Monday, October 11, 2004

Flying on a budget: Air Asia

Air Asia Posted by Hello

Today I’ve just read a blog about Air Asia by someone with a gripe due to a rescheduling of her flight. I sympathize but also faulting the carrier for one incident of discomfiture does not give a clear picture of the company at all. Well I would like to share with you a little about my own experience with Air Asia (AA).

AA is a budget air service, we must emphasize this fact that thought somebody know this very well still say why can’t AA give the type of service offered by Malaysian Air Services (MAS) the national carrier. Budget travelers do not expect creature comfort, an analogy; backpackers would never mind sleeping in a dingy bunk bed with only a small fan creaking on top for ventilation, no television, no fridge, communal toilets nor do they expect a mint on their fluffed up pillow to welcome them. They want fast, cheap and available and that’s what they get.

For me, a university student from Kuantan that is studying in Sabah, air travel by conventional means (MAS) is down right expensive. At a price tag of RM 440 one way from Kuala Lumpur (KL) to Kota Kinabalu (KK) and a transit flight from Kuantan to Kl (RM 120) I wouldn’t have a chance to even visit home during my three year stint. Enter AA, with its promise that ‘Everyone can fly’, which I think is marvelous. Now I fly at RM 169 (cheapest fare, highest could reach RM 200 plus but is still cheaper than MAS) from Kl-KK! Ok so we do away with the booking beforehand service, ok so we have to pay surcharges if we need a schedule change, ok so there’s a 15 kg baggage limit, ok so we have to wait in line, ok so we have to be there 2 hours in advance, ok so we have no prior seating arrangement, ok so no food or drinks are served (though you can opt for a RM8 bowl of laksa if needed!), ok so there’s no in flight magazine or entertainment, blah blah blah. So what, these are things we can live without, especially us financially impoverished students.

For a saving of more than half the cost of a MAS ticket, traveling back to Kl is a breeze and not too heavy on the pocket. Many also has complained about the delays and rescheduling, but somehow during the whole 3 years of service (I must’ve made at least 25 trips on the carrier) I’ve only experienced it once, and that they told me 2 days in advance via sms. Ok so some other poor soul is not so fortunate, hey that’s why we have freedom of choice, pay the extra and ensure a seat and time on MAS. I’m not touting or blowing Tony Fernandez’s horn but AA has provided a great service for me. MAS does at times offer supersavers flight but this offer seems so similar to Air Asia low flight deals and spaces are also limited for each flight.

The only inconvenience involved was the government’s move to shift the operational airport from Subang International to Kuala Lumpur International Airport (KLIA). Now it takes me one and half hours (used to be 10 minutes), payment of toll and gas money or taxi fare if you’re taking one (Toll: RM 2.50, gas: estimated RM 10 for 60km or Taxi: RM 50 one way) and the inconvenience of family members not being able to see you off (parking fees are expensive, takes time, walking distance, etc). Maybe they should revise the arrangement and allow AA to operate off Subang like other budget airliners in other countries utilizing secondary airports which save on payments. Linking smaller and less popular routes with a budget airline also makes sense. If MAS cannot manage to offer affordable prices for short flights or less popular destination, the mantle should be given to budget air flights. I’m still waiting for AA to offer a Kl-Kuantan flight. If it can be had for RM60 or less then I’m all game!

I figure a lot of people here would agree to these facts. To AA keep up the good work, hope services will keep on being as good but also improve in areas. Truly everyone can fly.

Goodbye Superman, I’ve watched your early films and it has been
an inspiration! You’ll be missed Christopher Reeve. Legends don’t die, they live
on in us.


JM said...

Hey - that was me with the gripe. I had a bad experience with AA in 3 out of 4 times. I loved the company, as I wrote, when they started of, and saw tremendous opportunity. Still see. But even as a budget airliner, there should be some kind of service. Informing people early about delays is a starter, a great starter, but it goes further. I don't know if you have read stories about Southwest Airlines or JetBlue in the US (dun know about stories regarding Ryan Air in Euope, so), but they deliver great service in a low cost manner. Paying little is one thing, but being unreliable is another. But you are right - this is my opinion. But bad news travels far. It is great that you have great stories about AA, and even better that you share it.

Kervin said...

Hi sorry for not mentioning your gripe by name. Yes that's why I refer to my relationship with AA as love hate. I've only been through certain routes such as Penang-Kl and Kl-KK and the one time I was delayed was a flight shifted an hour later than scheduled but I was informed at least a day beforehand. Maybe I'm not aware of other more popular routes and their trouble, that's why I decided to post and see if others have such experiences. From my own and other fellow students, it's been a good one. And yes I've been following other budget air such as Ryan Air etc, and I mentioned AA could do better in terms of services provided.

hyelbaine said...

i'd have to agree with AW as my own and at least 4 other friends experiences using the service was bad. i guess you've been lucky enough with AA ;)

Cheers!!! :D

xaph said...

I think AirAsia's a pretty good airline company. I used to fly with MAS, but then when AirAsia came soaring into action I betrayed MAS due to financial reasons. Hell, I wanted to commute back and forth from Perlis and KL every month if I could, and AirAsia provided me with the means to, without cutting off my dad's head (and shredding his wallet). I've flown with them more than 10 times already, and never have I encountered a problem. I'll probably be flying with them in the future again, and hopefully any errors or mistakes will be fixed by them.

Kok Bi said...

Pls be warned that my comment is gonna turn into a blog of its own!

I've flown with AA before and I'm telling you, I dont quite like the way the plane shakes when it's soaring high above the sky. It gives me the creeps. Pls note that I dont have fear for flying or whatnot.

But then again, I agree totally with'scheap and it's short distance so why should I pay double th price just to get some stewardess to serve me super sour orang juice in-flight.

AA is a must have. Like a lipstick to a woman. Something like that lah. I mean...otherwise MAs wont learn. Monopoly doesnt make a company more efficient, t makes it sloppy throughout time. AA provides MAs with the opportunity to be on their toes at all time instead of taking things for granted and keep on losing money and changing CEOs.

Well..that's it.

JM said...

I think it is good that AA exists. It is even better that people talk about them. It is fantastic that there are good experiences. I love their culture. I love the people that I met from AA, from Tony to others. They really rock. It would be a pity when they would fail - totally agree. It is just that - if they expand too quickly, they have to manover a lot of cliffs and currently, they bump a bit heavy against the rocks. Increase the service level - and it is possible with more empathy and smile - and they can succeed. In this sense, it is good that the competition is also coming after them.

Bustaman said...

I tried Air Asia once when one of my friends working as a pilot there gave me a return ticket to KK.
My only wish is AA should issue seat numbers to avoid the scrambling for seats.

Jeremy said...

I really like budget airlines. I flew with Ryan Air recently (my first time with a budget airline) and I found the level of service to be perfectly OK at a price so low that I'm embarassed to tell. They probably made a loss on me.

Ryan Air too has problems with delays and many people complain about that in their typically loud European way. Ryan Air countered the bad publicity by making their slogan "The On Time Airline". I guess if you repeat a lie often enough, eventually people will believe it.