Airline review: AirAsia X economy class, Kuala Lumpur to Sydney

THE PLANE

Airbus A330

THE ROUTE

Kuala Lumpur to Sydney

THE LOYALTY SCHEME

AirAsia BIG

CLASS

Economy class, seat 42K

DURATION

Eight hours 25 minutes

FREQUENCY

AirAsia X flies from Kuala Lumpur to Sydney twice daily.

THE SEAT

You're expecting the worst, obviously. This is AirAsia X and you paid the cost of a couple of fancy dinners to fly halfway across the world. It's going to be bad. And yet, it's not. Things are basic in the economy cabin, of course, with seats laid out in a 3-3-3 configuration (the business section up the front has 2-2-2 flatbeds, which we're offered on check-in for $400 a pop). Each economy seat has such mod-cons as the ability to recline, and a pocket in which to store a book. With a pitch of 32 inches, however, it's surprisingly spacious. The seat width is 16.5 inches.

BAGGAGE

With Air Asia X you start from scratch – no checked baggage included – and work your way up, choosing between 20, 25, 30 or 40 kilograms of luggage. Each has to be paid for accordingly, and bulky sports equipment costs extra.

COMFORT

It's actually genuinely impressive how comfortable the cabin is. There's no battle for space in the overhead locker, despite the full flight, and the seats are comfy, with as much room as you get on many full-service carriers.

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ENTERTAINMENT

Unless you count watching people pile onto the aircraft and sit down in the wrong seats as entertainment, none is provided free. No seat-back screens or anything like that. There are iPads available for hire with entertainment preloaded – they can be booked in advance, or purchased on board for about $18 – or you're welcome to BYO.

SERVICE

Credit where it's due: the on-board service is excellent. Far better, in fact, than most I've experienced on full-service carriers. All of the staff are pleasant and helpful, and seem to genuinely care about the comfort of their passengers.

FOOD

Filet mignon with cafe de Paris butter. Just kidding, there's no food. At least, there's no food included in the price of your ticket. But again, credit where it's due: there's no price gouging in the air here. Even if you don't book in advance, a hot meal – choose between sweet and sour chicken with garlic rice, chicken lasagne, or vegetable curry with biryani – will still only cost about $6.30. You can get a Tiger beer for a bit over $4. Coffee is $2. All of the food I try is top-notch, as far as airline food goes, and in fact it's preferable to plenty of the fare you're served on fancy carriers.

ONE MORE THING

Flying with AirAsia X is a tale of two experiences. Everything leading up to the flight – the booking, the online check-in, the changing of a flight after a cancellation – is a nightmare that seems intentionally complex. Everything on the flight, meanwhile, is an absolute delight, and far better than I'd expected.

THE VERDICT

The annoying negatives during the booking process are far outweighed by the positives once I'm on board: the flight is on time, the atmosphere is relaxed, the food is great, and the service is excellent. This is an extremely affordable, comfortable way to travel.

 

Our rating out of five: Four

Ben Groundwater travelled at his own expense.

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