This is part nine of my Bali / Kuala Lumpur trip report and includes my first experience flying with Air Asia. The flight was a short 2 hours and 55 minutes from Bali (DPS) to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) on the standard Air Asia A320. Air Asia advertises that they are bringing flying to the masses, and boy are they ever! I’ve flown on airlines all over the world, including small regional and low cost carriers, but this was an experience like never before. It was also probably one of my cheapest airfares @ $13.18 plus taxes and fees.
- United Airlines Business Class Updated 767-300 Newark (EWR) – Houston (IAH)
- Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Houston (IAH) – Moscow (DME) Part 1
- Singapore Airlines First Class 777-300ER Moscow (DME) – Singapore (SIN) & DME Transfer Lounge Part 2
- The Singapore Airlines Private Room @ SilverKris Lounge Terminal 3 & SilverKris Lounge Terminal 2 @ SIN
- Singapore Airlines Business Class 777-200 Singapore (SIN) – Bali (DPS)
- The St. Regis Bali Resort
- The W Retreat & Spa Bali
- The Brand New Sheraton Bali Kuta
- My First Experience on Air Asia A320 Bali (DPS) – Kuala Lumpur (KUL)
- The Hilton Kuala Lumpur Hotel
- The Westin Kuala Lumpur
- The Cathay Pacific Pier Lounge HKG/Day-Break Rooms, connecting flight KUL – HKG
- Cathay Pacific First Class 777-300ER Hong Kong (HKG) – Vancouver (YVR) – JFK
The fare was booked only a few days before with a base of $13.18 USD and airport taxes of $16.12 for a total of $29.30. I paid an additional $13.07 for up to 20kg (45lbs) of checked luggage. Malaysia Airlines, now a OneWorld partner, also operates on the route. Their fare for a flight 40 minutes earlier was $144 including taxes and fees and included up to 30kg (66lbs) of luggage for free. I had read a lot about Air Asia and wanted to try out their service, plus it was over a $100 difference.
Additionally, it was $1.96 to select a regular seat in advance and $10.35 for a premium seat (first 5 rows or exit row). There was also a processing fee of $2.94. I didn’t pay the additional fee to select my seat as the flight looked super empty. However, upon arriving at the airport and obtaining my boarding pass from the kiosk, I could see I had been assigned a middle seat with no other seats available. I went to the check-in counter and the agent informed me that the seats were blocked out but not actually sold. He gave me seat 14A, one of the emergency row seats! I also received my “boarding pass” which looked like a receipt from a fast food restaurant.
I had about 45 minutes until boarding and planned to grab some food, but as I walked by the lounges, I saw that they were accessible either with the free Lounge Club membership that I received with my Chase Ink Bold and Chase Ink Plus or with the Priority Pass card that some may have from their Platinum American Express cards. The Lounge Club allows for 2 free visits a year per card membership and I rarely use it.
Boarding was simple as there was truly no one on the flight! Being generous there were probably about 40 people on the flight and I had the whole exit row to myself, as well as the two rows behind me, across from me, and in front of me. The flight attendants allowed passengers to switch seats but they were not allowed in the exit rows near me!
The seats were actually pretty nice with comfortable headrests and padded fake leather backs. Regular economy seats have a 29.5″ pitch and a width of 18″.
While the seats might be more comfortable than Ryanair or EasyJet, Air Asia uses several similar techniques to drum up additional revenue, including advertisements on the overhead bins and tray tables, a large menu of food and drink items for sale, and in-flight duty free shopping.
Reading through the in-flight magazine, I actually learned several interesting facts about Air Asia…
1) Air Asia won best low-cost airline in 2009, 2010, 2011, and 2012.
2) Air Asia Citibank Visa holders get free AirAsia X(Air Asia’s international operation) flat-bed upgrades. What a great perk and the T&Cs don’t even seem to restrict the upgrade to certain fares types – Air Asia X Premium Flatbed upgrade only applies to Air Asia-Citibank Platinum Visa Credit Card for tickets purchased in any fare class with the Air Asia-Citibank Platinum Visa Credit Card. Upgrade is only applicable when a Cardmember redeems through Air Asia X Service Counter and it is solely based on seats availability. Upgrades are for one way only.
3) Kenny Rogers Roasters is still kicking all over Southeast Asia!
OK, back to my flight and how Air Asia truly is bringing air travel back to the masses…
There were definitely a lot of passengers on this flight who had never flown before. We had two (yes, not 1 but 2) occurrences of passengers getting up during takeoff to use the bathroom. If you perform a google search, this doesn’t seem all that uncommon. Passengers kept their tray tables down at all times, cell phones were on and ringing, and flight attendants made multiple announcements pleading passengers to remain seated and fasten their safety belts for the climb! I had never seen anything like it. Several Asian carriers tend to have passengers that choose to ignore announcements more so than carriers in other parts of the world, but this was ridiculous.
Once up in the air, the next announcement reminded passengers that no outside food or beverage were allowed to be consumed on the aircraft. They then asked all passengers who pre-booked food to raise their hands and present their boarding passes for validation.
The flight itself was smooth and I spread out across my exit row. While there was no in-flight entertainment system, my fellow passengers were amusement enough. The flight attendants were extremely friendly and made multiple service rounds. My only complaint would be the landing, by far the hardest I’ve ever experienced, though most of my low-cost carrier flights outside of the US tend to have hard and fast landings.
There was one last unfortunate surprise and shame on me for now doing any research prior, Air Asia lands at the low cost terminal in KUL. While it’s still a part of the same international airport, it’s a 20 minute bus ride to the main terminal where all high-speed train options into the city are located. There are multiple buses and most cost only $2. However, don’t expect much room for luggage (no under-carriage luggage) or assistance lifting your bag on-board. I wasn’t in a rush to get anywhere as it was already late at night, but I’ll know for next time to consider all options. Perhaps the extra $100 for the Malaysia flight would be worth it to some.
In any case, Air Asia was a mostly comfortable ride and had great people watching for entertainment. The crew was overly friendly and we departed and arrived early. For under $20, think about giving them a try for your next flight. That said, I don’t think I’ll be taking advantage of their Southeast Asia to Australia routes…
Up next, Hilton & Westin Kuala Lumpur…