AirAsia is a world leading low cost carrier and AirAsiaX is its long haul subsidiary. AirAsia made its first flight in 1996 but failed to find lift off until it was purchased by Malaysian entrepreneur Tony Fernandes for the token sum of 1 Ringgit, in 2001. Beginning as a Malaysian domestic airline, AirAsia expanded rapidly to neighbouring countries within five hours flying distance from Kuala Lumpur’s low cost terminal. In 2007 the airline group established a long haul subsidiary AirAsiaX utilizing larger aircraft using Kuala Lumpur as their hub. AirAsia’s lobbying is credited with opening up the skies of Southeast Asia to airline deregulation as well as pruning the profits from the balance sheets of Malaysian Airlines, Singapore Airlines and increasingly Australia’s Qantas and Jetstar. AirAsia operates subsidiaries in Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand, Vietnam, Japan and is moving many head office functions from low-cost Kuala Lumpur to even lower-cost Jakarta during 2012.
For an ultra discount airline AirAsia and AirAsiaX provide surprisingly reasonable service. Crews are employed on some of the lowest contracts in the industry so passengers typically expect low service, yet flight attendants are both friendly and attractive. AirAsia’s young, multilingual and attentive crew are pleasantly attired in a cheap polyester uniform and their main function is to sell snacks and extra’s to supplement the airlines profits and their commission based pay packets. If you have low expectations, you will be pleasantly surprised by the average service.
The network of AirAsia and AirAsiaX is already extensive and expanding rapidly. The airline’s many subsidiaries provide comprehensive route maps within Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and AirAsiaX until 2012 covered many Asian and Australian, European and Indian subcontinent cities. Wherever possible AirAsia uses discount airline terminals and shuns expensive airports to keep costs down. For example AirAsiaX prefer Australia’s Gold Coast airport over Sydney, so many Sydney passengers will commute to the Gold Coast to join a cheap flight to Paris or elsewhere. However as part of review in January 2012 AirAsiaX announced they would extend services to Sydney and at the same time they blamed high fuel prices for axing most services to Europe and India.
AirAsia and AirAsiaX are cheap. Dirt-cheap. In fact, no one can match the airline for sustainably low airfares, as the airline’s recipe for low airfares seems faultless.
AirAsia and AirAsiaX provide terrible catering. Domestic flights and shorter international flights offer a selection of sugary junk foods and instant noodles and sometimes some Asian themed TV style dinners. Their coffee is ghastly. However, on longer flights, the hot meal choice originating in Kuala Lumpur can be surprisingly tasty and cheap. Drinks include soft drinks and alcohol is available. Catering is not included in airfares and must be purchased on board or at time of booking on-line.
The airline plays modern music before take off and landing and has an inflight magazine called ‘Travel 3Sixty’, which is full of advertisements. That’s it for free entertainment. The airlines modern seat back video screens can be accessed for a fee and a small choice of modern and classic movies can be viewed. The airline provides a multi lingual selection with plenty of Asian language choices available.
AirAsia’s check in staff are amongst the lowest paid in the industry and supplement their wage packets through commissions on excess baggage; so they are unlikely to let you get away with anything. However AirAsiaX staff are usually third party contractors and might not be so vigilant. Staff don’t care about queues. In keeping with the airlines philosophy, baggage allowances are minimal so be careful how many souvenirs you buy. Baggage is not transferred to other flights.
AirAsiaX offers a Premium Flat Bed, which in most regards resembles a Business Class. The one exception is the airline has no lounge. Premium Flat Bed includes meals, blankets, priority check in, priority boarding and plenty of extra space. Considering how cheap the fares are the airlines Premium Flat Bed is a good deal.
AirAsia is about going from A to B as cheaply as possible and passengers remind themselves of this fact when they are seated in the airlines tiny seats. AirAsia’s Economy Class is one of the most packed in the sky. Think sardine can with wings and you have a good idea. Seats have cheap vinyl ‘upholstery’, uncomfortable armrests but the airline does have an inflight entertainment system, which can be accessed for a fee. Cabin interiors are dull and passengers are glad to get off the plane. Passengers don’t pick AirAsia for the flying experience.
Unlike many low cost carriers AirAsia has launched its own passenger loyalty scheme which it calls BIG. Like other loyalty plans it’s partnered with associated discount retail outlets, hotels, car hire companies and much more. All round it’s not a bad scheme but like others BIG points are practically worthless and tens of thousands need to be accrued before benefits materialize.
While some airlines claim to be obsessed with safety AirAsia freely admits, "Cost is the enemy" (Lo Bingham – AirAsia Director of Operations). AirAsia’s pursuit of profits at all costs ensures the airline plays its part it dragging the industry to the bottom. AirAsia’s success is dependant on paying staff the absolutely lowest possible pay packets, maintaining aircraft to the lowest of standards and playing one airport off against another. Management policy creates a culture that passengers need to be respected because they are paying customers, not because it’s the right thing to do. AirAsia’s corporate culture is ugly, ruthless and is based on total exploitation. Head office functions are moving to Jakarta to save money. If there was a cheaper location they’d move there. The super low wages paid and conditions that AirAsia's workers experience is pushing downward pressure on the already modestly paid Malaysia Airlines. AirAsia is causing a race to the bottom and pushing many full time workers below the poverty line.
AirAsia and AirAsiaX operate an all Airbus fleet. As the aircraft are brand new they require less maintenance, but when they are maintained, they are done to the minimum of requirements. Buying a second hand AirAsia aircraft would not be a wise idea. The airline has experienced many mishaps, party caused by employing low paid and presumably poor quality pilots. Inexperienced pilots don’t know how to handle poor weather conditions and all of AirAsia’s pilots are under pressure to keep to the schedule.
AirAsia and AirAsiaX are the cheapest airlines in the skies today. Sustainably cheap fares with average service make it a good buy.
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