In the spirit of reviewing things, and the interest it seems to create when I DO review something (My KLIA2 review very quickly became my most viewed post) I thought I’d review my recent flights of a week and a half ago on Air Asia.
For those of you who have never flown Air Asia, or much in this part of the world, Air Asia are a budget airline, based in Kuala Lumpur that now fly out of the new KLIA2 terminal. They have destinations across Asia and Australia, including India, Japan, Korea, China and pretty much all of South East Asia. They used to fly to Paris as well, but that has been cut from their destination list sadly and the closest they fly to Europe is now Jeddah in Saudi-Arabia.
My flights –
Friday, 9th of May, Tokyo (Haneda) to Kuala Lumpur (KLIA2), leaving 11.45pm. 7hr 20min
Saturday, 10th of May, Kuala Lumpur to Melbourne, leaving 1.40pm. 7hr 10 min
My wife and I were contacted by Air Asia a couple of days before we flew out from Tokyo to let us know that we would not be transiting at the old ‘shed’ – the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT) in Kuala Lumpur, but the just opened KLIA2. This was greeted with happiness and a little excitement. The LCCT was seriously a pretty crappy place to transit, and for the cheapest Air Asia fares from Japan through to Melbourne, the wait was always 7 hours or thereabouts, in both directions. Although the new terminal was in disarray, it proved far better than the old shed.
Secondly, with two days to go, I was informed my choice of meal – prepaid – on the second flight, was no longer available. The email invited me to choose something else, but the website then asked me to pay the entire cost, which I had already done. In the end, I chose a meal on the flight for no extra cost, so that was okay I guess but annoying.
The cost of the flights, for one person, was around 25,000 yen, plus another 5,000 yen for 20kg of luggage. That’s a total of about $300 US, and if we had booked a week earlier, there were cheaper fares available. Air Asia and Tiger may vie for the cheapest fares, but Air Asia has the larger network and better service.
At the airport, we arrived very early. In fact, we were the first in the queue. It was a good thing – there had been a mistake in the booking. We should have had 45kgs of luggage to check in, but were only given 40kg. We don’t know whose fault it was, ours or the airline’s, but let’s be magnanimous and say it was ours. Nevertheless, we desperately had to offload a number of kilos at the check-in counter which to be frank, is rather embarrassing.
Haneda Airport is not the most interesting airport in the world, it doesn’t have a lot of shops or outlets, but it also isn’t all that busy, and its taxes are far FAR less than Narita, the main Tokyo Airport. It’s also much closer to Tokyo and Yokohama, pretty much less than 10 bucks on the train from anywhere in that precinct. On the other hand, it’s 20-30 or more dollars to Narita, and takes far longer. You factor the taxes and the travel expense into your ticket, and you save a considerable amount flying into or out of Haneda. This, I believe, is an important tip. I’ve seen good looking fares triple after tax from Narita. Air Asia also usually give you basically what you’ll pay all up before you include add-ons on their website, I have found that Jetstar DON’T. Tax, in the case of Jetstar, turns a great fare into an ordinary fare, usually on one of the final pages of your booking.
Both flights left on time, or near enough to. My previous experiences at Haneda with Air Asia were that they hurried everyone up with the rather odd plan of leaving early. This time it was a more standard boarding procedure on what was, and usually is, a full flight. Especially on a Friday night, apparently many Japanese people take the overnight flight and get to Kuala Lumpur for a weekend of shopping and come home on the Sunday.
The flight was a little bumpy, but passengers were well warned that turbulence lay ahead and it wasn’t severe at all. I slept a bit, the lights were turned off after a couple of hours and a food service – my chicken sandwich was pretty tasty. I don’t sleep well on flights, and I had the middle seat which, you know, sucks, but I guess it was all ok. We arrived on time, although both flights took a little longer than I remember last year.
The second flight was smoother, I took the roast chicken meal which was quite good, if a little small, but I was happy. My wife was also happy with her meal, which was a vegetarian option with basmati rice. The staff on both flights were really friendly, happy to chat, happy for the most part. I think that’s one of the major pluses on Air Asia. The staff also spoke a variety of languages and were from different parts of Asia – Japan, Malaysia, Korea for example. We touched down just a fraction early in Melbourne, and despite a little wait for the bags to arrive, we couldn’t complain.
Both flights were with Airbuses. On the first leg there was a little issue with an arm rest that came off, and the toilets weren’t very clean (by airline standard) on the first flight, but they were clean on the second (there was a marked difference, although they weren’t dreadful or anything on the first flight). The seat configuration was 3-3-3, with the last few rows at the very back of the planes 2-3-2. The seats are a little squashy, the knees don’t get a lot of room, BUT I have been in planes where there was far less room. The business class option looked really nice, the business class passengers appeared to have a sort of cubicle to themselves.
I was able to watch movies on my laptop in the plane which was nice, but they also rent ipads out as entertainment units with a number of things to watch, although that’s a little limited. They also had reserve batteries to rent which worked for ipods, ipads and a number of laptops as well including my Lenovo, although I didn’t need it. Let’s face it, most people carry about enough things these days to keep themselves entertained for a seven-hour flight!
All-in-all, it’s not the BEST flying experience you’ll have, but when you factor in the price, it is as good value-for-money flying as I think you can do these days. I subtract a star for the wait between flights and the arm rest/toilets on the first flight, but I can say I have never had a delayed Air Asia flight, whereas with Tiger, Jetstar and Spring Airlines, all budget airlines operating in Asia, I have experienced delays. And I’ve flow Air Asia more often than those other three put together.
I would rate my experience flying Tokyo to Melbourne with Air Asia FOUR out of FIVE stars.
PS. Find my review on KLIA2 HERE.