September 28, 2019

AirAsia: An Asian airline success story

Australia’s love affair with Thailand just seems to strengthen every year. By the time you read this, arrivals from Australia will have surpassed the 800,000 per year mark, placing pressure on our airlines and airports to deliver and receive these visitors.

Currently the majority of arrivals are through Bangkok’s two busy hubs, Suvarnabhumi (BKK) and Don Mueang (DMK), the latter being the dedicated hub for Low Cost Carriers (LCCs) such as for Nok Air, Thai AirAsia and Thai Lion Air.

Founded in 2001, Air Asia has been the dominant LCC in Asia having just won Skytrax’s ‘World's Best Low-Cost Airline’ for the 11th successive year and recently logged their 600 millionth passenger.

A true ‘pan-Asia’ airline, AirAsia serves more than 150 destinations across 400 routes with 250 modern A320 and A330 Airbus aircraft. To achieve this comprehensive coverage, AirAsia operates more than 11,000 weekly flights and utilises 23 airports (hubs) across Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Philippines and Japan.

AirAsia X Airbus A330-300

Latest news from the airline is direct long-haul flights from Bangkok to Brisbane on spacious AirAsia X Airbus A330 aircraft and includes a new ‘Red Carpet Service’ with a dedicated check-in area, priority baggage delivery, complimentary lounge access and express boarding for guests departing Brisbane International Airport.

The airline projects to carry up to 150,000 people between the two cities over the next year on the XJ 310/311 flight pair which will operate four times a week.

The ‘Red Carpet Service’ is offered in conjunction with Plaza Premium Lounge and is available for pre-booking at for just AUD$75 and offers up to three hours of lounge access, complimentary food, alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages and shower facilities.

AirAsia also offers ‘Red Carpet Service’ at Don Mueang International Airport in Bangkok.

The wide-body 377-seat Airbus A330-300 is the mainstay of the long-haul arm of AirAsia, Air Asia X, with state-of-the-art A330neos soon to be introduced on this route, an Australian first.
[update: A330neos now on route]

AirAsiaX Premium Flatbed on the A330 (supplied)

These aircraft also incorporate the Premium Flatbed service in the forward cabin. The 12 seats come with a privacy screen, an adjustable head and foot rest, as well as a pillow and duvet. This premium service also includes extra baggage allowance (40kg), meals, in-flight entertainment and lounge access.

Traveloscopy test flew the new Brisbane route with the Premium Flatbed service on the return leg (via KL to Sydney) and found the service everything it claimed to be. Of course, it’s not directly comparable to full service business class, but then you must consider the price. While there was no inflight entertainment in economy on the outward leg, AirAsia assures us this feature will be added via mobile app very shortly. On our premium leg, we were provided a preloaded tablet with a selection of movies and other entertainment.

Preordered Economy class meal. (RE)

Meals are comparable to economy class on the better full service airlines and includes such choices as the highly recommended nasi lemak, spaghetti marinara, chicken satay or a cheese omelette with mushrooms, baked beans and chicken sausage. Soft drinks are included, but alcohol must be purchased.

The seat pitch is 60 inches, expanding to 77 inches when fully extended. Width is 20 inches. While the description is ‘full flat’, it is not full horizontal as the seat has a slight downward slope when fully extended. There are two reading lights and a handy universal powerpoint under the seat. Plus you can rest your laptop on the sturdy tray table. There’s also space for storing shoes, recesses for magazines or an iPad, and a small pocket for headphones and water bottles.

We visited the Red Lounge in Kuala Lumpur’s LCC terminal KLIA2 before boarding D7-222 to Sydney. The split level lounge, while not large, has a convivial ‘clubhouse’ feel with plenty of table and bench space with connections for laptops and USB charging. Food is hot ‘finger food’ style snacks such as chicken wings, rice, pasta and noodles. Soft drinks are freely available with canned beer available at extra cost (AUD5). There are two showers and upstairs is an open ‘chill out’ space with bean bags, so you could grab a nap if it doesn’t get too noisy.

AirAsia is one of Asia’s airline success stories with increasing profit, market share and passenger numbers where many other airlines are struggling to break even. If you are looking for a no frills yet quality airline offering, AirAsia get our thumbs up.

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