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Monday 20 October 2014

Business class on a budget airline: one of the great travel bargains

It can cost up to $10,000 to fly business class between Australia and Europe. But a business class seat between Australia and Kuala Lumpur can cost as little as an extra $300 on top of the budget fare. 

I'm talking the AirAsiaX version of business class - which does not have all the bells and whistles of Singapore Airlines or Emirates but does provide a lay flat bed and the possibility of grabbing seven hours of precious sleep. 

A comfortable night of sleep in business class 

I'm a bit of a fan of Air Asia, although I always tend to invest in a premium seat for extra leg room and one in a "quiet zone" if available. 

If you prepare well for budget flying then the low fares throughout Asia are a big money saver. 

So when I read this blurb I was immediately keen to try the new, re-branded business class: "Indulge in complete comfort and stretch out with a spacious seat that reclines to unveil a full flat bed in our business class cabin. Our business class thoughtfully features a universal power socket, a personalised reading light, and a foldaway table for maximum productivity and convenience. Adjustable head and foot rests make it easy for you to arrive at your destination feeling more refreshed and ready to go."

I knew I wasn't going to get Champagne or a menu devised by Neil Perry, but I did get an extra baggage allowance (a whopping 40 kilograms), priority boarding, two complimentary hot meals (the Asian dishes are a better bet than the western options), a fluffy pillow and blanket/duvet. 

And there was plenty of room on the Airbus A330 to stretch out - I slept almost the entire way, missing out on breakfast. While the bed is lie-flat is doesn't extend 180 degrees, but it is a million miles away from economy - and I could charge my laptop while sleeping, always a bonus. 

The air crew on my flight were charming and helpful - and bottled water kept coming at regular intervals. 

My fear is that business class may eventually become too popular. There are currently only two rows (12 seats in total) on A330s.

The cost to upgrade to business is MYR 899 ($313 at today's exchange rate) on flights from Australia to Kuala Lumpur and MYR 499 from Kuala Lumpur to destinations like China, Korea and Saudi Arabia.
Landing at Sydney Airport

And if you simply want extra leg room, or a seat in the quiet zone, you will pay an extra MYR 119 on top of the budget fare, or included as part of Air Asia's new premium flex package, which also allows changes of schedule. 

AirAsia Group Head of Ancillary, Kenny Wong, said: “There is growing demand for business travel and we are excited to offer a truly relevant and high-valued travel experience deeply appreciated by business travellers."

With flights now landing and departing at Kuala Lumpur's swish new KLIA2 terminal rather than the decrepit LCC Terminal, AirAsia and AirAsia X also have 139 Fly-Thru routes that eliminate the need for multiple check-ins, transit visas and tiresome baggage transfers.

Fly-Thru guests are also able to enjoy guaranteed connections in event of delays. 

Air Asia X flies from Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Perth, Gold Coast and Darwin to Kuala Lumpur with connections to the likes of Phuket (five times a day) and Krabi (three times a day) as well as destinations in China, Japan, South Korea and other Asian cities. For details and fares see  Current offers include Sydney-Kuala Lumpur from $189 one way and Sydney-Bangkok from $199 one way.

# The writer was a guest of AirAsia  


  1. Absolutely my favourite point-to-point airline into and out of Asia. With something over 120 sectors in the past 7 years Air Asia(X) has enabled me to explore places I thought I would never get to. Economy is a price choice (most airline cabins are almost identical and provided you *know* how to travel in LCC mode (yes, there is such a thing) then Air Asia and their like have been massive enablers of travel for many people. Their business class tips the choice over the edge. Comfort plus lots left over to enjoy the on the ground experiences we all crave.

    In other words - totally agree with you Winsor.

  2. I flew overnight business with Virgin Australia. The seats were bigger but not like the Air Asia ones. I also had two screaming kids in front me (I am a parent). Liked getting off the plane first though.