Air Asia now offer a budget air service from Australia to over 100 Asian destinations, as far as Jeddah in the Middle East and Tokyo and Seoul to the north, so… being rather disillusioned with Australia’s own long-haul service offered by Jetstar, I thought I’d try one of the shiny new alternatives. Here’s my Air Asia review…
Besides, the sale prices to destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi, even Manila, Hong Kong and Tokyo, are simply too irresistible.
My first Air Asia experience actually starts in Asia, in Kota Kinabalu, Sabah on a short crowded domestic flight to Tawau on the east coast for a week of diving on the reefs around Sipadan Island.
The on-line check-in procedure is pretty easy and despite the airport being insanely busy and the fact that we’re a bit late due to horrendous traffic turning a 45-minute trip from our hotel into a 90-minute nail-biter, we’re ushered through Bag Drop and security fairly swiftly.
I’ve got more than my usual amount of luggage with me, as I’m lugging heavy dive gear with me, along with a carry-on full of camera equipment. The dive gear weighs in at 20kg, comfortably under the 25kg limit but it’s the carry-on I’m worried about.
Overhead locker space on budget domestic flights is not usually generous so I’m rather surprised to find plenty of room for both backpack and trundle bag I use for laptop, cameras and various other paraphernalia. There’s also a reasonable amount of legroom and laptop room on this A320-200, making it easy for me to work during the flight.
My next flight with Air Asia, from Tawau to Kuala Lumpur, is a bit longer so there’s a chance to sample the inflight menu, which I must say, is pretty bloody tempting.
The menu reflects Air Asia’s multi-cultural Malaysian heritage with a choice of Nasi Lemak, Vegetable Biryani, Ginger Fried Rice, Chicken Rice, even Mac n Cheese. As people start to order the smell makes it even more tempting.
A special mention is deserved for the selection of tea and coffee. Aussies will be particularly impressed with Air Asia’s “Barista in the Skies”. A selection of gourmet coffee including espresso and cappuccino made by flight attendants with barista training.
There’s no inflight entertainment but most people seem happy enough with whatever they’ve loaded onto their various devices, and I’m pleasantly surprised by the quality of the inflight magazine, Travel 3 Sixty.
The magazine is a well-balanced mix of high quality editorial, with health and lifestyle features, in-depth travel features with a focus on culture, and simply beautiful photography throughout.
There are interesting interviews with real people doing interesting things, and a pleasing absence of celebrity worship. It kept me enthralled for the length of the flight.
In the issue I’m blessed with during the month of June, I’m particularly impressed by the inclusion of several features covering the environment and sustainability issues, such as a feature on sustainable structures and an interview with a passionate WWF programme officer.
My only criticism would be the Destination Guide to Australian cities – which is sadly lacking in detail compared to the other Asian city guides. And sorry guys but Darwin is not famous for wine and Circular Quay is not a “Party Zone” – except maybe on New Year’s Eve as apres-fireworks, people cram on to ferries and trains in a bid to get home and escape the crowds. (Give me a shout guys – I can help 🙂 @where2nextblog)
On the long haul to Sydney, on the larger A330-300, inflight entertainment is available for hire via a Samsung Galaxy Tab with up to 8 hours battery life (just enough for the flight to Sydney).
The tablet comes with a wide range of movies, games and music to keep you entertained and costs MYR60 (about $20) to hire on board. If you pre-book your tablet, you’ll save MYR10 ($3.50).
If you want to dine on board it’s a good idea to pre-order your meals but if, like me, you’re on a late night flight that arrives in Sydney early morning, you may appreciate being able to sleep through. Having not ordered a meal it was great not having the lights come on three hours before landing and being jostled awake for a mediocre breakfast.
For an even quieter night, there’s also the option to pay a bit more for a seat up front in the Quiet Zone which doesn’t allow children under the age of 12.
Overall, I’d give this budget long haul experience a big thumbs-up. A decent amount of leg room, quiet cabin on the night flight with no rude awakenings and a fantastic range of inflight meals.
The author was a guest of Air Asia. For more information on Air Asia destinations and special offers, visit the website.