AIR ASIA, The World’s Best Low-Cost Airline
This low-cost, no frills Malaysian airline whose operations started in 1996 was the first budget airline in Asia. This airline’s international flights started in 2003 started flying to the Philippines (Clark) in 2005.
Since 2007, I have flown with Air Asia 3x. And I am happy to say that the quality of the airline and it’s service has improved since then.
July 2007 – Clark, Philippines-Kota Kinabalu, Malaysia
In 2007, only 2 commercial airlines flew out of the Diosdado Macapagal Airport at Clark Field, Pampanga – Air Asia and Tiger Airways. Despite the distance of the airport from Manila, we tried both airlines due to the very cheap costs of their tickets. During our first flight with Air Asia, I was sorely disappointed simply because it really was a budget airline- no food, no tv and unassigned seats. The seats weren’t comfortable and the planes seemed old.
February 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Siem Reap, Cambodia
Fast forward to 2 1/2 years later, along with a couple more budget airlines (including Cebu Pacific and Spirit of Manila), Air Asia still flies from Clark. We had to stop at Kuala Lumpur for one night for each leg of our trip (to Cambodia and back to the Philippines) since Air Asia only flies to KL and Kota Kinabalu from Clark. Air Asia’s main hub can be found at the Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA), more specifically at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal (LCCT). To our surprise the LCCT wasn’t the normal budget airport like the one in Clark and Singapore, etc. The terminal was big and literally hordes of people fly in and out all day. It felt like a regular yet slightly older airport to me. If you arrive with a couple of other flights, it will take you at least 30 minutes-1 hour just to get through immigration.
For the first part of our trip we looked for an airport hotel that where we could stay the night. Our options were limited to the Concorde Inn at the KLIA or the Tune Hotel at the LCCT (Air Aisa’s Budget Hotel). Technically even though the LCCT is located at the KL International Airport it would have been expensive for us just to take a taxi to the Concorde Inn and apparently a good 20 minutes just to get to the Main Airport. So we ended up staying at the Tune Hotel (there’s a free shuttle from the LCCT to the hotel or you could also take a bus for 1 myr). Making a booking at this hotel was similar to booking a ticket in Air Asia- the price for the room itself was pretty cheap but we had to pay for other necessities such as towels, air-conditioning, etc. We’ve stayed in cramped rooms before but I was utterly disappointed with this hotel- in my personal opinion this was the worst hotel I’ve ever stayed in. Again, I am a bit obsessive-compulsive when it comes to the cleanliness of a hotel room and bathroom.; size – not so much as long as I could still walk around the room. Our room was SMALL – think of a small room and make it smaller, that’s how small it was. Our only piece of luggage could hardly fit the room. Imagine a bed in the middle of the room, headboard leaning on one wall and the 3 other walls just 2 ft from the sides of the bed. The bathroom on the other hand was fairly clean and was literally almost half the size of the room. But what totally ruined it for me were the ants – red ants everywhere. Fortunately, we didn’t have to stay long and had to leave the hotel at 5 am the next day.
After flying back from Cambodia we had to spend another night in Kuala Lumpur. We decided to stay in the city to see the Petronas Towers. We stayed at the Piccolo Hotel which was located at Bukit Bintang. It was a pretty good hotel. The hotel’s location was right in the middle of the shopping area. To get to the hotel we took the Star Shuttle which was a bus ride to one of the shuttles’ hub near the city center and a car ride from there which brought us directly to the hotel. Our flight was early in the morning once again so we took an expensive taxi ride back to LCCT (the concierge told us that there were no buses that leave very early for the airport; we found out later on that he was wrong). Our flight back was pretty decent and I was very happy with the way Air Asia had improved.
May 2010 – Clark, Philippines-Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia-Melbourne, Australia
AIR ASIA (Clark-Kuala Lumpur; Kuala Lumpur-Clark)
Just like our Clark-Cambodia trip, we had to stop in Kuala Lumpur for one night to and from Clark. We didn’t want all the hassles of our last KL trip so we really researched all our options (with a baby in tow we had to make sure that we stayed in a clean place that was accessible). This is why we ended up staying at Hotel@Sentral. We took the KL Rapid (Bus to the nearby train station and then a train to the KL Central Station – around 12 myr per way). I wouldn’t recommend this since it’s cheaper to take the Skybus. Ideally we could’ve walked to our hotel but since it was pouring when we arrived, we had to take a taxi for 10 myr for a 2 minute ride (Malaysian taxi drivers are the worst! They don’t use their meters and would always overcharge tourists). To go to the airport the following day, we walked to the station and took the SkyBus (Air Asia Shuttle – 9 myr one way) to the LCCT. When we got back from Melbourne, we stayed at the same hotel but we took the SkyBus to/from the Central Station instead (17 myr round trip). We loved the hotel due to it’s proximity to the Central Station (Bus & Trains) and the KL Monorail. The flights were decent and I have nothing to complain about but because my 22 month old son didn’t have his own seat, it was pretty cramped. Also, checking in for Asia flights at the LCCT was a breeze.
AIR ASIA X (KL-Melbourne; Melbourne-KL)
I was very apprehensive about taking a long haul flight using Air Asia. First it takes 8 hrs to get to Melbourne from KL which is the same number of hours from Manila to Melbourne (it takes an additional 4 hours from Clark to KL). Secondly, based on my previous experiences unless you pay for the hot seats, the seats had no legroom whatsoever. Lastly, I would be carrying my little boy the whole time. But I was ECSTATIC when I found out that AIR ASIA X was really a new, big and clean plane. The seats were comfortable and had more than enough legroom (much much roomier than Philippine Airlines). They still didn’t have free movies and stuff but it was fine. We did not upgrade seats even though I really wanted to since we didn’t want to pay more than we needed to. Our flight back to KL from Melbourne wasn’t a full flight so my son was able to score his own seat. In other words, I was very happy with Air Asia X. They really exceeded my expectations. The only negative thing I can think of was the long line at the check-in counter (at the Kuala Lumpur LCCT and even at the Melbourne Tullarmine Airport).
MEALS – We paid for our meals at the same time we booked our tickets. Apparently Air Asia sometimes runs out of food during the flight so unless you want to take that chance, you must pre-book your meals. For our Asia flights we didn’t book meals anymore since the hours were shorter.
LUGGAGE– The standard luggage allowance is 15kg per person which you need to pay for. Children without seats do not have luggage allowances similar to those given by bigger commercial airlines. You can upgrade your luggage allowance to 20kg, 25kg and 30kg. We had to upgrade one of our bags for our Clark/Kl/Melbourne trip to make room for my son’s stuff. If your name and the names of your companions are in one ticket/itinerary only, you can share the luggage allowance. It’s better to pay for an upgrade beforehand versus finding out your bag is overweight at the check-in counter because the fees are quite high.
SkyBus– You can buy tickets for the SkyBus during the flight.
DIOSDADO MACAPAGAL Airport – Park and Fly (open parking lot) costs 90 pesos per night. There are also shuttles to/from Manila.
Overall, I would definitely fly Air Asia again; hopefully not in the very near future because it’s tiring having to pass by Kuala Lumpur every single time. I hope that sooner or later there will be direct Air Asia flights from Clark other than Kuala Lumpur and Kota Kinabalu. But nevertheless I’m still looking forward to our future trips via Air Asia.