There was a time when a long-haul flight on a low-cost carrier would have filled me with dread. I envisioned queuing up with the masses, constantly shelling out for food and entertainment. But after recently flying on a budget airline to Kuala Lumpur and back I’ve changed my tune.
Yes, you have to pay extra for food and entertainment but in most cases it still works out cheaper than what you’d pay on an inclusive fare. Plus, I’ve long got used to purchasing food while flying domestically.
When it comes down to it, all you really need is a comfortable seat to get you from A to B and back again. The bonus being that you can use the money you’ve saved on the fare to splurge on extravagances like fancy hotel rooms, dinners in swanky restaurants and high-end shopping on arrival.
Sydney to KL
Economy, seat 9K.
There are 365 standard economy seats. Premium class has 12 flatbed seats. I sat in the exclusive reserved Quiet Zone area, just behind the premium seats, from rows 7-14. It’s mercifully unavailable to passengers travelling with infants and children under the age of 12. I had a row to myself, allowing me to stretch out, just what I needed after competing in the YTL Hotels Chapman’s Challenge adventure race at Pangkor Laut.
Checked baggage allowance is 20kg, along with one piece of hand luggage.
I felt an initial pang of panic when I saw the back of the seat in front of me was bare. Fortunately I had a book and found the 8-hour journey to be something of a refuge from today’s screen-addled society. Of course you can rent a Huawei tablet for the trip (it has eight hours of battery life) for $17 pre-booked online or $21 on board, if you really can’t live without your movies, TV series, music, e-mags and games. Just be sure to book the tablet in advance.
When they introduced the team of flight attendants who’d be serving us I was impressed by the diversity of backgrounds and languages spoken, including Iranian and Korean. The fact that this cosmopolitan group were friendly and polite made me forget I was flying on a low-cost carrier.
This was undoubtedly the highlight of the trip. I ordered the Nasi Minyak With Ayam Percik, a traditional Malaysian meal consisting of spicy chicken and aromatic ghee rice. It costs a little over $6 and is a delectable combination of spice and sweetness. The rest of the menu features similarly enticing Asian dishes such as chicken teriyaki and vegetarian biryani. Basically, there's more range than a Chinatown food court.
If you’re looking for a low-cost route into Asia that doesn’t feel no-frills, this is your airline. With return fares to Kuala Lumpur for less than $500 (including all taxes and fees) and one-way fares from around $250 you can use your savings to splurge on a hotel when you arrive.
Men’s Health was a guest of Air Asia