So, I flew AirAsia (aka AirAsia X) to Malaysia and Thailand recently. This was the first time flying with this no-frills airline and I’m not sure I’d fly with them again to be honest. Well, I’m 50/50 about it. The smart move on the part of Air Asia is to fly directly from Christchurch. With other airlines, you end up transiting through Auckland and that is a real pain in the ass.

Because I had just taken around 40 hours to get from Rome back home, I didn’t really fancy flying convoluted ways. So I decided to try AirAsia and fly Premium Economy, which turned out to be cheaper than a full Economy-class ticket with other airlines. And it’s cheaper because you basically get little service. I’m afraid I was a bit spoilt having flown Business Class to Rome and back on Emirates.

AirAsia has risen in prominence due to its CEO, Malaysian entrepreneur, Tony Fernandes. To give credit where it’s due, he’s taken a failing airline and turned it right around. He’s also made it very affordable for people to travel. Not to mention he’s smart in having AirAsia fly directly to Christchurch.

But here’s what I didn’t like about AirAsia. I found the dolly birds in tight, short red skirts and jackets (that’s the female, not the male flight attendants) a tad sexist. I’m sure male travellers appreciate the eye candy but I’d rather something a little classier. You have to buy your own food in-flight and I’m okay with that. Premium Economy travellers get meals provided but I’m still looking for my meal – it was for stick insects. Such tiny portions! And if you didn’t like Nasi Lemak, well not many other options it seems. Both to and from Malaysia it was Nasi Lemak.

The real problem I have with this airline is it’s almost impossible to get hold of them. We needed to leave Bangkok early, due to Nam-tuam, so we rang AirAsia in Thailand. What a stuff up that was! Firstly, the person we spoke with after hanging on for about 30 minutues – well, her English just wasn’t good enough. This was closely followed by them having absolutely no record of me having checked in with luggage (twice: once in Christchurch and then in Kuala Lumpur). We then wanted to buy extra luggage. You can’t just buy 10kg; you have to buy 30kg. That was fine but we were quoted different rates during the same phone call.

Then we were told because we had already checked in online, we couldn’t change our booking. But we had received an email from AirAsia asking us to book in online, so we did. Seems you then end up with no flexibility if you follow their directions.

We tried to contact AirAsia via their Facebook and Twitter pages but we didn’t get a reply (via Twitter) until nearly 48 hours later when we were already in Kuala Lumpur. So AirAsia – you need to get a whole lot better at using social media or at least getting back to your passengers sooner rather than later.

When we arrived at Bangkok airport to check-in, there was no Premium Economy line (as there was in Christchurch) and the dude behind the desk was not very friendly.

The real clanger is that you have to walk to the plane. In Bangkok, we had to walk a long way in the rain to get to the plane. No umbrellas were provided. There were about four Air Asia planes parked on the tarmac and it was pretty easy to ascend some stairs and get on the wrong plane. We nearly did. Someone at the door of the airport terminal tells you t0 turn left or right, and then someone on the tarmac points to the plane – but it’s quite a long distance to the plane (at least in our case) and it’s easy to get confused with all the planes lined up, especially when rain is pouring down your face. The final straw, so to speak, was that I wanted to buy Duty Free onboard with a credit card. But nope, they only take cash.

I’m flying across The Ditch week after next on secret squirrel business. I am considering trying AirAsia again, mainly because it will probably be a cheaper option. Across the Tasman I don’t mind the no-frills attitude. But flying long haul, I reckon I do mind. I will say though that the seats in Premium Economy are very spacious. You can recline to almost a sleeping position and you get soft, warm, bright red pillows and blankets.

UPDATE: Nah, decided to fly to Sydney with my favourite airline, Emirates.

FURTHER UPDATE: In 2012, AirAsia X decided to scrap its Christchurch to Kuala Lumpur direct flight citing fuel costs for the decision.

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