Jul 05, 2012|
When AirAsia X cancelled its Kuala Lumpur to London and Paris routes earlier this year, skeptics took it as a sign that applying the low-cost flight model to long-haul travel was doomed for failure. But instead it’s led to a greater focus on Asian and Australian markets—with an increasing number of low-cost operators entering the fray.
Since AirAsia X launched back in 2007, it’s been joined by a slew of budget carriers looking to link Southeast Asia with further flung Asia-Pacific destinations, like Singapore Airlines offshoot Scoot, Qantas subsidiary Jetstar, and Tiger Airways. Between them, you can get from Bangkok to Seoul, Tokyo, Tianjin and all over Australia. There is a catch, though. Flying low-cost long-haul from Bangkok generally means a stopover in somewhere like Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, or even Bali.
Airlines have markedly improved these connections, though. Jetstar, Scoot and AirAsia will transfer your baggage so there is no need to check out and back in again at the stopover airport as used to be the case on some routes. And if one flight is delayed, the second leg of the trip is still the airline’s responsibility. (However, do beware that this does not apply if you have two separate bookings.)
You still pay for these connecting flights, though, so that the final prices are not always as low as you might like. We compared fares for roundtrip flights in August and the results at times dramatically favored the low-cost (Bangkok-Syndey for B13,850 anyone?). On other destinations, we’d rather pay B3,000 more to fly a traditional carrier and get miles, service and no layover.
Unfortunately, the connections don’t always work. On the aforementioned too-good-to-be-true B13,850 roundtrip to Sydney (via Singapore), there was no way to connect within the same day on the return flight. You’d have to either spend the night in Singapore (there go your savings), or fly another carrier on the Singapore Bangkok leg of your flight—a serious hassle.
Then there’s the cabin and service. When it comes to a one or two hour flight, most are happy to forego in-flight meals, entertainment and complimentary blankets, if it means they can reduce their expenses by half or more. But for more far-flung destinations, with flight times exceeding five hours, squeezing into a cramped seat, paying for a drink of water and relying on your own iPhone’s battery for entertainment are not as easy to accept.
AirAsia and other low-cost international airlines are set to operate out of Don Muang from Oct 1 with the lure of massive discounts on airport fees. Perhaps, that will mean long-haul low-cost flights departing directly from Bangkok—and prices too low to resist. Until then, we’ll hold out for bargains on national carriers.
All prices for roundtrip flights mid-August 2012 outbound inbound