AirAsia A320 Economy class

FIRST IMPRESSIONS Phuket Airport is functional and compact but woefully lacking in the facilities a modern destination requires. The airport always feels cramped regardless of whether it is high or low season.

CHECK-IN I tried to check-in online before I left my hotel but this facility closes four hours before take-off, so if you do want to check-in or make seat changes do so earlier. You can do this 24 hours before departure.

BOARDING I arrived at the airport about 50 minutes before departure. The AirAsia counters were at the far right-hand side of the check-in desks. There was a short queue and check-in was swift. The clerk suggested I make my way directly to the gate as there were still passport and security checks to go through. However, there was no delay here and I passed through both very quickly. I made my way to Gate 66 as recommended but it was hidden behind duty-free shops and is not easy to spot. It’s diagonally opposite Gate 7, I discovered, but this was difficult to work out with a queue of about 300 Danes waiting to board their flight at that gate. Negotiating my way through the Scandinavian throng proved fruitless since Gate 66 was in fact being used by Bangkok Airways without any Air Asia staff in sight. I wasn’t the only one to be caught out but luckily a sharp-eyed fellow passenger noticed a lone departure monitor showing a change to Gate 4. The fact that no announcement was made until a few minutes before the scheduled departure was pretty poor customer service. Phuket can be a crowded airport and its facilities, including departure monitors are not always easy to find. To add insult to injury, the 1540 flight was 20 minutes delayed – no doubt why no announcement was made.

THE SEAT 22A is a window seat toward the back of the plane. There is no IFE on board so no seats have IFE boxes underneath them. However, I did find the seat very cramped. For the seatplan click here.

FOOD AND DRINK There is no complimentary food service but orders can be made online before the flight, guaranteeing you early service and a slight discount. Menus vary slightly across the AirAsia fleet depending on route. Prices are generally quoted in Thai baht (THB) or Malaysian ringit (MYR) although payment can be made in other currencies. On this flight, options included fried chicken and basil with rice, spicy meatballs or vegetarian and halal meals all at THB90 (US$2.80). Various desserts start at around THB70 (US$2.17), a selection of cup noodles at THB60 (US$1.86), coffee and tea as well as soft drinks at THB50 (US$1.55) each and water at THB40 (US$1.25). No alcohol is served aboard.

ARRIVAL Despite a late take-off we managed to make up for lost time and landed pretty much on schedule at around 2000. Being seated toward the back of the plane did delay my disembarkation a little but there were no major dramas.

VERDICT The seat is a little cramped for the three-hour journey but otherwise the flight was fine. No frills in the air is something most of us can live with for short haul trips. However, AirAsia’s poor management of a simple gate change is a sure-fire way of antagonising passengers.

PRICING AirAsia is selling Phuket-Hong Kong one-way tickets for THB7,834 (US$247) online. You can book a hotseat for an extra HK$57 (US$7.31). Check-in bags up to 15kg are THB235 (US$3.05) but from January you can “supersize” to a 30kg allowance for THB1,511 (US$47). Comfort and amenity kits are available at THB250 (US$7.80)

CONTACT airasia.com

Kenny Coyle

 


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AirAsia A320 Economy Class

FIRST IMPRESSIONS AirAsia operates from Terminal 2 at Hong Kong International Airport. If travelling by Airport Express, exit the train on the right hand side and go down to the departure and check-in counters on the ground floor.

CHECK-IN I had already checked-in online and took advantage of the internet booking channel, which was empty. The other queues were light in any case. I got my boarding pass, headed for immigration and security checks and took the connecting train to Terminal 1.

BOARDING T2 was the busiest I’ve seen it as it gradually adds airlines to its roster. The departure gate was 48. All departure gates are in Terminal 1 so you must first clear passport and security checks in T2 before taking a first train from T2 to T1 and then a second within T1 to Gate 48. This took no more than 15 minutes. When at the gate the those with children or otherwise in need of assistance boarded first, followed by those in “hot seats” and finally according to row number. We took off a few minutes after our scheduled departure, after the pre-flight announcements which were in English, Thai, Cantonese and Putonghua (Mandarin) Chinese.

THE SEAT 14F is a window seat next to an emergency exit. When I checked in online I saw that my allocated seat was a “hot seat”. These are the seats with extra legroom, such as those situated at bulkheads and emergency exits, or which allow rapid disembarkation at the forward doors. These seats can be pre-booked for an extra fee (see below). In my case, 14F was next to an emergency exit. There is no IFE on board so none of the seats have IFE boxes underneath them. The extra legroom was certainly welcome.

Hot seats are in rows 1-5, 12 and 14 and also allow express boarding. For the seatplan click here.

FOOD AND DRINK There is no complimentary food service but orders can be made online before the flight, guaranteeing you early service and a discount of up to 20 per cent. Menus vary slightly across the AirAsia fleet depending on route. On this flight, options included fried chicken and basil with rice, spicy meatballs or vegetarian and halal meals all at 90 baht (US$2.80). Various desserts start at around 70 baht (US$2.17), a selection of cup noodles at 60 baht (US$1.86), coffee and tea as well as soft drinks at 50 baht (US$1.55) each and water at 40 baht (US$1.25). No alcohol is served aboard.

ARRIVAL After an entirely uneventful flight we touched down on time and taxied to the gate. However, despite disembarking through an airbridge into the terminal we were then directed downstairs onto the tarmac to board buses to take us to the arrivals section, adding another 10 minutes to the journey. Fortunately passport control was quiet and baggage reclaim was swift and I was on my way to central Bangkok around 30 minutes after touchdown.

VERDICT Cheap and cheerful. Take a book or your own DVD or MP3 player to make up for the lack of IFE. Inflight catering won’t break the bank. “Hot seats” are certainly worth the extra payment. But this is a highly competitive route with great deals on some of the full service carriers, and if you can be flexible about dates and times you can also get great bargains with “frills”.

PRICING AirAsia is selling economy class return tickets online for January midweek travel for HK$1,608 (US$217). You can book a hot seat for an extra HK$57 (US$7.31). Check-in bags up to 15kg are HK$24 (US$3.05) but from January you can “supersize” to a 30kg allowance for HK$367 (US$47). Comfort and amenity kits are available at HK$61 (US$7.80).

CONTACT airasia.com

Kenny Coyle

 


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