Trip Report & Review – AirAsia “Premium Flex” Chiang Mai to Bangkok-Don Mueang

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:

Booking

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!

AirAsia Premium Flex booking

AirAsia Premium Flex booking

 

Check-In

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.

AirAsia Check In Counter

AirAsia Check In Counter

 

We finally checked out bags in, and the 20 kg checked baggage allowance was…well, let’s just say I cut it rrrreeaalllllyy close.

AirAsia Check In - Baggage Scale

AirAsia Check In – Baggage Scale

 

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.

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - Boarding Gate

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Boarding Gate

 

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.

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - HOT Seat

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – HOT Seat

 

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - HOT Seat

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – HOT 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.

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - Boarding Pass

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Boarding Pass

 

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.

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - Green Curry

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Green Curry

 

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - Green Curry

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Green Curry

 

Meanwhile, my friend ordered the chicken lasagna, which he said was also pretty delicious.

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - Chicken Lasagna

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Chicken Lasagna

 

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - Chicken Lasagna

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – Chicken Lasagna

 

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.

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok - "In-Flight Entertainment"

AirAsia Chiang Mai to Bangkok – “In-Flight Entertainment”

 

Overall Impression

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!

Comments

  1. In Thailand, people usually opt for NokAir or Thai Lion Air rather than AirAsia for low-cost options. They don’t nickel & dime as much (e.g. free bag, free snacks and drinks on board).

  2. I’ll be taking my first AirAsia flight soon and also booked a Premium Flex fare. I selected an aisle seat in row 1, but am wondering how close it is to the bulkhead wall. You mentioned that you were in the bulkhead row. Please advise if there was sufficient leg room. Thanks.

    • Hi Richard! I am only 5′ 8″, but I found the legroom at the bulkhead to be perfectly adequate. My friend was 6 feet tall, and neither of us could extend our legs all the way without touching the bulkhead, so it’s definitely not the same as having the “under the seat” space you’d get in non-bulkhead rows, but I didn’t feel cramped at all, and was happy with my decision. Hope that helps!

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