with butter and a small cup of orange juice. I enjoyed the chipolata and baked beans. The omelette was nice, but there was way too much mozerella cheese in it. The mushrooms tasted funny and I didn’t finish those.

I thought that the breakfast came with juice OR coffee so I had preordered a juice and pastry as well, but later realised that I did in fact get coffee AND juice with the the meal. The coffee had a powdered milk which I found weird and I think it made the coffee taste funny. The pastry provided was way too sweet and I only had a bite to taste it. This pastry would probably be better for a late morning snack than for breakfast.

Overall Thoughts on Air Asia

I won’t be booking Air Asia in future for long haul flights or overnight flights. If I was already in Asia, wanted a quick flight between cities, didn’t care about anything being including on the flight, and had no luggage, then it would be fine to book a flight with Air Asia.

But it is not worth “saving” money on longer flights. This is especially the case if you don’t want to be automatically allocated a seat at the back, have luggage to check in, want a meal, want entertainment, or just want a drink of water. You end up paying so much for extras that it ends up costing the same amount to book with regular airlines that include these (usually standard) extras. There is no customer service to even make you want to book another flight with Air Asia.

My final word is that I would not recommend Air Asia for travel.

 

What are your experiences with or thoughts on travelling with Air Asia? Let me know in the comments section!

Bye for now,

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All opinions in this post are my own. Unless otherwise stated, this post has not been sponsored and I have not been paid for this post

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