For inexpensive travel within Asia, Air Asia is a great choice for those who don't mind flying an airline that only offers the no-frills experience. Charging for everything from seats to bags, Air Asia has established a large presence in South East Asia, and bills itself as the airline that enables everybody to fly.
Flying to Yangon can be tough if you want to remain on oneworld, so I decided to look outside the box when booking my trip. Air Asia, at the time I booked, operated three non-stop flights from Bangkok to Yangon, allowing me plenty of time to make my connection from Cathay Pacific. The one-way fare came out to $66 including taxes, plus $11 for the ability to select a seat at booking. Had I not paid, a seat would have been randomly assigned to me at check-in.
Just a few months before my trip, I received an email from Air Asia that they were moving all services from BKK to Don Muang (DMK), the old Bangkok airport. Though this did not impact my connection in Yangon to Thai, it did mean that I would have to travel between BKK and DMK, which can take over an hour in rush-hour traffic. Air Asia did not offer to pay for transit betwen the two airports, though I did discover that a free shuttle runs hourly from 5:00am - 10:00pm.
Shuttle Bus from Suvarnabhumi to Don Muang
To board the bus, passengers must have some proof of an onward connection, or be able to show a same-day boarding pass. With Air Asia requiring a visa check before I could print my boarding passes, meaning no online check-in, the dragon agent scowled and accepted my Cathay Pacific boarding pass, allowing me a seat on the bus.
The ride to Don Muang took over an hour, because of the heavy afternoon traffic. Upon our arrival, the driver wished each of the passengers a safe trip, and pointed us towards the ticket counters.
To enter the Air Asia ticket lobby, all passengers were required to go through a mini security screening. Both of my bags were scanned, and then I was able to proceed to the nearest agent. My passport was checked for the Myanmar visa, and within minutes, my boarding pass was printed. I was a bit worried that the agent would notice my rollerboard, and make me check it, though she didn't seem to notice or care.
Before proceeding to my departure gate, I had to go through passport control, and then a small security checkpoint. Unlike most Asian airports, there were no signs or agents around to say what items had to be pulled out of my bags, so I left my laptop and liquids in my backpack, which the x-ray operated didn't even seem to notice.
There is no lounge for Air Asia passengers, so I spent time in the food court, before proceeding to the gate area.
$4.50 for this chicken meal
With no working power outlets, and no wifi, I spent the next two hours in the holding area, which reminded me of the Dulles 'A Gates'. My laptop did have enough power for me to watch a movie, though without internet, it was a boring layover.
remote-stand waiting area
Shortly before boarding began, a huge group of passengers for my flight, and the others departing from the same gate area, began to surge the various gate counters. During this time, I noticed one of the gate agents measuring various carry-on bags with the sizer, and thought for sure that my bag was going to be checked, costing me a great deal of money. Fortunately for me, the agents ignored it again, and I was allowed to board with my TravelPro Crew 7 19 rollerboard and a full backpack.
Today, our flight was departing from a remote stand, which meant a bus ride across the tarmac to the A320 waiting to take us to Yangon.
Air Asia Airbus A320
The temperature was well over ninety degrees, and with the afternoon humidity, it was not the most comfortable boarding process.
On-board the A320, the cabin was divided into 'hot seats' and regular seats. The 'hot seats' had the red tops, while the regular seats were all black. On this particular flight, I paid for the exit row, and ended up being the only passenger in either of the exit rows.
During boarding, a flight attendant came around to ensure that I was supposed to be sitting in the exit row. Throughout the rest of the boarding process, she carefully watched over the exit rows, chasing away several seat poachers.
Once the manual safety demonstration was completed, we began our fairly short taxi to the runway. Along the way, we passed a familiar livery, now redesigned for 'City Airways'.. :-)
Air Asia does not allow passengers to consume outside food and beverage aboard the aircraft, and they certainly do their best to up-sell buy-on-board food items to passengers. During the booking process, I was offered the opportunity to purchase several of the products listed below. On-board the aircraft, these items were offered, along with several hot and cold drinks.
I went ahead and purchased a coke for $2 USD, though I did not buy any of the food options. I had some snack mix in my backpack, which I ate once the flight attendants moved past my row.
Thirty minutes later, the flight attendants came around with immigration forms for Myanmar, and to collect trash.
Within minutes, we descended out of the clouds, and the countryside of Myanmar appeared.
Upon our arrival, all passengers were directed towards customs and immigration. I had read soem reports of passengers being able to transit without needing a visa, though there seemed to be some inconsistency with regards to who a passenger needed to ask, or how they could go from the arrivals > departure area without clearing customs.
(photo courtesy: maftravelgraphy
The walk from the plane to immigration was extremely short, and just before entering the queue, we passed counters for passengers who had purchased visa on arrival.
Immigration - (photo courtesy: maftravelgraphy)
Upon presenting my passport, the agent smiled, and noted that she had seen a lot of Americans flying into Yangon recently. She went on to ask if there had been a good fare, to which I responded affirmatively. :D I don't think she knew that some people had booked five or more of these tickets! Despite my immigration form showing that I was only going to be transiting, my passport was stamped, and the agent welcomed me to Myanmar.
Baggage claim was just past the immigration counters, though with no checked bag, I walked on to the exit doors, and was immediately bombarded by locals offering me cab rides, sim cards, and many other items. I declined, and proceeded outdoors so that I could say that I had left the airport on this mileage run.
Bangkok - DMK
Yangon - RGN
Overall, my flight on Air Asia was much better than I thought that it would be. The agents and flight attendants I interacted with were very friendly, and young :D, and the overall travel experience was pretty decent. I certainly can't complain about the price of the flight, and though I had to transfer from BKK>DMK, it was fairly simple with the free shuttle. Although I have already booked an upcoming intra-Asia flight on Silk Air, I wouldn't hesitate to book with Air Asia in the future.
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