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How does a month of flying around Southeast Asia for under $200 sound?
That's the question we asked back in December, when it was first announced AirAsia would introduce some sort of pass for unlimited flights. Well, that passthe AirAsia ASEAN Pass, named for the Association of Southeast Asian Nationsis official and available for purchase, beginning today.
The ASEAN Pass' original promise of travel to 10 countries has been kept, and passengers may elect to fly to airports in Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, the Philippines, Burma, Laos and Brunei. The greatest variety of destinations is of course offered from AirAsia's base in Kuala Lumpur, although Bangkok also has a bunch.
Popular leisure destinations in the passes include Bali, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Langkawi, and Puerto Princesa. With just those it'd be very tempting to turn an ASEAN Pass into a "best exotic beaches of SE Asia" pass, but culture and business travelers will find plenty destinations of interest as well.
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"Until today, we have never lost a life." - AirAsia CEO Tony Fernandes, 28 December 2014.
There's been no resolution yet to the question of what happened to Indonesia AirAsia flight QZ8501, an Airbus A320 (tail PK-AXC) which disappeared while en route from Surabaya, Indonesia to Singapore, and we're not going to speculate.
More and more there's been an issue with the responsible reporting of aviation incidents. FOX News is an infamous offender, prone to flagrant speculation and misinformation, but they're not the only ones. Even CNN can get their facts wrong. For example, today the CNN Asia Pacific Editor, Andrew Stevens, compared the search area to the size of California. In reality it's less than half that size; Stevens made a mis-calculation between square kilometers and square miles, but issued no correction. Media loves a soundbite like that California size comparison, so automatically CNN spreads flawed information.
If you'd like to follow along with the latest in the search, we recommend checking out the few sources we trust in these matters:
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Above: AirAsia's route map out of KUL
How does a month of flying around Southeast Asia for under $200 sound?
It'll soon be possible, so hopefully your answer was positive. You see, the AP reports that Malaysia-based low-cost airline AirAsia is getting ready to release an unlimited flying pass to 10 Southeast Asia destinations for only $148 (excluding airport taxes). The airline, whose slogan is "now everyone can fly," will allow travelers to use the passdubbed the "AirAsia ASEAN Pass"for one month of flights at some point in early 2015.
This comes just as ASEAN countries are making strides to "liberate the airways" in 2015, which we reported from the annual ASEAN conference earlier this year.
For travelers who've never flown AirAsia and may be skeptical: yes, this pass is suspiciously cheap, as are AirAsia's regular flight prices, but it is a reputable airline and we have flown with them several times. Who would doubt an airline that serves in-flight bubble tea and offers 19 different buy-onboard meals?
Many of the projects discussed at this year's Asian Tourism Forum, such as the high-speed rail between Malaysia and Singapore, are aimed at making travel between the ten member countries more fluid.
Given the great distance that has to be traveled to get to Southeast Asia, satisfying the American market means making it easy to country hop. As is the case with Europe (which is less than half the travel time for most), your average American ponying up big bucks for long flights will understandably want to see as much as they can -- or at least more than one city -- in one trip.
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Peach may have been the first, but they sure weren't the last LCC to make a base in Japan, as Kuala Lumpur-headquartered Air Asia threw their hat into the ring with a joint venture with ANA, named Air Asia Japan. Now, in a fun twist in the always dynamic airline industry, Air Asia Japan will flip over to complete ANA control and be renamed and rebranded as Vanilla Air.
Why that name, in particular? According to the airline's president Tomonori Ishii, "Vanilla Air" was chosen because vanilla "...is popular and loved by everyone in the world" and "it is a very cute name." So too is the name "Peach," but thus far there are no plans to merge Vanilla and Peach, now both budget carriers under the wings of ANA.
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"Should children be relegated to the back of the plane?" asks SFGate's The Mommy Files, to which we respond, "what, are we suddenly not allowed to strap the things to wings?" (we kid; obviously we don't advocate tying your baby below the far jet engine so that no one can hear its screaming temper tantrum, which probably wouldn't even be happening if you had raised it properly; how will the flight attendant bring the precious little crotch-snowflake its precious little orange juice if it isn't even inside the cabin?)
The issue is relevant again because AirAsia just announced that it's banning children from the first seven rows of long-haul flights, creating a Quiet Zone that travelers will be able to opt into by paying AirAsia's standard seat selection fee.
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It isn't often we see airline balance sheets so much in the black that they can acquire entire other airlines at the drop of a hat. Except that's exactly how things played out for AirAsia last week when it went to the ATM and bought its competitor, Batavia Air.
What the Kuala Lumpur-based AirAsia did was fork over $80 million cash for the Jakarta-based Batavia. $80 million. In big ballin' bills. Yep, no interest rates, no late payment fees...cash.
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If you know the magic of bubble tea, you understand our excitement. If you haven't tasted it's refreshing goodness with little surprises, let us tell you, you are missing out. You may have seen people toting clear plastic cups of tea with black 'pearls' on the bottom, usually punctuated with a brightly colored fat straw. It's flavored tea, mostly chilled, usually served over large black tapioca pearls. The sweet, balanced and exotic flavor of the tea is kind of a big deal in Asia and international cafes.
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Who doesn't love to hate on budget airlines that nickel-and-dime you for every little thing? Ah hem Ryanair and Spirit. Still, despite being branded LCCs (low-cost carriers), some airlines that keep costs down also play it nice, offering items for sale on board that actually make sense.
Just a few days ago, we hopped a 2-hour AirAsia flight from Bali-DPS to Jakarta-CGK and, instead of being prodded to pay more to bring a carryon, we instead were presented with the "AirAsia Cafe meny," a magazine that sells everything from Nasi Goreng and pancakes to Hello Kitty portable speakers and waterproof bags. It's like a duty-free catalog, but then it's not; it's more like duty-free iight.
So long as you've got extra cash (they don't take plastic onboard), here's six things you should buy onboard AirAsia:
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This morning we booked a flight on Malaysia-based low-cost airline AirAsia. It's an hour-long flight and there were five flight times available that day. Simple, right? Sure...until we reached the extras which included a list of 19 different onboard meals.
"Chicken or beef" we've heard, and of course there's usually options for kosher, vegetarian and halal, but 19 options blows away all that.
With this much variety, you better be ready to pony up the extra cash. Meals are either 23,900 IDR ($2.61) or 29,900 IDR ($3.27), unless you go big with the "monthly promotion" meal at 41,900 IDR ($4.58). It's not bad at all considering that snack boxes on US airlines average $8, but, on the other hand, this AirAsia route between Bali and Jakarta, Indonesia regularly offers the whole one-way flight beginning at $45.
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Demonstrating impressive complete disregard for the liklihood of a global financial meltdown, AirAsia boss Tony Fernandes is launching a premium Malaysian airline to run shuttles between Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Jakarta and Singapore.
Dubbed Caterham Jet, the regional airline will cater to business executives rich enough to pay for ultra-premium flights but not so rich that they have access to private jets. We're presuming people like that exist, but it seems like kind of a specialized demographic. Even worse, it's the exact demographic that Qantas is already targeting with their new RedQ airline.
Global economic retraction plus niche customer base plus direct competition from Qantas equals...no way this works, right? We're quite sure they had focus groups and market studies and everything, but this just doesn't sound like the kind of thing that would work.
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It's Wednesdaythe middle of the weekand we're traveling. We need something to get through the rest of the week and you know what would do the trick? A sugar rush brought on by some Krispy Kreme donuts. It'd be even better if they were in-flight Krispy Kreme donuts.
Good news for us and everyone! Krispy Kremes aren't just limited to standalone stores and the occasional airport kiosk; some airlines actually do serve up the glazed masterpieces direct to your traytable. For this they get major
brownie donut points!
Three airlines serving Krispy Kreme in the skies: