Monday, November 11, 2013

Is flying Air Asia cheap?

If you are flying from Delhi or Mumbai, then it is not. Air Asia had stopped its flights from Delhi and Mumbai couple of years back citing high cost of operation. This means a traveler from any of these cities travelling to South East Asia first has to fly to Kolkata or Chennai to catch an Air Asia flight. It may not be cheap even from cities it is currently flying from. Just read on.

I had flown to Kualalumpur and then to Singapore from Delhi when Air Asia started its operation from Delhi in 2010. Flying Air Asia was indeed economical at that time. When one of the mailer for annual sale from Air Asia arrived in my inbox in Januray 2013, I decided to book tickets for Bangkok almost on impulse without any research. On sale, I got Kolkata – Bangkok return fare for 7400 rupees. This was done in January for travel in October. As my travelling date was approaching, I needed to book a connecting flight to Kolkata. When booked in August, this cost me another 8500 rupees. Only when I started to explore for tickets for Delhi – Kolkata, I found that Indigo offers the best option for DelhiBangkok with two daily flights. The Indigo Delhi – Bangkok –Delhi fare if booked around 3 months in advance is almost the same as that of the combined fare on domestic Delhi – Kolkata – Delhi (on Indigo) and international Kolkata – Bangkok – Kolkata (on Air Asia). With Air Asia I had booked tickets 10 months in advance whereas with Indigo I could have booked tickets only 3 months in advance to get the same combined fare I was paying. Further, my trip became longer by 4 hours as I had to break the journey at Kolkata between the flights. Only saving grace in this combo is that a LTC traveler can claim IT exemption benefit for the domestic sector upto Kolkata, which amounts to almost half the ticket cost. If you are traveling as a family, then this amount may be substantial. If you take one single international flight from Delhi, then you lose the IT exemption benefit for LTC.


This led me to check Kolkata – Bangkok sector fares from Kolkata. There also Indigo was matching Air Asia prices. Air Asia has been able to create the image of the cheapest airline. It actually is, in some of the countries in South East Asia. So beyond Bangkok or Kualalumpur, it still offers the cheapest choice. But you would require planning 10 – 12 months in advance to travel Air Asia. The much hyped sales by Air Asia are a misnomer where one has to wait keeping fingers crossed, praying and expecting to get you in the queue as soon as one of the sales opens. By the time you get into their website, all zero fare is gone. Before booking, I advise you to find what their normal fare is for current month. If the prices on offer are almost similar to current month fare, then skip the sale. You can save your money by getting some interest in your bank account and book only 2 or 3 months in advance.

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