Low cost airlines abound. However, are they worth the savings? A previous post discusses 6 airlines that focus in the area. On our most recent trip, we visited 7 cities spanning 4 countries in SE Asia. This requires a lot of flights. Unfortunately, the encounters were oftentimes unpleasant. We are sharing our experiences to shed some light on how to travel like a pro in SE Asia.
Although Air Asia has a strong foothold in the SE Asia air travel marketplace, beware of its’ pitfalls.
The airline’s customer service is abysmal. In fact, the only way to communicate any issue or concern is via email. On our most recent trip to the region, the final segment of our trip was canceled from Luang Prabang, Laos to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (connecting through Bangkok). The only option provided by Air Asia is to take the final segment the following day. Sometimes, low cost means high risk. Buyers beware! Or be very flexible.
In a previous post, we praised Jetstar and its’ affiliation with Quantas. However, we were wrong.
Now, we know that a reputable airline backing is not a guarantee for a good experience. Upon arrival at the airport in Danang, Vietnam, we discovered the cancellation of our flight to Ho Chi Minh City. The Jetstar agent informed us we will receive a refund if we purchase replacement business class tickets on Vietnam Airlines. We did make this purchase, however, it is one month later we are still waiting for our refund to be posted on our credit card. In conclusion, buyers must beware of low cost carriers!
Bangkok Airways is a rock star airline.
We have flown the airline on a number of occasions. It may be a little more expensive, but it is absolutely worth the money. Each airport that services the airline has a lounge with snacks, drinks, and free wi-fi. On board, they serve food and beverages at no cost. The flights arrive on time or ahead of schedule. Furthermore, if assistance is needed airport agents gladly help you instead of referring you to a nameless person answering email.
Check out Malindo Air
It is a surprising up and coming budget carrier in SE Asia. We flew on the carrier from Langkawi, Malaysia to Bangkok. The aircraft is new. Service is friendly. Seats are comfortable with individual TVs. Additionally, it is the same cost as monster Air Asia. However, it’s more upscale in every aspect. Be sure to check it out!
Become a member of the airline’s frequent flier program even if you don’t plan to fly on the carrier again.
Many benefits are immediate. For instance, on Air Asia you can check a certain amount of baggage free of charge. Additionally, on Vietnam Airlines you receive priority with booking flights. Just become a member of their program or of a Skyteam carrier such as Delta.
Be prepared to be flexible.
Sometimes, you must fly an undesired carrier such as Air Asia. Perhaps, airline options are limited for your desired routing. Other times, the price of a budget carrier is significantly less than a more upscale airline. Just be willing to go with the flow.
Air travel in SE Asia is affordable and efficient, but it is not without its’ flaws. There is a trade-off. Pay a higher fare and the experience is much more likely to be pleasant. The opposite holds true as well. Although we are very critical of a few SE Asia budget airlines, the flights are plentiful and the price is right. If all goes well, the low fare pays off. Unfortunately, if it goes wrong, consider yourself (SOL). We understand flying is sometimes painful. Just be flexible and you will surely enjoy the ease of air travel in SE Asia.
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