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Air Asia Flight Booking Tips and Travel Guidelines

4 Jan

I just came back to Bangalore after an awesome 7 days in Kuala Lumpur and Langkawi. Having used Airasia for my international itinerary for the trip and seeing how cheap flying is really possible with them, I thought of jotting down the following tips to help you save big bucks on your next travel with Air Asia.

Now everyone can fly, But just be careful

When you book an Airasia flight online, you have to be really careful about how and when you are doing it. The following are some guidelines for you based on my personal experience with them during multiple bookings.

airasia flying booking tips

#1. Never book Airasia in your first attempt

AirAsia’s online booking system is a pretty smart spy that seems to track what you are trying to do in your multiple attempts under pressure. It will persuade you with some impressive numbers/statements and session timeout warnings etc. You have to make sure that you take your own sweet time before committing to a booking because there’s no refund (Also read the next section on how to uncheck unwanted options)

Since they use cookie based tracking, try clearing cookies or use alternate browser (or even a different PC / Laptop) on your subsequent booking attempts.

Also, try your booking options without logging into you your AirAsia account because if you do so, they clearly know your history.

#2. Uncheck addons during booking

This is where exactly you save big bucks. AirAsia’s default options are meant to extract money from you and the following are the recommended AirAsia booking options in most cases.

Airasia booking summary page

(Please note that you have to do the below settings for each and every traveler. Refer to the image above)

(a) Enable web check-in: For each passenger on your list , they will charge you RM10 (Malaysian Ringgit) if you opt for counter check-in. This means, that if you are a four member family, you can save RM80 on a roundtrip. Web check in can save you from a lot of trouble in front of the checkin counter.

(b) Discard Airasia insurance: This option is at the very bottom of the online booking screen. AirAsia’s insurance add-on doesn’t provide a lot of value for the price you pay. The insurance in this case is opted on a point-to-point basis which is not exactly what you want on an overseas trip. Instead, you can get very cheap online travel insurance for the whole trip from other vendors – especially when you are travelling from India to countries like Malaysia on tourist visa. For example, for my entire one week’s trip for a three member family, I had to pay only Rs.1400/- for all medical and air travel losses covered. The premium can much cheaper when you opt for the right insurance companies – of course, I didn’t do enough research on this before buying a travel insurance policy from Bajaj Allianz.

(c) Deselect checked baggage: By default, for every passenger in the itinerary, they add 20Kg of checked in baggage limit at the cost of RM30. If you are traveling as a family and if you need only 20Kg or 30Kg max, make sure that you bundle all that stuff in one travel bag. Then you can choose this option ONLY for one passenger and deselect all others. If you have only cabin baggage to carry, the situation is even better!

(d) Don’t opt for KL Sentral to Airport bus transit: The bus transit, if you opt for, is a cheaper mechanism to travel from LCCT to KL Sentral or vice versa. However, when you buy from them with all their add-on taxes, it doesn’t work out really cheap. You can buy it anyhow from the airport later or you might even decide to go for a taxi for comfort reasons. Hence you can defer this option while doing online booking.

(e) Don’t pick hot seats unless you really want it: Hot seats in AirAsia are those seats dressed in red color headrest cover while all others are black. Hotseats offer better leg room but be very careful while choosing them because NOT all those dressed up seats offer significance difference in leg room in a typical Airbus A320 carrier that AirAsia mostly operate. Row 1 and the ones near the exit doors (12 and 14) definitely offer a lot of leg room than other hot seats (Check this link) Hence, unless you get these seats, don’t pay the extra RM10 per hot seat. Even otherwise, unless you are a six-footer, for short journeys (i.e. less than four hours), you don’t really need a hot seat.

(f) Buy inflight food in advance: The inflight menu of AirAsia , though limited, is a great bargain when you buy in advance during online ticket booking. For example, the RM10 Nasi Lemak (typical Malaysian food) is an excellent in flight food for such cheap pricing.

Why pre-booked food when you can buy it on board? Because, those who pre-booked their food is first served and on a small carrier like A320, it takes the crew about 30-40 minutes to complete this task. Only after that, others can buy food and that’s exactly why it makes sense to prebook AirAsia’s awesome cheap food from the inflight menu.

However, you may really need to do this if the flight journey is say, three hours or longer. Again, it is a matter of personal preference.

By the way, AirAsian in-flight cuisine is mostly good for Non-vegetarians. The vegetarians have very limited options but still fine for the price at which they come.

#3. Be careful while booking onward journeys

Since AirAsia can postpone or reschedule your flights by a few hours, be very careful while booking your onward journey. If you have planned for just two or three hours break between flights (from the same airport even), think again. You might want to keep a good 8 to 10 hour gap between connecting flights if you are flying AirAsia. The typical rescheduling seems to be by four or five hours as per my experience with AirAsia on two occasions.

#4. On travel day

Due the point explained in #3, you have to make sure that you contact them at their desk before starting to the airport on travel day. Sometimes, their SMS alerts just don’t reach you on time. I was surprised that I got alerts regarding my return flight’s postponement but never got any alert for my onward journey on time. I accidentally found it out during web check-in. An alternative to calling them up is to cross-check the web-checking portal (http://checkin.airasia.com) to verify the new departure time.

Further, if you are in India do your web check-in using your email ID rather than opting for mobile alerts. Because, I never managed to get my 2D check-in code via mobile in India.

Regarding the baggage weight: If you are checking in from an Indian airport, don’t even imagine in your wildest dreams that you can exceed even 1kg from the prebooked weight. The AirAsia crew in Indian airports always go strictly by the numbers and they are very stubborn if you exceed the limits by even a kilogram. They would force you to take the next 10Kg block which costs you about RM80 or 100 when you are buying it at their counter. I experienced this myself last week and they are very cunning on that part.

Outside India (e.g. KL LCC Terminal) they have a flexibility up to 1 or 1.5Kg exceeding the limits, but again you have to pre-book your baggage weight in advance to save money. Read point #5 below.

#5. Add more weights just before travel

Since tourists are likely to have more baggage weight on return journeys, it is always better to top-up your baggage purchases on your return flight. In AirAsia, you can do this top-up job up to four hours before your travel and that’s a good thing because you can take a decision after packing up.

However, there’s a catch here. Between 20Kg and 25Kg, there’s only a difference of 6 Ringgits but if you cross 25Kg, the next option (i.e. 30Kg baggage) is rip off with doubled pricing as compared to 20Kg. And if you opt for 40Kg, that is even worse at 4 times the charge of 20Kg. And imagine, if you didn’t pre-book it before travel, you will be robbed by a few hundred Ringgits on the counter.

Hence be very careful while deciding your baggage options. The advantage of the AirAsia website is that you can access it from your mobile phone using any of the free Wifi options. I used the Hotel wifi to quickly add another five kilograms when I returned and that really saved me a lot of money.

Please note that, once you have done a web check-in and later you top up more baggage weight, you don’t need to do another check-in or modify anything. Their system will anyhow capture the changes.

Summary

That is pretty much I have to share in this edition of AirAsia flight booking tips. In essence, if you book and opt everything in advance, everyone can fly cheap in AirAsia as per their real claim. But if you vary even a bit from your options chosen, they will rip you apart.

Happy Flying!

Had a wonderful time in Thailand and Singapore

13 Nov

marina-bay-singaporeWe – self, wife and our elder son – just came back after spending an amazing holiday week at Bangkok, Pattaya and Singapore. Though this trip was pending for almost four to five months now, the decision to leave last week was a pretty quick one as we didn’t have kids passport processed until last minute. But thanks to the new Passport Seva Kendra (PSK) service in Bangalore and their online customer support, we got the passports processed on time and further the Singapore Visa pretty quickly thanks to our tour operator friend Sharath.

Though I have a lot to write about Thailand and Singapore, let me be crisp and short with my narration.

Singapore

tribal-show-singaporeWe decided to spend our first two days at Singapore as majority of the activities there were around theme parks, site seeing and various rides. Singapore is right at the top amidst the four or five developed nations in Asia and everything that you get to see out there is very well organized and clean. It is such a small country with an area of just 710 sq km and population of 5 million. In fact, you may hit the Malaysian border marina-bay-merlion-singapore
within an hour if you start driving from the heart of the city. Most people in Singapore can speak/understand English as it is the primary official language followed by Malay, Mandarin Chinese and Tamil – thanks to the composition of early migrants from Malaysia, China and India respectively. Singapore doesn’t have a very old history. It’s a reasonably new city and without a major distinct culture, in my opinion.

The Singapore Visa (two year validity with multiple entries) costs just S$30 or USD 24. As per the new requirements it requires two copies the passport size (3.5 x 4.5) photographs in matt finish and white background with 80% of the area occupied with your face. It takes only a day to get a Singapore Visa at their consulate.

posing-with-a-python-singapore-sentosa-islandSince ours was a package trip in Singapore, we got to stay in the assigned hotel (Hotel Grand Chancellor) in Little India area. I would not recommend this hotel for you due to their poor front desk assistance, crowded and unorganized cafeteria. Also, the room that was assigned to us had no latch for the bathroom door and had absolutely no wardrobe to hang clothes. However, if you are an Indian and would like to eat Indian food near the hotel, you may find this place convenient. As a matter of fact, Little India and China Town areas are the only crowded and little bit unorganized areas in Singapore to put things a bit positively.

Major attractions in Singapore

The following are what you should not miss in Singapore:

  • Sentosa Island and things to see there in such as Song of the sea, Sky ride, Underwater world, Dolphin lagoon etc
  • Singapore night safari – Awesome experience where you get to see animals very closely during a tram ride. Some basic animal show follow that. This place also has an exciting tribal dance show
  • Jurong Bird Park – Watch exotic birds and take pics with macaws. They also have an exciting birds show whereby birds do unbelievable things
  • Places such as Marina Bay, oldest Hindu temple, Little India, China Town etc

dolphin-lagoon-singapore-underwater-worldOne could also think of visiting the Universal Studio, if you are interested in the kind of activities it has to offer.

In my opinion, Singapore is not a great place for shoppers from Asia as nothing is really cheap out there. However, Europeans and Americans may find Electronic gadgets slightly cheaper.

jurong-bird-park-singaporeFood is relatively more expensive in theme park areas (e.g. Sentosa Island). Also watch out for ‘free’ accompaniments such as cashew nuts, pickles, wet tissues song-of-the-sea-singaporethat comes to your table without ordering. Finally, they will find a place in your total bill even if you do not consume it. You have to say ‘NO’ to them up front if they aren’t to be billed.

Overall Singapore is an exciting place but only for a day or two max. It is a very safe place due to its strict law enforcement practices but more expensive to live compared to its neighbouring countries. If you have visited any modern European or US Cities, you may find Singapore a bit boring.

Thailand – Pattaya and Bangkok

Our Pattaya and Bangkok stay turned out to be more exciting than the one at Singapore for the following reasons:

  • Thailand is a country thriving mainly on tourism and hence the hospitality is exceptional. They give respect to every visitor and treats them with utmost warmth and smile
  • The cost of living is very low as compared to other Asian cities with similar facilities
  • Food is exceptional and cheap – especially the seafood
  • Traditional Thai whole body massage provide excellent relaxation during your vacation and it’s amazingly cheap
  • Whole bunch of activities in the sea as well as on the shore
  • Nightlife in Pattaya is breathtaking – not talking about the one for single men alone :)

A visit to Thailand doesn’t need a visa in advance as on your leaving your country but you can get one through the “Visa on Arrival” counter at the Bangkok International Airport (Suvarnabhumi Airport). This Visa is free and all that you need to declare is how much of foreign exchange you have with you while landing in Thailand. The Bangkok airport is probably the best in Asia the only problem being the quality of English that they speak – many officials (forget alone other citizens) do not speak good English but they somehow manage to convey and understand.

pattaya-beach-viewPattaya is a small city that is about 2 hours drive (~160 kms) from Bangkok and the taxis cost around 800 to 1000 Thai bahts (1 baht = around 3 US cents). We stayed at the AOne Hotel in Pattaya which was an excellent 4-star hotel to stay. The new wing of the hotel is in the shape of a cruise vessel and the rooms are well appointed with many of them facing the beach. It is hardly 100 meters away from the beach and very close to the happening beach boulevard and walking street. pattaya-beach-speed-boatThe breakfast spread in the hotel is excellent and I highly recommend this hotel for your stay in Pattaya. The staff out there are extremely friendly too.

We landed in Pattaya in the evening and ventured out immediately. It was an awesome sight in the evening with 100s of bars and restaurants along one side of beach road. They were all lit up and had live bands there in. Needless to say, Pattaya is known for ‘other’ activities as well and hence there were plenty of beautiful Thai girls in all bars – many of them sitting along with their customers.

After a light seafood dinner (exceptional) and a couple of drinks, the first thing we tried out was a foot massage. The 1-hour long foot massage costs between 250 to 350 bahts and it is a highly relaxing experience and probably a must-have after wandering around the beach on a long day. The Thai people treat their customers like kings and queens (in fact gods) and even a small tip is highly appreciated. 20 to 50 bahts is a very good tip amount for any big service.

Para-sailing-Coral-Islands-PattayaOn the next morning, we headed for the Coral Islands in a speed boat. Before that we eased ourselves into bermudas (80 to 120 baht) and slippers (50 to 100 bahts) that we purchased from the beach side vendors. We first dropped by at the floating para-sailing platform and all of us had a wonderful time with sailing. Like most other stuff in Pattaya, the para-sailing was inexpensive as well – I think it was around 400 bahts per person.

After our parasailing ventures, we moved towards the undersea walking area which was near a stationery boat another couple of miles away. This was the first time, I was doing a walking undersea and it really turned out to be an exciting thing. It was my wife’s birthday on that day and she had a real rocking b’day. They actually take photographs and videos for our underwater walking and that part is a bit expensive.

coral-island-beach-pattayaNext in line was some time on the coral island beach where we men (Sharath and myself) enjoyed some Singaporean, Malaysian and Thai brand beers (Singha, Tiger, Chang etc) coral-island-beach-pattayaon the beach while my better half and kid ventured into the sea. This beach is very safe until about 2 O’ clock by when the tides are in. One or two hours at the beach and it was already time to take a look at the corals. We were transferred to another boat with glass bottoms to watch corals but due to the sunlight I could hardly see any. Anyhow, a couple of others were convinced.

In the late afternoon we were already tired and we thought of having a traditional Thai whole body massage. This was the best massage I ever had in my life. Two long hours of massage and I was already sleeping and snoring five minutes into it. It costs something like 500 bahts for 2 hours and probably 50 baht tips.

After the massage, we – without the kid – went for a special show that I do not want to mention here.

The last item for the night before the lobster dinner was the famous Alcazer show alcazer-shemale-artistewhich is a breathtaking ballet cum dance performance by beautiful ladyboys. I didn’t quite know that they were shemales until the show was over. After the show, I took a picture with one of them. Shemales are a huge community in Thailand and they are respected well there. They get to do regular jobs like other people and I thought that’s a very good thing as compared to the poor state of that kind of people in countries like India.

A day in Bangkok

The next morning, we set out for Bangkok and visited the Sri Racha tiger zoo en route. with-tiger-sriracha-zooIt was yet another amazing experience where we saw tiger show, crocodile show and elephants performing various things. We also got a chance to take snaps with elephants, tigers and tiger cubs. That was the first time I really touched an adult tiger while the trainers, tiger, myself and the photographer remained within the cage.

In Bangkok, we got to stay in the 22nd floor of the Hotel Amari Atrium bangkok-city-thailandafter we got a free upgrade to a suite. This gave us beautiful view of the city and it was really looking great from up there. Rest of the evening and most of next day we spent time on shopping in Bangkok. Bangkok is really a shoppers paradise for cotton clothes, leather bags, electronics etc.

That was like the end of an exciting five nights and we never wanted to say “sawatdee ka” (Hello as well as Goodbye in Thai) to the beautiful Thai people. With a pledge that we will go back there again next year, we boarded the Thai airways flight – Thai smooth as silk!

PS: Anybody interested in exciting Thai packages may please get in touch with Sharath (using his facebook profile given at the top)