There are almost 100 flights between Chiang Mai and Bangkok daily, so it’s a pretty highly competitive route. Since it wasn’t part of a larger itinerary, I had the task of booking this one-way flight on its own. For such a short flight, I couldn’t justify using points and miles, which leaves me with cash rates. In the end, I found a pretty good rate with AisAsia, and decided to give this highly lauded low-cost carrier a try!
This trip report/review is part of a series. See also:
- 1. Trip to Southeast Asia – Introduction
- 2. Hyatt at the Bellevue, Philadelphia (King Room)
- 3. Hyatt at the Bellevue, Philadelphia (Junior Suite)
- 4. EVA Air Royal Laurel (Business Class) “Hello Kitty” Jet Houston-Taipei
- 5. Grand Hyatt Taipei (Haunted?) Grand Suite
- 6. InterContinental Hong Kong Patio Room
- 7. Coral Executive Lounge Bangkok-Don Mueang
- 8. AirAsia “Premium Flex” Chiang Mai to Bangkok-Don Mueang
- 9. Conrad Bangkok (King Room)
- 10. Conrad Bangkok Executive Lounge
- 11. Conrad Bangkok Presidential Suite Bedroom
- 12. Grand Hyatt Bangkok Grand King Room
- 13. Thai Airways 777-300ER Royal Silk Business Class Bangkok to Stockholm
- 14. Park Hyatt Istanbul Park Deluxe Twin Room
- 15. Turkish Airlines Lounge Istanbul (“July 15 Heroes of Democracy Lounge”)
- 16. Turkish Airlines A330 Business Class Istanbul-Washington DC
AirAsia has established themselves to be pretty reputable among low-cost carriers, so I was pretty excited to check them out. Adam previously reviewed his experience, and you can check out his AirAsia review here. AirAsia has many divisions within its company, and the Chiang Mai to Bangkok route is operated by AirAsia Thai. However, you can book flights to any of their destination on the same website.
As a low-cost carrier, there is a lot of nickel-and-diming: you pay extra for food, priority boarding, seat selection, and baggage. For such a long trip, I had brought a checked bag with me, which I thought was going to cost me an arm and a leg. However, AirAsia actually has a special package you can add on to a flight, called Premium Flex. With the package, you get, among other things:
- A 20 kg baggage allowance
- Free meal in-flight
- Seat selection in advance
- Xpress Boarding
- Access to Premium Flex counter
I did the math, and adding the entire package would have cost around $3 more than just paying for the bag. I splurged for it, and as I will explain below, I am so glad I did. On top of the Premium Flex package, you can add things like extra baggage allowance, but I opted not to.
All in all, I paid about US$57 for the flight, including the Premium Flex package, for the 1-hour flight. Pretty good deal!
When I arrived at Chiang Mai airport, there was about 80 people in front of the AirAsia counter. Luckily, with the package I had access to the priority check-in counter. I walked up to the counter, and was told that they do not accept bags 2 hours prior to departure. I guess I should have stayed at the hotel a bit longer!
It was a bit annoying, but in the grand scheme of things it wasn’t a big deal. I suppose I’d rather wait to check my bag than run the risk of them losing it. My friend and I ended up just sitting in the terminal for a little bit.
There was a sign saying monks and priests get priority boarding, which I thought was interesting, as I don’t think I have seen that before.
We finally checked out bags in, and the 20 kg checked baggage allowance was…well, let’s just say I cut it rrrreeaalllllyy close.
Boarding and Flight Experience
There is only one lounge in the Chiang Mai domestic terminal, which belongs to Thai Airways. There was free WiFi in the terminal, though, which came in handy.
Boarding commenced about 30 minute prior to departure, and Premium Flex passengers were allowed to board first.
I was happy to find the cabin clean, and I think they have a pretty young Airbus fleet. As a Premium Flex passenger, you can reserve what AirAsia calls HOT seats. These seats have a red headrest cover, and usually consist of bulkhead rows, exit rows, and rows close to the front of the plane. I reserved a bulkhead row seat.
A complimentary in-flight hot meal also comes with the Premium Flex package, which you can pre-order online.
If you have never flown AirAsia before, let me give one piece of (unsolicited) advice. Keep your boarding pass with you even after you have seated. I am guilty of not doing that, since I usually toss it in my backpack once it was scanned at the gate. When I boarded, flight attendants checked everyone’s boarding pass to make sure they’re on the right plane. Additionally, just about everything you have pre-ordered is marked on your boarding pass with AirAsia. In fact, they stamp your boarding pass right before handing you your meal.
I pre-ordered the green curry chicken, which was very flavorful and delicious. There are no accompaniments, but for a short flight I really didn’t mind. It’s a low-cost carrier after all! Although I didn’t pre-order a drink, I still received a small cup of water. I recall seeing orange juices packaged like that for in-flight meals when I was little, probably to save time for flight attendants, but this is probably the first time I’ve seen one in a few years.
Speaking of flight attendants, they were very friendly and spoke excellent English on my flight. It’s a relatively truncated in-flight service, since not everybody gets a meal or a drink, but I can still see the pressure of serving a full plane in such a short time. The flight attendants had incredible patience with people who probably (like me) have never flown with the airline before, and didn’t quite know all the ins and outs.
Meanwhile, my friend ordered the chicken lasagna, which he said was also pretty delicious.
Interestingly, I saw a few people ask for to-go bags for their meals. I didn’t know that was an option, but I could totally see the reason, especially for such a short flight.
There was no WiFi or in-flight entertainment, but I improvised with my iPad. See? This is just like domestic first class.
I was really impressed with AirAsia! My only other low-cost carrier experience was with RyanAir, and I vowed to never fly them again after my first experience. (You guessed it, I flew with them again after that.) I have heard that AirAsia is “nothing like that,” and this experience more or less validated that. The flight attendants were friendly, I didn’t feel like a cattle getting shoved into a metal tube, and I got from Point A to Point B without a hitch.
The “regular AirAsia experience” was probably made better by the Premium Flex package, so I know this won’t be everyone’s experience. But in my case, the price for the package was almost a no-brainer, especially since I was checking a bag anyway. This is also a short flight, so I don’t know how much I can generalize my experience to longer flights.
All in all, though, I definitely won’t mind flying AirAsia again!