Air Asia: Southeast Asia’s sass

Southwest is the originator, Ryanair is the irritator, but Air Asia outdoes them all and is The Rapid Traveler’s favorite budget airline.

Outside the major hubs, Southeast Asia is not well served by the major airline alliances for point to point travel for those on a budget. The major state carriers are either expensive (Thai, Singapore and Malaysia) or expensive AND unreliable (most of the rest). A number of carriers are a big hassle to book online and The Rapid Traveler always tries to avoid telephone bookings for the risk of errors. There are plenty of budget airlines that come and go (perhaps The Rapid Traveler should have avoided Indonesia’s Adam Air).

Air Asia, Surat thani Airport

Photo by jetalone

Air Asia has made all the right moves, winning many awards and is constantly growing (Wikipedia profile). Tony Fernandes, the founder, is a fascinating character (BBC profile, INSEAD interview, and the dress as a stewardess bet with Richard Branson).

It is no frills other than the sassy outfits of the flight attendants (a relief in dour Malaysia), but the up-sell for everything is in good fun. Sponsoring the Oakland Raiders gives a sense of the zesty attitude. Its destinations (full list; route map) now cover all the countries of Southeast Asia, East Asia, India, Sri Lanka, Australia, New Zealand, Iran, and even the UK (London Stansted) and France (Paris Orly).

The main hub is Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s (KUL) Low-Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT), which is 20 km from the main terminal, so watch those connections! On his first Air Asia flight, The Rapid Traveler did not do proper research, spent the night at KUL’s transit hotel thinking it was a quick transfer to Air Asia and nearly missed his flight waiting for the bus between terminals. Secondary hubs are in Bangkok and Jakarta.

In-flight (Air Asia, BKK to URT)

Photo by jetalone

Costs can be incredibly low and open up possibilities for quick jaunts to places that would otherwise be skipped. One long weekend trip in Malaysia The Rapid Travel darted to Penang, Malacca (by car from KUL) and Kuala Terengganu (for Kapas Island) for airfares cheaper than bus.

Booking online can have a few hiccups that will be covered in the next post, and are the only downside to The Rapid Traveler’s many experiences with Air Asia.

Rapid Travel Chai newsletter ¦ Twitter ¦ Facebook ¦ Instagram

  • Sean

    What transit hotel did you stay in KUL? I will arrive in 10pm and to connect my flight at 9am next day. So only need a place to stay, not need to be too fancy. Is it possible to a short city tour for such a short time?

  • @Sean – if you are at the main terminal, Airside Transit Hotel is most convenient, if at the LCCT for Air Asia and other budget airlines, the Tune Hotel KLIA-LCCT Airport, they are quite some distance apart so be careful, I made that mistake my first time.

    The airport is rather far from the city so I personally would not head into the city that late, I am sure there is plenty of nightlife but I find the city to be rather dull.