Discount airlines in Asia
This article is a travel topic
This is one of several Wikitravel articles about Discount airlines.
Asian carriers have often offered lower fares than their European or American rivals. Now they are starting to catch the wave of discount airlines, pioneered in Europe and the US. In South-East Asia, an ASEAN-wide open skies agreement is in the works, but in the rest of the continent flights are still severely restricted by bilateral agreements.
Asian carriers are generally much cheaper than their American or European rivals, and there are some great bargains to be had. The low-cost airline industry in Asia is sure to boom in the coming years.
Below is the list of the carriers, grouped by their base country.
China's first low-cost airline Spring Airlines was launched in July 2005, and many seem set to follow. Internationally, you can already fly in to various points in southern China from cities in Southeast Asia (see section below). Hong Kong's pioneering long-haul LCC Oasis shut down operations in April 2008.
Spring Airlines  (春秋航空; Chūnqiū Hángkōng) flies from its base in Shanghai to over 30 destinations in China and Asia. Still expanding rapidly, Spring has recently opened international flights to Hong Kong, Macau, Ibaraki (Tokyo), Saga (Fukuoka) and Takamatsu from Shanghai and Shijiazhuang (Beijing), as well as Guangzhou, Jinjiang, Tianjin, Changsha, Dalian, Nanjing, Qingdao, Shenyang, Hangzhou, Qingdao, Chongqing, Changchun, Fuzhou, Guiyang, Harbin, Hohhot, Mianyang, Nanning, Shantou, Shenzhen, Urumqi, Xiamen, Xi'an, Lanzhou, Yinchuan, Zhuhai, Changde, Chengdu, Kunming, Huaihua, Zhangjiajie, Guilin and Sanya in mainland China.
Hong Kong Express
India's domestic airline market, although liberalized, has few players and no truly low-cost carriers exist in the western sense. Indian low-cost airlines are not much differentiated from the full-service airlines Air India and Vistara, whose prices are usually only at a relatively small premium.
International low-cost flights into India are also limited, although Air India Express, Indigo and Spicejet do operate some international flights and various Middle Eastern carriers fly to India. There are also limited connections from South-East Asia: as of November 2007, Tiger flies from Singapore to Chennai and Kochi. Air Asia flies to Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu, Hyderabad in Andhra Pradesh, Bengaluru in Karnataka, Kolkata in West Bengal from its Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, base.
Air India Express
Air India Express  is the low-cost spinoff of state carrier Air India. The carrier currently operates flights to Middle Eastern destinations Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Salalah, as well as from Chennai to Singapore, from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur and from Kolkata to Singapore.
IndiGo  is based in Delhi and is currently (Sep 2015) India's largest domestic airline, flying to a large number of destinations across India on Airbus 320/321's. Its international destinations include Singapore, Bangkok, Dubai, Muscat, and Kathmandu.
SpiceJet  started operations in May 2005. They fly to several domestic and a few international destinations, exclusively on Boeing 737-800/900 planes.
Air Asia India
Air Asia India commenced operations on 12 June 2014, operating a few flights out of Bengaluru.
Air Asia now flies from Kuala Lumpur to Colombo.
Japan's low-cost carriers have had a rocky ride, with most being snapped up by the majors. Don't expect any 5-cent tickets, as even promotional fares are usually above ¥10,000.
True low-cost flights into the country are quite limited, and due to capacity constraints not many fly to Tokyo. As of July 2011, your options are:
Cebu Pacific (international)
Jetstar  flies from Taipei, Cairns and the Gold Coast to Osaka and from Cairns and the Gold Coast to Tokyo. It also flies from Singapore to Da Nang (though the website doesn't make it easy to find flights to VietNam).
Jeju Air (international)
Air Asia (international)
Air Do (domestic)
Skymark Airlines (domestic)
Skymark Airlines  flies from Tokyo to Sapporo (and through to Asahikawa), Kobe (and through to Nagasaki), Kitakyushu, Fukuoka, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Naha. From Kobe flights are operated to Sapporo, Nagasaki, Kumamoto, Kagoshima and Naha. From Kitakyushu flights are operated to Sapporo and Kobe and from Nagoya to Sapporo and Naha. Finally, Fukuoka and Naha as well as Kagoshima and Amami are connected by a route.
Solaseed Air (domestic)
Amakusa Airlines (domestic)
Peach Airlines (international)
Peach Airlines  flies to and from Sapporo, Fukuoka, Nagasaki, Kagoshima, Osaka, Naha, and Ishigaki. They also offer flights to Hong Kong, Taiwan and South Korea.
South Korea's staid aviation scene was shaken up in 2005 when the first low-cost carrier started operation.
T'way Airlines  flies from Seoul and Jeju. Formerly called Hansung Airilnes, the carrier suffered an accident (no injuries) that closed operations for several months but started flying again in March 2006.
T'way began service to Bangkok in October 2011.
Jeju Air  flies from Seoul to Busan, Jeju and Yangyang, and also offers direct Jeju-Busan flights. It also has Incheon-Manila, Incheon-Hong Kong, Incheon-Osaka, Incheon-Fukuoka, and Busan-Cebu routes.
EastarJet operates flights from Seoul (Gimpo Airport) to Jeju and does charter service from Incheon to Phuket. One-way flights available starting from less than 30,000 won (27 US$) (see [booking.eastarjet.com] for more information).
Air Busan  launched as a domestic airline in October 2008. International operations commenced in 2010 with services from Busan to Fukuoka, Osaka and then in July 2010 to Tokyo (Narita) in Japan. The Tokyo service appears to have been suspended and was not listed in late 2010.
Air Busan operate Airbus A321-200 (10 aircrafts) and A320-200 (6 aircrafts) as in July 2016.
Services are hubbed from Busan and include Gimpo, Osaka, Fukuoka, Jeju, Hongkong, Taipei and Weihai are operated in association with Korea's Asiana Airlines. Air Busan also fly to a few locations in China, including Xi'an and Qingdao. See the Route Map for an up to date list of routes
United Arab Emirates
Air Arabia , the largest LCC in the Middle East, are based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. An economy service connects Sharjah with Dubai for US$2.50. They fly to a variety of destinations in the Middle East, East Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. They operate a modern fleet. Their fares are often very good value, starting at 119 UAE dirhams on some routes. They offer a connecting flight service.
They sometimes seem to use bait-and-switch advertising; their advertised rates are not always available when you try to book. Actual rates are often much higher, though usually still well below those of major airlines. Luggage allowances are about half of what one would expect for a mainstream carrier, which can be quite a surprise at check-in (one check-in bag, not two!).
The airline operates flights to Mumbai, Jaipur, Kochi, Nagpur, Trivandrum, Ahmedabad, and Chennai in India. Other cities across the globe touched by Air Arabia are Aleppo and Damascus (Syria); Alexandria, Assiut and Luxor (Egypt); Amman (Jordan); Astana and Almaty (Kazakhstan); Athens, Bahrain; Beirut (Lebanon); Chittagong (Bangladesh); Colombo (Sri Lanka); Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh (KSA), Doha (Qatar); Istanbul (Turkey); Kabul (Afghanistan); Khartoum (Sudan); Kuwait; Muscat (Oman); Sanaa (Yemen); Sharjah (UAE) and Tehran (Iran).
Flydubai  is a low cost airline of the United Arab Emirates from Terminal 2 at Dubai International Airport. Airline fare includes all taxes and a 7 kg hand baggage allowance. The airline currently services 26 destinations in the region. Aleppo (ALP) Alexandria (ALY) Amman (AMM) Assiut (ATZ) Bahrain (BAH) Baku (GYD) Beirut (BEY) Colombo (CMB) Damascus (DAM) Djibouti (JIB) Doha (DOH) Erbil (EBL) Istanbul (SAW) Kabul (KBL) Karachi (KHI) Kathmandu (KTM) Kharum (KRT) Kuwait (KWI) Latakia (LTK) Lucknow (LKO) Luxor (LXR) Moscow (VKO) Muscat (MCT) Samara (KUF) Sulaimaniyah (ISU) Yekaterinburg (SVX) Yerevan (EVN) Riyadh (RUH)
Since Nas Air was launched on February 17, 2007 the company has grown rapidly, today the airline operates to 13 destinations within Saudi Arabia and 11 international destinations, with over 300 flights per week. International destinations include cities in Kuwait, India, Lebanon, Syria, Sudan and United Arab Emirates (UAE).
Jazeera Airways  flies to many destinations across the Middle East. It has main hubs in Kuwait and Dubai.
Southeast Asia has the most developed low cost carrier networks in Asia, with many operators and fierce competition. All countries in South-East Asia can be reached by LCC.
Bases across multiple countries
Malaysian airline Air Asia  has the distinction of having been acquired for 1 ringgit (US $0.25), but they have now grown to the largest (and most profitable) operator in the region as well as being SkyTrax's World's Best Low Cost Airline for 2009. Originally founded by government-owned conglomerate DRB-Hicom, the heavily indebted airline was purchased by former Time Warner executive Tony Fernandes's company Tune Air Sdn Bhd for the symbolic sum of one ringgit on December 2nd, 2001. They operate on the now-classic model of cramped seating, primarily Internet/phone booking and no complimentary refreshments. AirAsia operates Flyasianxpress or FAX  and AirAsiaX in addition to two associated Companies: Thai AirAsia  and Indonesia AirAsia .
Jetstar  is a Qantas-backed LCC currently flying from Singapore to Bangkok, Da Nang, Darwin, Denpasar (Bali), Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, Jakarta, Manila, Medan, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Siem Reap, Surabaya, Taipei, Osaka and Yangon. Flights to India have been terminated. Jetstar's Australian registered planes also fly to Cairns via Darwin. Jetstar Pacific , its Vietnamese subsidiary, launched operations in 2008. Online check-in is available only for flights originating from Australia and New Zealand and food purchased outside the flight may not be consumed on board.
Garuda Indonesia airways began accepting both Indonesian and non-Indonesian issued VISA and Mastercard for online booking payments in early 2011. They also have offices in many nearby countries. Since early 2011 Lion Air/Wings Air have accepted both Indonesian and non-Indonesian issued VISA and Mastercard to make payments using the Lion Air online booking system. Hotels and tour companies can often arrange Indonesian airline payments but if you use this sort of service apply some scrutiny to their charges. Jetstar, Air Asia (Including Indonesia Air Asia) and Virgin Australia (previously Virgin Blue) provide for online credit card payments using both Indonesian and non-Indonesian credit cards.
Credit card payment with foreign credit card, not issued in Asia, does not work with Lionair.
Batavia Air is no longer operating since January 2013.
Garuda Citilink  operate a domestic route network and some international destinations. Fares start from 125,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($15). This subsidiary of Garuda Airline now accept credit card purchases online or at its call centre, as well as payment via a limited number of ATMs in Indonesia or directly at their office in Jakarta. Citilink fly to Dili from Denpasar and some charter flights.
Warning: as of March 13, 2008 Lion air only accepts online credit card payment more than 48 hours before the departure time of the flight. Payment can be made via many popular Indonesian ATMs.
From early 2011 Lion Air started accepting non-Indonesian issued credit cards for finalise online booking payments for Lion Air and Wings Air bookings. Wings Abadi Airlines are the regional feeder airline to the Lion Air national trunk routes.
On 13 January, 2011 Mandala airlines suspended their operations due to debt problems. But then operating again with the name Tiger Mandala. On July 2014, Tiger Mandala stopped its operation.
Merpati Nusantara airlines is no longer operating since 2014.
Cebu Pacific Air
Cebu Pacific flies primarily within the Philippines. The airline is one of the most successful airlines in Asia being one of the largest low-cost carries, internationally it flies from respective hubs of Manila and Cebu to Bangkok, Busan, Jakarta, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Taipei, Guangzhou, Macau, Osaka, Shanghai. Seoul,Sydney and Xiamen. Booking online is done with ease but payments may be made by Visa card but will include additional taxes. Booking by telephone will result to higher seat prices. Fares start from ₱800 in both domestic and international flights but the extra costs that make the tickets expensive are the tax and fuel costs.
AirPhil Express is the subsidiary of Philippine Airlines, it was formerly known as Air Philippines. The often have offers in their website for connections from and to Manila and Cebu as low as ₱500. They have inter-island flights in some provinces and operates only one international flight in Singapore which connects it to Manila and Cebu with its Airbus A320. The airline is has ordered more aircraft for increasing passenger demands and has expected it to be delivered in 2013. Its main hubs are located in Manila, Cebu, Davao and Zamboanga and it is expected to take over Philippine Airlines' domestic operations in the future. All PAL Express flights, since 2009, had been operated had been transferred, in 2010, to AirPhil Express.
Zest Air or Zest Airways is the first airline to be run as cooperative in the Philippines, it was formerly known as Asian Spirit. Currently known as Airasia Zest. The airline has its main hub in Ninoy Aquino International Airport Terminal 4 in Manila. It operates 19 domestic flights and 3 international flights to Shanghai, Busan and Seoul. Edit 1/2014 seems they are booking through the Air Asia website now.
Cebgo used to be called SEAir or South East Asian Airlines. It is now owned by Cebu Pacific. It operates flights within the Philippines with all ATR 72 aircraft. The tickets are sold through Cebu Pacific website.
Tiger Airways  is a low-cost airline set up in Singapore jointly by Singapore Airlines and the people who started Ryanair. It is now wholly owned by Singapore Airlines. Services currently operate from Singapore to China (Guangzhou, Haikou, Jinan, Nanning, Ningbo, Shenzhen, Wuxi, and Xian), Hong Kong, Indonesia (Denpasar, Jakarta, and Surabaya), Philippines (Manila, Cebu, Kalibo), Macau, Thailand (Bangkok, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, and Phuket), Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City), India (Bangalore, Chennai, Hyderabad, Kochi, Lucknow, and Tiruchirapalli. No free food or drinks are provided on Tiger flights. If you buy any while on-board your change will be given in Singapore dollars, even if you're flying from Macau to Manila. Please note that Tiger charges extra for check-in luggage, pre-allocated seats and credit card fees on top of the usual fees and charges, so consider these when you compare prices.
Thai Airlines low-cost spinoff Nok Air  took to the skies in 2004 sporting a purple paint scheme with a bird's beak painted on the nose, and employing a price scheme similar to that of Air Asia.
Passengers can book on the web , call-centre Tel-1318 or at the airports. Payment can be made via credit card, counter service, 7-11, or online credit card. Those who make the booking online can choose the seating right after the purchase.
Currently, they fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Surat Thani, Phuket, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Udon Thani, Trang and Loei, from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Pai and Mae Hong Son. Nok's international routes to India and Vietnam have been terminated.
Orient Thai  flies domestic flights in Thailand as well as international flights to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Seoul from both Bangkok and Phuket. They stopped flying for a while in 2008, but as of March 2009 are flying again.
Note: Even by low-cost carrier standards, Orient Thai's on-time record is notoriously poor and their planes, particularly the 747s, are old. A crash in September 2007 that killed 89 people was later found to be due to pilot error.
Bangkok Air promotes itself as a boutique airline, it flies routes not normally covered by other airlines such as Phuket to Ko Samui, Bangkok to Ko Samui, its prices are high compared to a budget airline, $100 per leg being typical but it provides services more typical of major airlines including free beverages and snacks at the airport lounges.