Thai AirAsia X flight XJ391, Melbourne to Bangkok on board an Airbus A330-300. Premium lie-flat seat 1H (aisle). Flight time nine hours, five minutes. The airline currently flies the route three times a week.
THE LOYALTY SCHEME
AirAsia Points. Points can be earned with a range of other airlines if booked through AirAsia’s app or website (including rivals like Scoot and Jetstar Asia).
2.3 tonnes. AirAsia is implementing various changes to reduce emissions with an aim to achieve net zero by 2050.
A queue snakes around the counters and down the thoroughfare when I arrive to check-in, about two hours before the scheduled take-off time. A technical glitch, along with inexperienced staff, is the cause of the delays. Premium lie-flat passengers have their own check-in line and while there is only one family in front of me, it still takes quite a while to get to the counter. Seemingly something else goes wrong with the check in process – at one point a groundstaff member approaches me on board requesting my passport, which she then takes off the plane to rescan. There are also several passenger head counts conducted by the cabin crew. In the end we’re delayed by almost two hours.
AirAsia X’s premium seats are what used to be business class seats on many other airlines. Arranged in a 2-2-2 configuration, they are quite roomy with 60 inches (152 centimeters) of pitch and 20 inches (51 centimeters) wide. The kicker, however, is that they convert to a lie-flat bed – something most other low-cost airlines’ premium seats don’t offer. It’s not quite the level of comfort you’d get in a business class “suite” that full-service airlines now offer (typically with direct aisle access and the seat is not entirely flat but on a slight downward angle) but for a budget airline , this is about as good as a seat gets.
Premium lie-flat passengers get a generous 40 kilograms of check-in baggage but hand luggage is still limited to one bag up to seven kilograms in weight.
It’s BYO. There are no inflight entertainment screens and no streaming service or Wi-Fi. The lie flat seats do, at least, come with in seat power to keep your devices charged, so load them up before you fly.
Staff are political and efficient. Before take off, premium lie-flat passengers get asked what time they’d like their meals. The call button is answered immediately when I ask for a snack late in the flight (70 baht for a pack of Pringles). They politely answer all the questions of the gentlemen across the aisle who appears to have enjoyed a few pre-flight drinks and seems surprised to find that he’s booked on a budget airline and can’t be served beer before take-off and asks where his entertainment screen is.
Premium flatbed class comes with a meal and drink included. A bottle of water is waiting for me on the armrest, while my pre-ordered meal is chicken teriyaki with rice. The presentation isn’t fancy – just a plastic dish – but the meal itself is delicious. The teriyaki sauce is flavorful but not overwhelming. There are no accommodations. Additional hot meals cost about $10 and, given the meals are a bit on the small side, I find myself getting hungry again before the end of the flight..
ONE MORE THING
Thai AirAsia X is new to the Australian market (after an ill-fated Brisbane-Bangkok route was launched shortly before the pandemic hit) but has plans to grow provided demand is there. If that happens, expect the three-times a week flights (four from Sydney) to move to daily and also a return to Brisbane and possible flights from Perth.
This is not a business class experience, but you get what you pay for – and what you pay for here is a lie-flat seat and the chance to get some sleep on a long flight at about 40 per cent less than what you’d pay for a business class seat on a full service carrier.
OUR RATING OUT OF FIVE
The writer flew as a guest of Thai AirAsia X.
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