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Airlines

A Review of AirAsia: Now Everyone Can Fly

AirAsia is a low-cost airline headquartered at Kuala Lumpur International Airport, Malaysia. What was once a struggling airline with 40 million ringgit in debt and 2 airplanes, AirAsia was purchased for 1 ringgit, equivalent to $0.28, in 2001. It has since become one of the largest airlines in Asia with more than 200 aircraft and 21,000 staff across Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines, and has taken more than 600 million passengers to over 160 destinations in its network.

So, what’s it like to fly with AirAsia?

Booking

AirAsia brands itself as a low-cost or budget airline, exemplified by its slogan, ‘Now Everyone Can Fly’. Although it serves passengers in a market that’s experiencing sustained higher airfares and a resurgence in tourism, you can still get some good deals. For example, a one-way flight from Jakarta, Indonesia to Singapore with no checked baggage can go for $27.

AirAsia flight price from Jakarta to Singapore
A one-way AirAsia flight from Jakarta to Singapore can go for $27.

The booking process itself is generally straightforward on the AirAsia app and website with a user-friendly interface to help guide you along from selecting flights to picking a seat. However the technology and infrastructure behind their online systems could do with a lot of improvement.

The app can be frustratingly slow even if you have a good internet connection and don’t be surprised if you regularly encounter technical problems. The website also has its issues. Prior to publishing this article, we selected two destinations in the AirAsia network and chose the date for a one-way flight. No flights populated when we clicked the Search button multiple times. The available flights were only made visible after refreshing the web browser. Similar problems occur within the AirAsia app, which often lags and requires closing and restarting.

If you’re fortunate enough not to encounter any technical issues, the booking process on AirAsia’s app and website is intuitive and streamlined.

Promotions

AirAsia regularly runs promotions, some of which can sound particularly appealing. Free Unlimited Seats for $185 per year, for example, seemed too good to miss for many travellers in 2022. However, only flights that were marked with a “100% OFF” discount were eligible for this promotion, which some people found hard to find. Others, however, were able to make full use of the promotion with some early planning and booking flights several months in advance.

AirAsia Super+ flight availability options from Malaysia to Singapore
With some early planning and checking of flight availabilities, customers could make good use of AirAsia Super+.

Seats

For a low-cost airline, AirAsia has a generous number of seating options. When booking a flight, passengers have the option to select seats for a charge. But if you don’t want to pay, a seat will be allocated to you for free. This is slightly different to other airlines, such as Etihad Airways, whereby you have the option to pay for seat selection in advance, but the choice for standard seats is made free once online check-in has opened.

AirAsia cabin
AirAsia passengers have the option to pay for a seat selection in advance or to have a seat allocated to them for free.

Standard seats in their AirAsia’s Airbus A320 and Airbus A330 aircrafts have a width of at least 16″. Hot Seats are located towards the front of the plane and provide more leg room than standard seats. And depending on your flight, there may also be options to book Twin Seats, which are two seats together without a middle seat for extra privacy, or Premium Flatbeds, which are 19” wide seats that can recline to a full flatbed. AirAsia also designates rows 7-14 on AirAsia X flights as Quiet Zones.

AirAsia cabin
AirAsia’s Hot Seats are located towards the front of the aircraft.

Cabin Crew & Safety

Much like any professional airline is expected to, AirAsia takes flight safety seriously. It has been rated among the top 20 safest low-cost airlines in the world and Skytrax gives ‘Attention to cabin safety’ the highest rating among AirAsia’s Cabin Staff Service.

While you’re likely hear about both positive and negative experiences of AirAsia’s cabin crew – an almost inevitable consequence of flying millions of passengers – the cabin crew on the whole are helpful, have the required language skills and are proficient in their service.

AirAsia poster: Fly With the Best

Meals

Although the majority of AirAsia flights are short-haul (4 hours or less), it has a surprisingly large number of meal options, referred to as Santan Value Meals. These include ASEAN, international and vegetarian options, and there are various snacks and drinks to choose from.

Somewhat frustratingly, if you want to buy a drink or snack that you haven’t pre-booked, some flights only accept cash and some accept credit card payments. Given that various Asian countries are moving towards cashless societies, it would make sense for AirAsia to broaden the range of payment options.

If you are looking to purchase a drink or snack during your flight, it’s worth getting some cash before your flight. Typically one pays in the currency of the country where you depart from, so if you’re departing from Kuala Lumpur to Bangkok, you’ll pay in Malaysian ringgit. However flight attendants also do currency conversions if you happen to have cash in another currency.

Shopping

If you’re looking to do some duty-free shopping that includes cosmetics, fragrances, electronics and AirAsia collectibles, these purchases can be made at the AirAsia shop and delivered directly to your seat on the plane.

Inflight WiFi

AirAsia offers inflight WiFi with the goal of creating “the largest connected community in the sky”. Wifi services include inflight entertainment, music playlists, games and AirAsia Academy, an on-demand learning portal. While AirAsia’s inflight Wifi services are comprehensive for short-haul flights, we have to return to AirAsia’s internet infrastructure.

AirAsia plane seat with information on how to connect to its inflight wifi.
On Wifi-enabled flights, passengers can connect to the internet once the plane reaches cruising altitude (10,000 feet and above).

At times, the technical frustrations that appeared during the booking process re-appear when attempting to connect to AirAsia’s inflight Wifi. During one particular WiFi-enabled flight, we tried to connect to wifi.airasia.com several times, only to be met with warnings that the network had security issues and our connection wasn’t private. We viewed the SSL certificate and noticed that it had expired in March 2023 despite the flight taking place in August 2023.

If you’re on a short-haul flight, you might just give up and look out of the window (if you can!). But if internet connectivity is important, it’s worth asking a flight attendant for assistance. And if you’re able to get online, there’s a wide variety of entertainment and connection options that’s a generous offering for a low-cost airline.

Delays

If you’ve booked an AirAsia flight, you might hear someone mention the likelihood of it being delayed. Sometimes it’s said as a joke – Oh, you’re on an AirAsia flight? You can turn up an hour late and you’ll still make it on time! – and sometimes it’s a reflection of the state of airline scheduling in the region. In fact, AirAsia itself has addressed the issue, pointing out that it and all other airlines are experiencing more complexity across the ecosystem of airline operations, derived from the surge in travel demand.

Fortunately AirAsia provides regular operational statistics, so if you’re booking a flight, at least you can make an informed decision. AirAsia considers a flight on-time if it departs within 15 minutes of the scheduled departure time.

AirAsia On-Time Performance statistics between 8/1/2023 to 8/7/2023
74% of AirAsia flights departed from the gate on-time.

From January to July 2023, 5,766 AirAsia flights were scheduled. 74% departed from the gate on time, suggesting that the perception of recurring flight delays is somewhat inaccurate. AirAsia Thailand experiences less delays than its counterparts for short-haul flights, but has significantly more delays for long-haul flights (AirAsia X). Also if you’re traveling with AirAsia Malaysia, then perhaps the expectation of a delay is justified as only 66% of its flights departed on-time.

Lost Baggage

Waiting for a long time at the conveyor belt for your baggage to arrive can be one of the more frustrating experiences out there, particularly if it doesn’t turn up! So, what are the chances of your baggage getting lost or damaged? AirAsia publishes stats on this too.

AirAsia Missing & Damaged Baggage statistics from 8/1/2023 to 8/7/2023
AirAsia Indonesia receives 7.4 missing or damaged baggage reports for every 10,000 passengers flown.

The table above shows how many lost or damaged baggage reports AirAsia receives for every 10,000 passengers flown. For AirAsia Thailand only 3.3 reports were submitted for every 10,000 passengers, and even though AirAsia X Malaysia has the highest figure, only 11.9 reports were received. Going by these stats, AirAsia passengers can be quite confident that their baggage won’t get lost or damaged.

But what if your baggage does get lost? This is what to do:

  1. Go to AirAsia support staff and explain that your baggage hasn’t arrived after the conveyor belt has stopped.
  1. You’ll be asked to fill out a Property Irregularity Report (PIR) that includes passenger details, flight information and baggage description.
AirAsia Property Irregularity Report, to be filled out for lost baggage
AirAsia Property Irregularity Report
  1. Once you’ve filled out the report, it’s time to leave the airport. Understandably this could be very inconvenient if you have important items in your baggage, but if it is found, AirAsia will contact you on the details provided in the PIR.

If the baggage is found, you’ll have the option to collect it from the AirAsia Lost and Found Central Baggage Tracing Office at the airport or to have it delivered to your address. Bear in mind:

  • If you’re collecting the baggage from the airport, bring the Property Irregularity Report and your passport.
  • It may be that certain regulations delay the delivery of your baggage for 2-3 days, and so if the items in your baggage are necessities, collecting from the airport might be a better option.

If you want to file a claim for expenses or otherwise relating to the delayed baggage, this needs to be done within 21 days of you having received it. If you haven’t received your baggage within 7 days for domestic flights and 14 days for international flights, AirAsia will change the status of your baggage from ‘delayed’ to ‘missing’. In that case, you’ll be asked to provide additional details and the Central Baggage Tracing Office will get in touch for further instructions.

Conclusion

Overall AirAsia is an excellent airline that’s been rated the best low-cost airline in Asia by AirlineRatings. Its internet infrastructure needs some improvement to make booking and connectivity processes smoother, and as a budget airline, it finds itself in a conflicting position due to the sustained rise in airfares that’s affecting the market both in Asia and globally.

However AirAsia has a tradition of innovation, being the first airline in the world to introduce SMS booking and being Asia’s first ticketless airline. And with the introduction of AirAsia MOVE, it’s seeking to “unlock a new era of travel innovation”. As such, AirAsia is a popular airline that’s well-positioned to take advantage of the resurgence in travel demand and is a great option for travellers to explore Asia and beyond.

A view of clouds and sky from an AirAsia plane
Flying through the skies with AirAsia.
AirAsia poster: The AirAsia Super Sale

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