Tried & Tested

AirAsia A320 Economy class

11 Jan 2010 by AndrewGough

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)


Kenny Coyle


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