The long-haul, low-cost market has always fascinated me, and I finally had the opportunity to “Xperience” what it was like to fly on a fully unbundled LCC when I traveled on AirAsia X (D7) round-trip from Xi’an, China to Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. On the outbound journey, I sampled AirAsia X’s Premium class product, which features a fully lie-flat seat. I was also looking forward to visiting Kuala Lumpur’s newest international terminal, known as KLIA2, which opened in 2014 and the main operating base of AirAsia Berhad and its long-haul sister subsidiary, AirAsia X.
AirAsia X is a long-haul, low-cost carrier. It has been flying since January 2007, and has three affiliate carriers based in Malaysia, Thailand and Indonesia. Its biggest presence is in Malaysia, but among all three of its “hubs,” the carrier operates to China, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, India, Australia, Saudi Arabia, New Zealand, Nepal, Iran and Mauritius.
About AirAsia X and its Xi’an service
AirAsia X follows the same fully unbundled, “a-la-carte” pricing and product model on its wide-body Airbus A330-300 flights as does its sister brand, AirAsia Berhad, which flies narrow-body Airbus A320s across affiliates in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Japan and India. However, unlike its short-haul variant, AirAsia X has tweaked the product slightly to tailor to the medium and long-haul travel market.
AirAsia X Fare Families and ProductsAirAsia X has been flying to Xi’an since July 2, 2014 and remains the only commercial carrier linking Xi’an and Kuala Lumpur. It currently flies to Xi’an four times per week. Inbound flights leave from Kuala Lumpur at 18:15 local time and arrive at 23:15 in Xi’an (they are in the same time zone). The flight does a quick-turn back to Kuala Lumpur using the same flight crew, departing at 00:15 from Xi’an and arriving in Kuala Lumpur at 5:15 AM. The “turnaround” flights to Xi’an, as well as Shanghai and Perth, are enabled by AirAsia X’s alignment with industry standards to allow cabin crews to work up to 12 hours on-board.
|D7 346||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||Xi’an (XIY)||18:15||23:15||Mon, Wed, Fri, Sat|
|D7 347||Xi’an (XIY)||Kuala Lumpur (KUL)||00:15||5:15||Tue, Thurs, Sat, Sun|
Onboard Products and Services
AirAsia X offers three cabins seating 377 passengers on their Airbus A330-300s: Business Class, Quiet Zone and Main Cabin. Its Business Class features twelve, “Premium Flatbed” seats in the front of the cabin. Those holding a Business Class ticket are entitled to unlimited flight changes, 40kg of baggage allowance and priority check-in and boarding. On-board, customers receive comfortable pillows and duvets and a complimentary meal service. Upon arrival, these customers also receive priority baggage collection at check-out, and, for those terminating their journeys at Kuala Lumpur, a dedicated “fast-track” lane at KLIA 2 immigration counter.
The “Quiet Zone” in the forward section of Economy Class with 42, “child-free” seats since only guests ages 10 and above can sit in them, as well as ambient lighting. In the bulkhead rows of the remaining Economy Class sections, otherwise known as “Hot Seats,” passengers can pay a nominal fee for extra legroom. Customers can check-in for their AirAsia X flights up to 14 days in advance, and must pay extra for luggage that weighs over 32kgs.
Check-in and boarding
Check-in at Xi’an was very easy, with several dedicated counters at Xi’an for all passengers. Today’s flight would be a red-eye back to Kuala Lumpur, which leaves at 00:45 AM and arrives into Kuala Lumpur at 5:45 local time. Few flights were departing at Xi’an at that hour, but due to large volumes of tour groups heading to Kuala Lumpur, lines to proceed through security, as well as board the plane, were long. There were no dedicated Premium lines in Xi’an through security, although they did board by group at the gate.
Upon entering the aircraft, I turned left and walked to my assigned seat, 2K. Immediate perceptions of the aircraft, as well as the seat, were solid. The red colors of the interior cabin are pleasing to the eye, and the seat looked comfortable and cozy. I did notice that, true to low-cost carrier style, the overhead lockers featured advertisements, which is a smart way to earn passive revenue.
Today’s ship was registered as 9M-XXZ – one of the newer planes delivered to AirAsia X in April 2015, roughly two years after completing its maiden flight. This AAX bird was equipped with two Rolls Royce Trent 772B-60 engines.
Upon settling into my seat, I received a complimentary bottle of water and also started to browse the menu. A cabin crew member welcomed me on board and asked if I would like my pre-ordered meal (which came with the Business Class ticket) served after take-off, or before landing. Figuring that I would probably sleep right after we took off, I asked to be served prior to arrival in Kuala Lumpur.
time of 4 hours and 45 minutes, wheels up to wheels down in Kuala Lumpur. The journey from Xi’an to KL is approximately 2234 miles, or 3595 kilometers.
As I relaxed into my seat, I immediately felt extremely comfortable in the full-flat bed position. The product itself is fairly simple: it features a storage place for shoes, a footrest, a reading lap, 110V power outlets (at each seat) and, of course, the bedding. All other amenities received on-board are the same as what is sold a-la carte in Economy Class, with the exception of the meal service (which can also be ordered online). Customers traveling in Business can order additional meals if they wish at the standard prices. Furthermore, all customers can take advantage of the Duty Free purchases on board, as well as rent Samsung Galaxy Tablets to watch movies, TV shows, browse music, play games or read magazines.
Many, if not most, of the products available for purchase onboard AirAsia X flights can be reserved ahead of time online for a nominal discount, which is worth taking advantage of for larger groups and families traveling with children. A full break-down of fees, in-flight food menus and entertainment selections are also available on AirAsia’s website. Customers can even book these products on the AirAsia mobile app.
Speaking of the meal service, it is a huge part of the on-board flight culture at AirAsia X. During boarding, I perused through the menu and noticed that in addition to a plethora of snacks, AirAsia X offers a selection of up to 15 hot meals available for purchase on all flights over 75 minutes. These are dichotomized into several categories: all day snacks, all day dining, standard snacks and the SkyBar.
Before dozing off, I was salivating at the menu and decided that, in addition to purchasing an Airbus A330-300 model from Duty Free, I was also going to get a hot meal as part of a “late night” supper. I also noticed that the SkyBar had an interesting cocktail called, “Poison Apple” featuring Tropicana Sparkling Apple along with a 50ml bottle of Grey Goose for 30 Malaysian Ringgits (approximately $7.34 USD). In addition to the standard juices, cocktails, cafes, teas, beers, liquors, wines, sparkling wines, cookies, chips, noodles and dried fruit, the snacks and dining options were pretty inspirational.
The menu featured a variety of Asian dishes from around the continent, including Bibimbap from South Korea, Vietnamese Spring Rolls with peanut sauce, Nasi Lemak (a Malaysian delicacy that features coconut rice, chicken, fried anchovies, spicy chili and a julienned egg), vegetable curry, chicken satay, macaroni and cheese , smoked pizza sandwiches and ginger fried rice, just to name a few.
For dinner, I had the Vegetable Curry with Briyani Rice along with my Poison Apple. It hit the spot, and after I finished my meal, I drifted off into sleep.
Roughly 3 hours later, I was politely woken up by a flight attendant asking me if I was ready for my breakfast. I had requested the AirAsia X, “Big Breakfast,” one of its signature deluxe sets, that comes with a mozzarella and parmesan omelet, button mushrooms, chicken sausage, baked beans, potatoes, a bun, butter, orange juice and coffee. It was pretty delectable. AirAsia X doesn’t serve any of their Premium Cabin meals on dishware or in non-disposable cups, which was fine by me. Put simply, it is impossible to go hungry on an AirAsia X flight.
Landing at KUL
KLIA2 houses all of the low-cost carriers serving Kuala Lumpur International Airport. It is commonly referred to by its designated name while Kuala Lumpur International airport – Terminal one, which houses Malaysia Airlines and most of the other full service carriers, is simply known as KLIA. Both are reachable from the KLIA Express, which is linked to the KL Sentral Station in downtown. A round-trip fare from the airport is relatively inexpensive and offers free Wi-Fi on board the train.
The final product of KLIA2 is vastly different than what AirAsia and AirAsia X had envisioned. It is a far cry from their former stomping grounds at the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, otherwise known as LCCT, which was an extremely simple departure and arrivals terminal with minimal infrastructure. KLIA2, however, was built around creating an, “airport within a shopping mall” which, while nice on paper, means that the airport is almost an afterthought. Upon arrival from my inbound flight, I passed through the “arrivals” area which felt a bit too commercialized, in my opinion. I was shocked to see a Garrett’s Popcorn, which is a Chicago-based gourmet popcorn chain that I did not expect to see abroad.
Final review: AirAsia X
AirAsia X offers a very solid product at a competitive price. For a person who wants to travel point to point on a journey over 4 hours, the extra fare for a flat-bed seat is totally worth the price. Sure, you will not be served an amuse bouche, receive noise-cancelling headsets or even hot washcloths before your meals, but you will receive a comfortable seat on a clean and spacious cabin, a hot meal, friendly service and generous baggage allowance. For a larger families, backpackers and leisure travelers who want to receive an affordable airfare and see the world, AirAsia X is also the answer to their prayers.