From a small number of flights – originally just domestic Thai flights and connecting to the other AirAsia bases – business has been growing quickly. The number of destinations from Bangkok now competes well with Kuala Lumpur.
The old Bangkok Airport is quite a mess and seems ill-prepared for the onslaught of discount airlines. Not just AirAsia but also Nok Air and Orient Thai use the airport as a hub.
The biggest problem is the inadequate transport infrastructure, with a comically complicated road loop around the airport and highway that can take 30 minutes just to enter or leave the airport area. There is a BTS Skytrain station that is being built next door and once it opens this should be the best option to get to and from the airport.
AirAsia manages the check-in line quite well (for many itineraries, like mine, you can’t check in online). There is a dedicated line for flights departing within 90 minutes from the time you show up. If there is more time, you get sent to a slower line. So it kinda pays to arrive late.
My cabin baggage wasn’t weighed so the 7kg for ANY carry-on item combined wasn’t enforced. I did not see any huge carry-on bags though. It seems AirAsia is stricter at outstations than they are at their hubs. At their hubs it’s fine, and as long as it likely fits in the overhead bins, weight isn’t an issue (and shouldn’t be, as we see every day in the US).
I have yet to pay baggage fees with AirAsia, even when showing up with a heavy Rollaboard.
There is a large duty-free section and plenty of food outlets at DMK Airport and there are a number of lounges accessible with Priority Pass as well. I walked into the first lounge after immigration (The Coral Executive Lounge) and was surprised at how well-equipped it was. There was edible food and plenty of drink options and even a free 15-minute Thai massage and fast Internet.
The airport itself is well-equipped with Internet and has 3 complimentary WiFi networks all serving 10 Mbit; that’s pretty astonishing.
My boarding gate was one of the bus gate downstairs and it was properly crowded. There must have been 1,000 passengers in the waiting area, mostly for China-bound flights.
Most of them would clear out as these flights boarded, though my flight caught a 30-minutes delay. No announcements were made and nothing was shown on the screens. Boarding would just start at the departure time. This could have been done better!
Once boarded, it seemed as AirAsia routine as possible, with the same interior as I’ve seen before. It was clean enough and the delightful attendants came through with food and drinks for purchase. I feel that the AirAsia flight attendants are friendly and somewhat well-trained. Yes, they sometimes panic as much as passengers but at least they don’t yell at you like many United Airlines flight attendants seem to still love to do.
Arrival in Ho Chi Minh was easy with fast immigration and my GrabCar showed up in seconds. There is a VND 10,000 ‘parking fee’ that drivers try to attach to your ride. It seems a bit of a scam, since neither Grab nor Uber has outlined such a fee. But it’s just 40 US cents, so really nothing to go crazy about.
In sum, Thai AirAsia drives a very decent product. The infrastructure at DMK Airport is a challenge but the lounges and shopping options make up for it a bit. If the price is right (and it usually is), there is no excuse not to fly with AirAsia.
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