January 30, 2009

Surviving A Long-Haul Air Asia X Flight

Air Asia X LogoI was really fortunate to be able to fly to Malaysia via business class with the Enrich air miles I've accrued over the years. However, a one-way ticket from KL to Melbourne on a normal-cost airline would cost me $1200 during the peak period, which is ridiculously expensive. The cheapest alternative was to fly via Air Asia X. An anti-climax to a wonderful trip back, I know, but it was a tremendous amount of savings. So flew via Air Asia X I did, and oh boy, what an experience it was.

To be honest, I was really apprehensive on traveling via Air Asia X. I expected leather seats which hardly reclines on the plane, just as they do on the Air Asia planes which fly domestically and to other countries as well. I expected no service. In fact, I expected the worst. What I expected didn't even come close to what I encountered.

If you think that flying cattle (economy) class is bad, my dears, you haven't tried Air Asia X.

First of all, the seats are incredibly small and narrow. They're even smaller than the seats you see on an Air Asia plane! Air Asia X has an option where you can book for larger, so-called "more comfortable seats", on their XL seats. Those seats, are probably an inch or so wider than the usual economy class seats you see on normal-cost flights (frankly, I couldn't tell the difference if it was any bigger than usual economy class seats). The price of that is equivalent to an economy-class ticket on Malaysia Airlines.

Worst of all, these tiny-ass seats do not recline. They have this thing where you can extend the seat about an inch or two in front, push the headboard down, and then you slide your body down. That's their way of letting you recline. Unfortunately, this means that it cuts off two inches of the very minimal space you already have. Good luck to those with long legs. Even more to those poor fellows who are stuck in between the window and aisle seats.

Large people will find the seats most uncomfortable. I have a large bum, and I get about an inch of space on each side of the seat. Sleeping in the tiny seat was simply awful.

In order to accommodate more people on the plane, the arrangement is such that there are three rows, with three seats per row. About 60 people share two toilets. Whoop-de-freaking-doo. There's also no service with the flight, just as you'd expect on other Air Asia flights.

Honestly, I didn't think that the leather seats were at all necessary. Why not use the money on larger seats instead? By larger seats, I meant the seats used on regular Air Asia flights. That would have been a more feasible solution than cramping so many people in tiny seats in a plane.

If you are likely to suffer from deep vein thrombosis, I highly discourage you from traveling via Air Asia X. There's hardly any room for you to move about.

The food's all right. If you haven't pre-paid for your meals, I recommend the Malaysian meal, which is the nasi lemak. That was surprisingly good.

I hope the uncomfortable seats alone is enough to deter you from traveling via Air Asia X. The KL-MELB flight was the worst trip I've ever had, and I've had bad ones where I got sick and almost threw up. If not, then here are a few tips on surviving a long-haul flight on Air Asia X:
  • Check in early. For international flights, Air Asia recommends you to check in three hours before you fly. And a good thing too, because the queues are simply massive. And you know how chaotic the LCCT can be.
  • Bring in a bottle of water. Air Asia does not allow you to bring in outside food and drinks, but they do close an eye on bottled water. If you have pre-paid for your meals, then you'll get a main dish (e.g. nasi lemak), a bar of chocolate and a bottle of mineral water. However you should drink a lot of water on a long-haul flight, and a bottle for the 7 hours just wouldn't do. They will not supply you with free water.
  • Bring a blanket/shawl/pashmina to keep you warm throughout your flight. This isn't provided. You can purchase a Comfort Kit at RM35 where you'll get a blanket, inflatable neck pillow and an eyemask. I had to get one, but not for the blanket. The blanket, which comes wrapped in a drawstring bag, was used as a makeshift pillow for my back. The neck pillow made it a lot easier to sleep with. As the seats are incredibly narrow, the chances of you slipping to the other seat whilst asleep is very high. I saw a lot of disgruntled passengers who had other passengers' heads on their shoulders.
  • Pre-order your meals when you purchase your ticket. This makes it a lot easier rather than carrying a wad of small change with you when you want to get a meal. Each prepaid meal only gives you ONE meal. On a typical 7-hour flight, the flight attendants will come around twice to sell you food.
  • Speaking of pre-ordering, when you purchase your ticket online, I'd suggest you to pre-book your seat allocation too. Choose an aisle seat so that you'll at least have more space.
  • Eat up first before you fly. Save the pre-paid meal to two hours before landing. Or else you'll be pretty hungry when the flight attendants come again serving food. The food's overpriced on the plane, as you can tell. Oh, and don't chuck your boarding pass when you're on the plane. If you have pre-paid for your meal, there will be a sticker on your boarding pass as an indication to the flight attendants to serve you your meal.
  • Bring plenty of books and a media player/laptop (fully charged) on your flight. This should keep you entertained throughout the flight if you don't want to pay to watch in-flight movies.
There you go, that should be about it. I strongly discourage older folks to travel via Air Asia X, as this would be very uncomfortable for them. At least, keep the flights to less than 3 hours if possible. I don't think I'll be flying via Air Asia X again, unless it's absolutely necessary. When the plane touched down at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport, I heard a lot of passengers complaining "Never flying via Air Asia X again. Aiyo my poor back/neck/insert-body-part".

See, I wasn't the only one :p

29 comments:

geekchic said...

I'm such a princess that even flying cattle class on SIA has got me whinging. I hate babies, that's why :)

So, given a choice, I'd rather not travel than fly with Air Asia X.

On my previous Pg-KL trips, attendants were giggling and joking while demonstrating the safety and evacuation procedures. Nothing funny or light-hearteed about that during an emergency. Such professional crew, I must say! :P

beetrice said...

LOL...I was wondering how that flight went - guess I'll have to think twice before coming to see you on budget flight hor?

Thank goodness the KL-BKK flights are just about 2hrs+...still bearable - and if I gauged it correctly, the seats are a teeny bit wider than the ones you're describing..

But at the end of it all, even cattle class would be a total letdown after going biz class rite? that reminds me, I gotta go dig out my LON-KL pix...oooo... :D

the Constantly Dramatic One said...

Wow. Thank you so much for this post. I was thinking of flying Air Asia X to come back from Aussie- Malaysia when I go there to study but wow...guess not. I rather pay a little bit more then have to deal with this shit.

I mean their seats or normal planes can barely contain my ass! Air Asia X sure cannot one.

zewt said...

me and jules flying air asia to melb... oppss...

Wenny said...

Yet to try Air Asia X. Was thinking of it. Now, probably not.
Thanks for the feedback.

Evelyn said...

Really so terrible trip ka... poor you.

littleComma said...

Another thing to add if you travel via Air Asia / Air Asia X. You gotta have water proof luggage if you wouldn't want yours to be caught in the rain while they transport from terminal to plane.

Happy CNY !

pablopabla said...

Wah lau! Imagine flying to London in that o_O!

Anonymous said...

thanks for the head up. Do felt a little dissapointed as I have 12hrs flight. :)

Anonymous said...

SHIT! SHIT! I should have google abt air asia 1st b4 I booked tickets for family of 5 to KL from London. Managed to booked 4 hubby rtn flt on £20 seat. Going flt all £20 seats gone... Oh well, it cost me nearly £1650pound, big saving on £££ but will suffer 13 hrs flt.

Need advise now, can I purchase water & food from duty free shop after clearing the custom? Dont think air asia can stop u from taking food & drink to the aircraft.

Tine said...

Geekchic:
No more for me, that's for sure. Rather not fly if the normal carriers are too expensive.

Beetrice:
Unless you can tahan sitting upright in a cramped spot for 7 hours, I wouldn't recommend Air Asia X on long haul flights at all.

Still ... don't let that stop you from coming to visit :D :D :D

Constant Drama:
Pay more for a proper flight lah :)

Zewt:
Oooops :p

Wenny:
Anything to help :)

Evelyn:
Ya lor ... sigh.

Little Comma:
Oh yeah, I completely forgot about that! Yes yes, use waterproof luggage!

Pablopabla:
Oh hell NOOOOOOOOOOOO

Anonymous:
Ouch! Good luck :)

Anonymous:
Food, no. Bottled water, yes. Air Asia does have a rule about no outside food in the plane, but they close an eye on bottled water.

That's the thing about low-cost flights - save on fare, but suffer on comfort :(

Anonymous said...

Bottle of water? 1.5 litre one or just the small one with 500ml?

Anonymous said...

The AirAsia X London flight that just started yesterday uses a different aircraft - an A340 with same seats as any full-service carrier, so these new seats on Australia are not applicable for London.

I've tried both. For those that do want comfort, their XL premium economy seat on the A330s to Australia is in fact significantly better than any airline's economy seat - it has more legroom, width and recline - so seems to me a fair proposition: If you want big savings, then go for economy. If you want comfort, you can get a much better seat than other airline's economy seat for the same fare...

Anonymous said...

Tine,
do you expect pay a rm200 to get a authentic LV bag? do you expect to pay rm 100k for a 5 stars luxury penthouse? i think it is unfair to compare the low cost carrier airasia with Mas biz class in terms of comparing the comfort seat you got. common, what you pay, what you get. ppl who has low budget shld be willing to sacrifice for not having so nice comfort seat /food , so they pay cheap fair and lower their expectation. pls use your brain to rant before thinking the logic behind. if i know rm 1500 can go to london with airasia, i will lower my expectation and no complaint. if you know x seat is too small , then go for MAS first cls/biz cla or other airline. no need waste you time to complaint here.

Tine said...

Anonymous at 3.44pm:
Well then, you wasted your time reading this in the first place, because what I stand by what I wrote. I think the seats are very uncomfortable, and no, I don't intend to fly via Air Asia X on a Melb-Malaysia sector anymore unless absolutely necessary. The seats are narrow and bloody uncomfortable, which is the gist of my rant regarding Air Asia X. Despite all this, I know people will still fly Air Asia X (and why not, since it's cheaper), thus I wrote on how to survive long-haul hours. I did not tell the world to not fly via Air Asia X. I just said I won't.

You're comparing apples and oranges. I did not say I expected fantastic first-class/business-class seats. I said that the money towards making leather seats (which serves no purpose other than looking good) could be better off used to make the seats a little wider. Or at least match the size of the seats of domestic Air Asia planes.

Still, I thank you for wasting your time here :)

Pete said...

I wished I saw your post about AirAsia X.. I got this text message offering cheap flight tickets to Melbourne and I fell for it.

Now stuck with it. Going for a short visit. I'm now worried about the flight in June.

And I didn't pre-book food or seat as well. How am I going to survive the trip?

Anonymous said...

Still wondering how to survive on 12hrs flight....

Anonymous said...

MAS offer RM699 to Adelaide(all inclusive one way with unlimited food, drink,entertainment and on time schedule) on Grab-all offer check it out....

Anonymous said...

DISABLED PASSENGERS BEWARE AIR ASIA

I have been traveling to and from Malaysia for over thirty years and now reside here with my wife and child. I have businesses in the UK and Malaysia and still clock over 200,000 air miles a year. I have traveled Air Asia on several occasions over the past few years and received the service expected from a budget airline.

Unfortunately my trip to Laos on the 19th of February 2009 with Air Asia turned out to be one of the most disastrous and humiliating experiences of my life. Being disabled I made sure that I informed the ticket center at least 48 hours prior to my departure that as I am unable to climb stairs that I would require the service of their “Ambulift”. The gentleman at your call center confirmed that a note had been put on my reservation and told me that I should report to the two desks that would handle my request and a wheel chair. When I arrived at the airport with my wife and son, we checked in and went to a desk which was right at the end of the check-in desks and was, I believe numbered sixty something. The Malay guy at the desk confirmed my request for the “Ambulift” and then told me to go to desk 41 for a wheel chair, which I did, also telling them that I had requested the “Ambulift”.

After going through passport control I was pushed to the gate only then to be told that the Ambulift was not available. This was some 5 minutes before boarding and at no time prior to this was I informed that it was not available. To add insult to injury I was then questioned as to whether I had even requested it.

To get me on board the aircraft 3 of the ground staff carried me and the wheel chair up the stairs which was not pleasant for me and most strenuous for them but I was on board an we flew to Vientiane only to find that I had an even worse problem there.

After several attempts it was decided that I was too heavy to carry down the steps in the wheel chair and one of the ground staff then grabbed me and attempted to carry me on his back which resulted in me on the floor of the aircraft after he dropped me. I suffered severe chest pain and it was only when the air crew came to my rescue that I was able to stand back up again and get my breath. To cut a very long story short, there was no way that the staff were able to get me down the stairs and I ended up crawling down to the runway on my hands and knees. To add insult to injury several people boarding another aircraft stopped to film my decent on there video camera’s. With apologies from the aircrew who seemed to be most embarrassed, I was wheeled in to the terminal with my suit covered in dirt and dust and my hand filthy.

I can honestly say that I have never been so embarrassed and humiliated in my life.

Air Asia had over 48 hours to advise me that A. The Ambulift at K.L. was not available and B. That there were no facilities in Vientiane for disabled passengers.

I sent a complaint to Air Asia on the 4th of March 2009 and every week since but have yet to receive a reply.

Anonymous said...

I posted a blog just over a week ago with regards the treatment, as a disabled passenger, I received from Air Asia following a trip from Kuala Lumpur to Laos with my family. Being someone that believes that others should be warned if an airline can not, or does not provide the services that it offers, I related my long tale of woe and castigate Air Asia for its failings. I am now however pleased to report that I am, to say the least, most impressed with the response that I have received from Air Asia following my complaint. I did not receive a long list of excuses, my problems were not blamed on computer error or even worse something that I did wrong. Air Asia did what most big companies never seem to do and simply said that they were sorry and that they had got it wrong. Not only did I receive a written apology, several telephone calls from their call centre but I was also telephoned by the Guest Services and Operations Manager Eddie Tan with a full explanation of what went wrong and most important, what Air Asia were doing to ensure that it wouldn’t happen again. OK anyone can write a letter and anyone can pick up a telephone to shut a complaining customer up, if your lucky but I actually received a heart felt apology from Mr Tan that was genuine. It would appear that ground crew, check in staff and even cabin crew were interviewed regarding the incident in an attempt to pinpoint the areas of failure. Like a lot of things a few miner errors, someone entering a wrong code here, an unread fax there, were compounded into one major cock-up of which, unfortunately, I was the recipient. It’s nice to know that young as Air Asia is and as large as Air Asia is becoming, it is not taking the stance of a lot of airlines and that consider disabled people as a necessary evil that can be treated like morons and that Air Asia has the guts to say, we were wrong, we’re sorry and we will make sure it doesn’t happen again. Apology accepted Air Asia.

Anonymous said...

i think this is really an unfair post.

You cannot expect a steak when you paid for a burger.

Btw, the seats on the london flights can definitely recline.

Have a read here:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/travel/2009/mar/13/budget-flights-uk-asia-review?page=all

Ivin said...

Four of us (my partner and myself, my brother and his partner) are flying with AirAsia from MEL - KUL.

After reading the comments here, I truly hope we can get through this.

Wish us luck!

Dexter Loh said...

totally agree! i never fly Air Asia X again because i face very bad experience of narrow with no recline seat to Perth on 29th Oct 2009. Although 5 hrs 10 min flight, my friends & I suffered during night flight to Perth...we never forget that experience.

Doug from Adelaide said...

After doing the overnight flight fromn Melbourne to Kuala Lumpur on Air Asia X, I won't be flying longhaul with them (apart from the return flight which is at least during the day so I don't have to sleep). I'm 6ft tall, so not exactly a giant, but I barely fit in my seat. A friend of mine is 6'4", and he just wouldn't fit in the same space. I also flew with them from KL to Penang, and those seats were fine (as far as regular economy seats go, kind of like Jetstar). I won't be taking flights with the larger planes, but the short flights around S/E Asia would be OK. If you have no other option, take a flight you can stay awake on, sleeping isn't really a viable option...

Anonymous said...

Hi! i have a question. Are we allowed to bring disposable contact lenses when entering the Air Asia plane? I am worried because i am not going to check in any luggage.

Anonymous said...

Hi! i have a question. Are we allowed to bring disposable contact lenses when entering the Air Asia plane? I am worried because i am not going to check in any luggage.

PaulK said...

Watch out for AirAsiaX.

Most recently, my wife and I were stranded in Abu Dhabi when AirAsiaX announced they were canceling service to/from Abu Dhabi in January this year. They didn’t notify us (their stranded passengers) until Feb 10th. Neither did they offer any accommodation nor answer our emails asking for help. We had to get back to Malaysia on our own. They won’t reimburse our additional expenses either.

They said they would refund the Abu Dhabi/Kuala Lumpur portion of our trip, but it will take them 30-50 days to process the refund. Such an attitude!

Watch out for these guys. If you are considering using AirAsiaX, It might be a good idea to develop a plan B... just in case.

Anonymous said...

Another warning for passengers who need wheelchair assistance when flying Air Asia - be prepared to pay for the wheelchair itself! I was travelling with my grandmother, who needs a wheelchair, and was shocked to find out that I had to pay extra for using te wheelchair. i think it is absolutely disgraceful that Air Asia have the audacity to do this. Passengers can do without food and check-in luggage but disabled passengers cannot "do" without a wheelchair. This is highly discriminatory and is a clear indication that Air Asia does not care about passengers. They're only interested in making as much money as possible to the detriment of their passengers. I have never flown with them again since then. I won't even fly with them even if they give me a free ticket!

Izhar Che Jamil said...

Omg! should have read this post first..
Just paid RM3k return flight from KL to Seoul for two.
Since it will took about 6 hours.. Omg! Narrow seats??
About the bottle water thing, is it true? You can bring it onboard?? Last time when i fly with mas and qantas, they said you cant bring any water onboard.. Guess have to suffer for abit gahh.. I really have no choice since mas offered RM 8k for return flight from kul-seoul for two. 3hours have to be in Lcct? Too crowded in Lcct!! Nevermind can save money for shopping hehe :))