Do you like the idea of cheap airfare? While it may prove to be an impossible task to find a convenient conosseuier of all things avian, we do know a little something about flying. Mainly of the budget variety, and also mainly of the Asian variety, though there are certainly some exceptions in this list.
Air Asia ☆☆☆☆☆
They have solidified a reputation as the ‘Ryan Air’ of Asia, and for good reason. Large, comfortable leather seats, and a customizable ticketing option that really does offer a sort of luxury assortment – so long as you are willing to pay the difference. Their new self scanning check in machines are incredibly user friendly and largely reduce waiting time. Based at the LCCT (Low Cost Carrier Terminal) in Kuala Lumpur, it isn’t often when a sky scanner search doesn’t reveal Air Asia as the best option. Definitely recommend.
Cebu Air Pacific ☆☆
On a flight from Shanghai to Manila, offered daily in the middle of the night, at least, this airline is not your friend. Prompted to find another kiosk to purchase an upgrade for ¥100, after having luggage under one kg over their featherlight restrictions, and with an incredibly flimsy feel once in the air, it’s probably a better deal to just go with a more expensive airline. The flight was in the middle of the night, so no one was at their best, but Cebu just doesn’t have it.
China Eastern ☆☆☆☆
Definitely one of the top Chinese airlines, China Eastern consistently provides basic, yet quality care. Routinely generous with their luggage requirements (I one time checked three bags at no extra charge!), not to mention they give you the most goodies of any domestic Chinese airline. One of their only fallbacks is their customer service department (in the U.S.), which is an absolute nightmare to deal with, hence the four stars. But their operations department really shines. Routine flights all over China, and even across the Pacific, providing the cheapest flight between Pudong (Shanghai), and LAX, for prices as cheap as in the ball park of $600.
Zest Airlines ☆
Is this a legitimate airline? It might be a unfair to include them in this review, but the following is a real message from the airline two weeks before departure, perhaps perpetuating awful customer service bloopers of our time.
“Good Day! ZESTAIR FLIGHT ADVISORY: Please be informed that Z2-019 SHANGHAI, CHINA to MANILA, PHILIPPINES has been CANCELED effective 23 JUNE, 2012 until 27 JULY, 2012 Due to operational requirements. Sorry for the inconvenience. Thank you!”
With no mention of a refund, just little more information on how they will assume no responsibility for connecting flights etc. A cursory investigation into the airline revealed that they have an awful reputation with these type of spontaneous cancellations for months at a time. Although a refund is attainable in the end (after enduring a lot of runaround and several months wait), Zest is certainly a gamble you shouldn’t bet on.
Spring Airlines ☆☆☆
Two and a half stars might be more accurate. Spring is an obscure Chinese domestic line that is often the absolute cheapest for several travel routes. It is pretty standard no frills budget line, with absolutely no free amenities, where most other airlines give you at least a water. The price may be fair, as far as non refundable budget varieties go, but they certainly skimp on customer service. Recommended as an absolute barebones shoestring solution only.
Malaysia Airlines ☆☆☆☆☆
What is it with Malaysia and getting the whole airfare thing right? Not only is the country an excellent travel/shoestring destination, but its namesake airline is awesome as well. Serving fresh fruit juices, quality authentic meals, and a new drive to outbid their biggest competitor Air Asia, their prices have been driven down to accommodate the rising increase of budget travelers. This airline is certainly one to watch!
Jetstar Airlines ☆☆☆☆
If previous Filippino airlines put their reputation to shame, Jetstar certainly redeems it. Their online regulations appear to be harsh, as is the norm for all budget airlines, but in practice they exercise a much softer handle. Not particularly strict about baggage weight, and often offering perks such as free luggage check in, not to mention an incredibly friendly staff, the large black leather seats are only one reason to fly Jetstar.
Advertised as India’s ‘coolest airline,’ Indigo certainly puts a lot of effort into their advertising campaigns and brand image. Fortunately, their operations live up to this standard, including new age boarding melodies and slick logo accessories. However, it would be nice if they had more free amenities on board..
One question: Why do most domestic Chinese airlines have better baggage allowances than this international carrier? Not exactly known as a cheap ticket, incredibly stingy on baggage restrictions, with incredibly inflated costs ($80!) for just being slightly over their unrealistic weight limits when taking the international aspect of their flights into consideration, the sole redeeming factor of United, might be their extensive range of international partnerships and carriers☼