Discount airlines in Asia

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Discount airlines in Asia

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Asia is just starting to catch the wave of of low cost carriers, pioneered in the US and Europe. The most prominent example is Air Asia with its Malaysia-base and destinations around Southeast Asia. Singapore Airlines and Virgin Atlantic have startups too.


All low cost airlines advertise their lowest fares but typically you have to book well in advance to get these fares. It is common practice for these airlines to not offer complementary refreshments, which is not unreasonable given that most flights are less than 2 hours in duration. However should you feel a little peckish on board and decide to buy something to eat that also adds to the cost.

Is is worth it?

Usually yes. Even though the advertised "rock bottom" fare is available to early bookers, most fares are still likely to be cheaper than on an equivalent full fare airline.

Most discount airlines give no discount for return trips so if you are not making a return to the same destination then full fare airlines are usually far worse since they prefer to really gouge one-way flyers.

Air Asia

Air Asia has the distinction of having been acquired for 1 ringgit (US $0.25). 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.

Fernandes proceeded to engineer a remarkable turnaround, turning a profit in 2002 and launching new routes from its hub in Kuala Lumpur International Airport at breakneck speed, undercutting former monopoly operator Malaysia Airlines with promotional fares as low as RM10.

They operate on the now-classic model -- open seating, no complementary refreshments, Internet/phone booking.

It has destinations in Kuala Lumpur, Kota Bharu, etc.

Official Web site

Cebu Pacific Air (Philippines)

Air Paradise (Bali, Indonesia)

Web site

Tiger Airways (Singapore)

Will be launched in in 2005.

Lion Air and Air Paradise International (Indonesia)

Other low cost airlines