“When we arrive in Mandalay, will we just get a cab to the hotel as well?” Bert asked me as our cab pulled up in front of Bangkoks old International Airport, Don Mueang.
“No, we’ll get the free Air Asia shuttle bus into the city” I responded.
“Ha! yeah, ok” he scoffed. “Seriously, will we get a cab then?” he remarked with one eyebrow raised.
“Noooo, we will get the Air Asia free shuttle bus!” I smirked.
I knew he wouldn’t believe me, who would? A ‘low cost carrier’, ‘no frills’, ‘budget’ or ‘discount’ airline offering a free shuttle bus from the airport to the city for its passengers? Absurd! It goes against the whole idea of a LCC, It’s not part of the plan. The accountants must hate it – then again, perhaps not……
Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport, now serves domestic and regional Asian cities by Low Cost Carriers such as Nok Air, Thai Smile and Thai Air Asia amongst others. The ageing terminal brought back memories of my first visits to Bangkok in my early 20’s, but the airport now seemed tiny compared to the newer Suvarnabhumi Airport. With limited public transport from the city to Don Mueang , we cabbed it from our hotel which took longer than expected due to a bottle neck of taxi’s entering the one lane departure level. We checked in for our flight and Bert’s bag was 2 kgs over the pre purchased 20 kgs. My bag was 18 kgs, so the check in lad advised it would be a good idea to transfer some of Bert’s items into my bag to make them both 20 kgs. Thankfully both bags were neatly packed as we unlocked and opened them in front of the eye rolling, sighing queue waiting to check in. We repacked. When the bags were weighed again, Berts came to 19 kgs and mine 21 kgs! Thankfully the nice fellow let us check them in without an added fee, hey we were 40 kgs combined anyway. After obtaining out receipt like boarding passes, we wandered around the almost ghost like terminal until boarding commenced at 10:30 am.
Thai Air Asia is one of 9 affiliate airlines of Air Asia (Malaysia), 55% owned by Thai company Asia Aviation and 45% by Air Asia itself operating 43 Airbus A320-200’s from Bangkok’s Don Mueang Airport. Our aircraft was, like most of its fleet at this airport, on stand off and when boarding was called, we were bussed to our aircraft.
The cabin interior was clean and in the standard Air Asia scheme of dark leather seats with the Hot Seats sporting a red head rest cover. We were seated in row 26 and delightfully had the three seats between us.
It’s kind of a novelty when you see advertising so prominent along the overhead bins on an aircraft. More prevalent on a low cost carrier and I don’t have a problem with it, trains trams and busses have been doing it since the dawn of their times, so why not planes? It was colourful and interesting. Did it make me want to purchase the product? No, I dont read Thai for a start but I am sure the bean counters at the airline love the extra revenue, not matter how many people are on the plane.
If you are a regular reader of my blog, you will know I have flown Air Asia and Air Asia X a few times now. Yes I am a fan of the low cost airline and I am also a fan of adding one of their super cheap meals during the booking process to my experience. I loved the Japanese meal Teriyaki Chicken on an Air Asia X flight from Adelaide to Kuala Lumpur, I also enjoyed the Nasi Lemak on another Air Asia X flight from Kuala Lumpur to Seoul. For this flight I decided to revisit what I thoroughly enjoyed on my first Air Asia (Malaysia) flight from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore some 2 years ago, Uncle Chins Chicken Rice.
Now, if you haven’t yet clicked on the link to Uncle Chins Chicken Rice showing the dish I was served on the Kuala Lumpur to Singapore flight in the paragraph above, do it now and CLICK HERE. Do you notice anything? Do you? On this flight there is no little sliced chilli garnish and only 4 slices of the chicken (booo!) not 5 like last time!! Ok, I am being pedantic, but that chicken is so darn delish and I wanted more! This time I added some of the hot chilli sauce to the moist slices and it made it even more wonderful and even though I paid $5 as an add on to my ticket, it was certainly better than some meals I’ve had included in my ticket price on a full service carrier!
Bert and I indulged in a (lunchtime) beer. A Singha. Now I’m not really a beer drinker but at THB90 (around AU$3.45) it was a bargain and I learnt something about Singha Beer – Its not from Singapore, but Thailand! (See seriously, I’m not a beer drinker!)
There is no AVOD (Audio Visual On Demand) or main screen entertainment on board the flight, but enough reading material and the inflight duty free catalogue is full of the ‘not really needed but will buy anyway’ purchases and a couple of things (credit card for items) exchanged hands
Our flight landed on time at 12:15pm at Mandalay International Airport and the aircraft didn’t use one of the 6 aerobridges but pulled up alongside the 10 year old terminal. We disembarked into the searing heat facing the runway and walked across the tarmac to the terminal which can cater for up to 1000 arrivals an hour.
From the outside, the terminal felt purposely built for Air Asia with signage and advertising all over the doors. After a quick wait for Immigration to stamp our passports and visa’s and customs to check our bags against our baggage receipts, we were outside. A few taxi touts were vying for our business, but we spotted the bold red Air Asia bus. It was probably a 10 minute wait before we headed off on the 45 minute drive into Mandalay, some 35 kms away. It wasn’t until we were on our way that a young fellow came through the coach checking we had our Air Asia boarding pass which doubled as out tickets for the bus. Bert and I wondered what would happen if someone didn’t have a ticket once we were a few kilometres down the road on a stretch of highway…
Most people of Myanmar are not wealthy in financial terms which makes this free transfer an added bonus to choosing to fly Air Asia from Mandalay when coming from towns in the north of the country. For the traveller, its a no brainer and an great way to ease yourself into the amazing, if sometimes challenging, Republic of the Union of Myanmar. Air Asia is a cost effective way to visit parts of Asia.
Bert and FreakyFlier paid for their flights independently.