In this review, we will take an Air Asia flight from Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane on an Airbus A320-200.
Air Asia is the largest low-cost airline on the Asian continent. Although the airline is Malaysian and has its main hub in Kuala Lumpur, it also has several other hubs in Malaysia as well as in several other countries.
It even has a number of affiliates in several other countries such as Air Asia Thailand, Air Asia Indonesia, Air Asia Philippines and Air Asia X (which operates long distance low-cost flights using wide-body aircraft).
I have flown with Air Asia a lot in my backpacking days as a student and always valued their cheap prices, on-time record and good in-flight service for a low-cost airline. I was therefore curious if the airline was still as good as I remember it was several years after my last flight on Air Asia.
Buying the ticket
After an excellent but short night sleep at a private resting suite at the Premium Plaza Lounge I walked the short distance to the main check-in area of Kuala Lumpur International Airport’s terminal 2 (KLIA2), which is almost exclusively used by Air Asia and a few other low-cost airlines.
Even though I managed to do all of my flights this trip with hand luggage only carrying a small trolley and rucksack with me, it wasn’t possible for this flight. Air Asia is strict when it comes to the hand luggage limit, both when it comes to size as well when it comes to weight.
I could easily fit my small rucksack within my trolley, which would definitely pass the size check. However, the total weight of both was just over 12 kilos, so I decided at the last minute to add the cheapest possible checked baggage (20kg for 83.38 MYR – or 17.12 EUR) to my booking. As I had paid only 194 MYR (40.8 EUR) for the ticket in the first place, this wasn’t a big deal at all.
As Air Asia operates many early morning flights out of their Kuala Lumpur hub, check-in can be a bit of a mess at times due to the crowds. Fortunately none of that was the case this morning.
Although there was a small queue at some of the check-in desks, there were none for the desks to drop off checked baggage for those who had already checked in online or printed their boarding pass and luggage tag on a self check-in machine at the airport.
I also opted for a machine to check in for my flight and to print both my boarding pass and baggage tag. With the baggage tag attached to my trolley, I could then walk straight to the baggage drop desk where there were no lines at all. All I had to do here was to scan my boarding pass, scan my baggage tag – and put my bag on the conveyor belt – and I was all set.
The process is entirely straightforward and will save you a lot of time compared to queuing at a normal check-in desk. If needed, there is airline personnel walking around to help you with any of these steps if you run into issues. Within fifteen minutes after arriving I was already through Malaysian exit passport control.
KLIA2 departures area
KLIA2 is split in four main gate areas: K for domestic flights, as well as L, P and Q for international flights. The initial way to the L, P and Q gate areas is the same – you first have to go through Malaysian exit immigration (passport control) after which you will arrive in a common area with a few dozen shops, cafes as well as the Air Asia Premium Red Lounge.
You can buy entrance to this lounge for just 15 EUR if added online to your booking in advance (it is slightly more expensive if walking in on the spot without advance booking).
Even though this sounds like a pretty decent deal I didn’t bother with it given that all I needed at this early morning was a good coffee and something to eat, which can be had for much cheaper at one of the airport cafes. I settled down in a decent place for a tasty iced coffee and doughnut to get my day started.
Finding my gate
From the main area the airport splits up in three distinctive gate areas. For my flight to Vientiane I had to go to one of the Q gates. Before you reach the actual departure gates you first have to clear security – which only had a short queue.
Even though the gate areas of KLIA2 won’t win any awards for its design nor for its lay-out (it’s all rather cramped and a wee bit depressive) the terminal does have free WiFi and some places to charge your electronics. There are even some free-to-use computers, which is a nice touch for what is in essence a low-cost airport terminal.
The boarding procedure was a bit of a mess. The gate area was already full with people when the gate agents arrived and asked everyone to leave again to the main hallway. This way, they could already check the passport and ticket of each passenger on the moment when they re-entered the area.
When boarding finally commenced, it was basically a free for all despite there being distinctive boarding groups on paper (with priority passengers and those seated to the back of the plane normally boarding first).
Kuala Lumpur (KUL) to Vientiane (VTE) on Air Asia
Flight AK552– Airbus A320-200 – Economy class, seat 6F
Departure: 6.40am – Arrival: 8.20am
Flight time: 2h40m – Distance: 1,049 miles
Costs: 194 MYR (40.8 EUR) for the ticket without add-ons
As is usually the case for a low-cost airline, seat reservation is not included in the standard ticket price of Air Asia. If you do not pre-select a seat the system will randomly assign you a seat upon check-in for free, but you are at the mercy of what the airline will give to you.
I opted to select a window seat in advance, opting for seat 6F which added another 13.90 MYR (2.92 EUR) to the final ticket price. Comparing to European or American airlines the seat reservation fee is negligible and in my opinion well-worth paying. However, front row seats or emergency exit seats do cost a bit more than this.
The plane seemed to be quite full for today’s flight to Vientiane and also the seats next to me ended up being taken.
I found the seat on Air Asia to be comfortable – especially so for a low-cost airline. Seats are well-padded and have a decent enough pitch, giving generally good legroom space. It is certainly a step up when compared to European low-cost airlines such as Ryanair and Easyjet – as well as even a handful of full-service airlines!
The seats did however feel slightly narrow – which wasn’t much of a problem at all until the moment when meals were served and I tried to eat my food. Also note that the seats are not equipped with USB ports are power sockets.
Air Asia has a buy-on-board meal service – with drinks and snacks being affordably priced. One aspect which I absolutely love about Air Asia is that you can pre-select warm meals by adding them to your online booking.
At 10 MYR (2.1 EUR) only, these meals are not only dirt cheap – but also among the best, most tasty economy class meals you can get on any airline. There is a large choice of different dishes on the Air Asia website, so you are likely to find something to your liking.
I opted for the nasi lemak, which is considered as Malaysia’s national dish. The dish consists out of coconut rice, chili sambal and chicken rendang, complemented with fried anchovies, crunchy groundnuts and half of a hard-boiled egg. It was indeed one of the better economy class meals I’ve tasted in the last years!
WiFi was apparently available on my plane for a fee (it is however not available on all AirAsia flights) but I didn’t use the service a I preferred to watch the gorgeous sunrise out of my window and to doze off a little bit. Most of the times, entertainment provided by nature beats any modern-day human invention.
The flight went by fast and relatively uneventful. After their round through the plane to hand out pre-ordered meals and to ask people if they wanted to buy something from the buy-on-board menu, the friendly crew made another round through the aisle for in-flight duty free shopping.
Before I realised it were setting in our final approach into Vientiane. Due to the haze there weren’t too many views on arrival except for the last few feet until touchdown.
After a short time taxiing around the airport we parked at a jet bridge. To fasten disembarkation, passengers in the front of the plane were asked to disembark through the jet bridge while the passengers at the back could exit by stairs and walk towards the airport building.
Laotian immigration has distinctive lines for Lao passport holders and foreign visitors requiring a visa. Although you can arrange your visa online, I simply arranged it on arrival in the airport. Make sure to bring enough cash USD as you cannot pay for your visa by card. I made the stupid mistake to forget this and was lucky to find a single ATM in the hall – which fortunately did work.
Within fifteen minutes after disembarkation I managed to pay for the visa, get stamped into Laos and collect my luggage from the conveyor belt. It was an extremely smooth process.
Even though it is a low-cost airline, I think it is actually a pleasure to fly with Air Asia. It ticks off the two boxes which are important to me when flying low-cost: low prices and reliability.
However, seats are actually fairly comfortable on board of the Air Asia Airbus A320. Even better, in-flight service is great. Some planes are equipped with WiFi, and for around 2 EUR you can pre-order some delicious hot meals which put economy class meals of full service airlines to shame when it comes to quality.
I can easily see myself flying Air Asia again in the future if the price and schedule is right – and could even opt for them when there is comparable flight on a full-service airline.
Trip report index
This article is part of the ‘Lazing in Laos and Gallivanting a Wee Bit Around Asia‘ trip report, which consists of the following chapters:
1. Review: Aegean Airlines Business Class Bucharest to Athens (Airbus A320)
2. Review: Goldair Handling Lounge (Non-Schengen) Athens Airport
3. Review: Saudia Business Class Athens to Jeddah (Airbus A320)
4. Review: Saudia Alfursan Lounge Jeddah Airport South Terminal
5. Review: Review: Saudia Business Class Jeddah to Kuala Lumpur (Boeing 787)
6. Review: CitizenM Hotel Kuala Lumpur Bukit Bintang
7. Kuala Lumpur in One Day: What to See and Do in 24 Hours
8. A Batu Caves Half Day Trip From Kuala Lumpur By Public Transport
9. Review: Plaza Premium Lounge Private Resting Suite Gateway KLIA2
10. Review: Air Asia (Airbus A320) Kuala Lumpur to Vientiane (current chapter)
11. Review: Hotel Khamvongsa, Vientiane, Laos