Wouldn’t it be amazing if you could buy one pass which would allow you to fly and explore a whole continent all for one low price?
I got very excited when I first heard about Airasias plans to launch an unlimited flying pass which would allow you to utilize its large range of routes around Asia. Little was mentioned about the concept, but it still got me pondering around the possibilities of how awesome this would be for backpackers.
It would make flying more fun and affordable for backpackers and open up endless possibilities around Asia.
When Budget airlines talk about such things it takes years to happen or never happen at all. I’m still awaiting for Ryanair to launch cheap affordable transatlantic flights, but it seems it was a promotional campaign and it will never see the light of day.
Good news! Behold, The Airasia Asean pass is now live and available to purchase from AirAsia website! Happy days!
But Surely its too good to be true?
It’s not as amazing as I first hoped it would be, I have to admit I was hoping that all of AirAsia’s routes would be included in the pass but it seems that the pass comes along with a “credit per flight” system and some routes require more credits than others with the pass.
Sadly AirAsia X route is not included, not even an option for a mega AirAsia Asean pass for a bigger price bracket.
I have to admit I was slightly hoping to use it to visit: Nepal, South Korea, Tawain, Sri Lanka and Australia. But I’m sure this is the start of something big and this might happen in the future, they just want to test the water with a limited pass first to see how it takes off.
What Countries are included with the AirAsia Asean pass?
Philippines! Yes out of the 10 countries I was delighted to see the Philippines included, this comes as a nice surprise compared to the other routes that are not included. I have planned to visit the Philippines over the next few months, so this is a much welcomed extra within the deal.
The Other 9?
Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Burma (Myanmar), Laos, Indonesia, Cambodia and Vietnam.
It would have been great if a few destinations in China were also included in the AirAsia Asean pass, but it looks like they want to keep the pass within the Association of South East Asean Nations, which is fair enough.
So How does the pass work?
AirAsia Asean pass has two price options:
• 10 Credits for $160 USD (£104) to use within 1 month
• 20 credits for $290 USD (£188.40) to use within 2 months
By purchasing 20 (an additional 10 credits) on top of the first package you save 12% and allows you to use the credits over an additional month.
How do the credits work?
Without added tax on top 1 credit allows you to fly some routes, from what I can see they are mostly domestic routes whilst other longer routes require 3 credits.
You can check out the outline of how many credits you will need for which routes here in the credit layout section.
Is it good value for backpackers?
This is why I put this blog post together, Best way yo explain it is by using the example of a Eurorail pass that is similar in some respects and been around for decades.
Many Travellers will argue if travelling around Europe on a Eurorail pass is good value for backpackers.
You will always get a yes and no response. If you plan on using the pass each day, then yes, you can get a lot of value out of it and it also depends on the route you’re be taking each day as some routes would be cheaper purchased individually without the pass.
This is pretty much the same for the AirAsia Asean pass too (Also taking into account the added tax you will pay for each flight similar to seat reservations with Eurorail pass).
It’s an on the bench subject as you have to play around with the AirAsia Asean pass to get the full value out of justifying its money saving potential.
You have to book your flights 14 days in advance.
This is another area of the pass which took me back a little, I sort of thought the pass could be treated as a stand by a sort of pass where if a seat on a flight was available on the day you could jump on and use your credits there and then at the airport.
I’ve been on many AirAsia flights where some seats are still free and thought this would be a perk of getting the pass.
I understand if the flight is full, you’ve taken the risk, but you could then sort out another flight on another route and see what happens.
Unfortunately the pass comes along with a 14 day limit, this means you will have to plan your whole route in advance.
This is not a problem, just a shame as I was looking forward to the flexibility the pass could offer.
I don’t see why AirAsia would not be happy with filling seats, which would have been empty otherwise with passengers who purchased the AirAsia Asean pass?
For some routes AirAsia’s major competitor is cheap, affordable luxury passenger busses that go around South East Asia for a cheaper price than flying, these tickets if available can be purchased on the day, makes you wonder hey!
I have noticed, however, compared to my last visit to South East Asia 4 years ago, AirAsia are not as cheap as they used to be 10 or so days in advance, you seem to have to wait for either a promotional period or plan well in advance (around 4-6 weeks in advance) to locate the lowest prices.
That’s fine, airlines use this model, this means by Purchasing a AirAsia Asean Pass you lock in those low 4-6 week prices with only an advance of 14 days instead which does allow some more flexibility compare to booking without the Airasia Asean pass.
Let’s lay out an easy route and compare prices to the AirAsia Asean pass.
As you can see it will cost you 14 days in advance without the pass £2.87 + tax (£6.68) + baggage (£8.41), the total will cost: £17.96.
With the pass if you were to take this route 10 times it will cost you £10.20 per flight plus the
tax on top of £6.68 which will be total of £16.88
Plus the baggage: £25.29
As you can see, by taking this route, it’s more expensive with the pass.
Sure, this is AirAsia’s most frequently served route, almost every hour of the day, so flights are always cheap, but it does outline the value of the pass.
With or without the baggage you will still have to pay tax on top which will start to add up as you travel along, what I’m getting at is some routes are worth more value with the pass than without.
What Routes work well with the pass, Time for some travel Hacking.
Just like when your booking an RTW (round the world) ticket try and not go crazy by booking the destinations you really want to travel to, try and book your RTW ticket from one major Hub to another, then travel domestically without your RTW ticket to save big on the overall ticket price.
This pass works in the same sort of way.
AirAsia Has 4 major hubs: KL, Singapore, Jakarta, Don Mueang (Bangkok) and Clark (Manila).
If you manage your credits around these airports you’re able to unlock better flights with your AirAsia Asean pass as they offer the most routes with the pass from these points.
Avoid yo-yo back and forth from major hubs
The aim is to fly from KL and end in KL or any major AirAsia hub for that matter. If you fly from KL to Yangon, Burma then back to KL that will cost you “6” credits, If you fly KL-Yangon-Bangkok-Ho Chin Min-Singapore-KL that will cost you “9” credits.
That’s better value as you’re not wasting a return flight on the credits you can go onwards to a new destination and return to where you started with more value out of your credits.
Breaking up 3 credit routes into groups of 1 credit flights, gets in more destinations for the same price.
It’s a juggling game and requires some forward planning and a lot of time jotting down routes, but as long as you can work out the dates, remain flexible and book within 14 days, you can unlock an affordable route around South East Asia.
Big Routes are where the value is.
If you plan to fly KL to Clark return that will cost you 6 points.
14 days in advance the cost for a return ticket without the pass will set you back at £100.88.
The tax added on top of the pass will be £7.55. This means taking this flight has roughly covered the cost of your pass, but leaves you with 4 remaining credits.
These 4 credits can be used individually around the Philippines for 4 domestic flights pretty much for free (paying tax on top). Which means you can fly around, island hopping for peanuts.
As you can see there is some value in the pass if you don’t get carried away and want to visit 10 countries with one 10 credit pass, but instead use the pass for one big return flight, then enjoy the 1 credit flights close by or domestically around the big flight you took return.
Also not included in the pass is baggage allowance.
You will have to pay for baggage extra on top which could start to add up if you plan to take 10 domestic flights with your AirAsia Asean pass. Works out around £8 per checked in baggage per flight (Depending on the route) times this by 10 and you will have to add £80 to the AirAsia Asean pass total.
Travel with only hand luggage?
Be careful, Unlike many other budget airlines which allow 10kg of hand luggage allowance, the check in baggage allowance for AirAsia is a small 7KG and I have seen them check, charge and check in the hand luggage of passengers flying with AirAsia who have gone over the limit.
I’m lucky that my hand luggage comes in at a low 6.9KG, be aware of this before you commit to the AirAsia Asean pass as I’m an extremely rare case, it’s taken me some time to get down to this low baggage size, but it is possible, something to consider when travelling around with AirAsia.
You will have to pay for Tax added on top
Airline tax is not included as part of the AirAsia Asean Pass.
You will have to calculate this on top of the pass price to come to the complete total. This might turn out being costly depending on where you’re planning on flying too, as different countries have different tax requirements.
Paying for Visa on arrival
Some countries you will not have to pay for a tourist visa on arrival (British passport holders) such as Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Philippines and Thailand will give you a temporary entry stamp of up to 30 days. Burma you can apply online to get an E-visa in advance, Indonesia, Loas and Cambodia can pay for Visa on arrival and for Vietnam you will have to pay for a visa at an embassy before arriving.
As you can see, you will have to consider some extra costs, possibly depending on where you plan to visit, but this is all part of travelling anyway, just something to consider, you can check out my Visa help page for updates and information about what passport requires what visa to enter each country.
Conclusion on the AirAsia Asean pass, will I be buying one?
I was kind of wishing the AirAsia Asean pass would be like an eat all you like unlimited buffet where I could fly around Asia unlimited for a month to my heart’s content, I was up for doing this as well as a sort of challenge to see if I could fly every day. Ah well you can’t get everything you wish for.
• Was going to the Philippines any way, the cost of the pass is covered with one return flight which gives me domestic flights for no additional cost
• Travel with hand luggage so extra costs won’t affect me
• Get to visit Singapore which was my plan and the flights 14 days in advance where expensive anyway
• get to test out and blog about the new pass and explore a lot of new fun places in South East Asia I might have never thought about going to, adds an adventure element to the trip.
• Have to pay TAX on top
• Have to book 14 days in advance and can’t book on the day of travel
• Will have to spend a lot of time carefully planning the route to make sure I get a discount
• Not sure what to do if I have credits remaining at the end
After writing this blog post, I’ve come to the conclusion that I will be buying and testing out the AirAsia Asean Pass over the coming months.
The only problem is it seems that the pass might just be a promotional tool to promote the budget airline, it already has seemed to work as everyone is talking about this pass and Airasia, it does makes sense, why would they just give away free flights, they have to get something out of it as well.
I just hope that I can get some value out of the pass to justify my purchase. After looking into it, from the outside it looks like this can be the case if I choose the correct route.
I’ve always found these sort of passes as a key to unlocking an adventure and I do accept this challenge, its going to be a fun couple of months jetting around.
Here you can check out my route that I’ve chosen and booked with my 20 purchased credits and work out the saving total of using the pass compared to flying without it.
Stay tuned for a lot of selfiess on AirAsia flights around South East Asia!