04.Best airlines to Asia
Our members found better cost satisfaction flying to Indonesia withAirAsia and AirAsiaX rather than Jetstar. AirAsia only flies directly to Bali from Perth; Gold Coast and Melbourne passengers fly AirAsia X directly to Malaysia and must purchase separate tickets for the Indonesian leg. Several members used their Qantas Frequent Flyer points to go to Bali on Jetstar and were appalled by the quality of the food, which you purchase onboard. They warned it’s very much a “get what you pay for” budget airline. If you’re planning a budget Bali trip, Pacific Blue is our members’ choice. “Pacific Blue was great and flies direct from Adelaide to Denpasar,” said one.
Most members flew Malaysia Airlines (MAS) to Kuala Lumpur, but AirAsia X – also Malaysian-owned and part of the largest low-cost airline in Asia – was very popular for competitive prices. Both fly to Kuala Lumpur from the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Perth, but only MAS also offers direct flights from Adelaide, Brisbane and Sydney. MAS and Qantas tied for overall satisfaction and had comparable scores for in-flight service and entertainment, seat comfort, leg room and food quality – but “MAS has much more room and better service than Qantas,” according to CHOICE member Colin, who’s also a Qantas Platinum Frequent Flyer.
Emirates delivers good value for this popular destination and mid-point between long-haul flights. Its in-flight service may not be on par with Singapore Airlines, but it certainly matches their in-flight entertainment, seat comfort, leg room, food quality, flight timeliness, baggage allowance and check-in process. One CHOICE member experienced “exceptional customer service from Singapore to Australia on Emirates. The cabin crew took care of my child who had motion sickness.” Tiger Airways and Jetstar both offer cheaper no-frills flights, but expect to pay for snacks and drinks and sandwiches that are hardly gourmet. Seven hours without decent food can be unpleasant, and CHOICE member Ann’s advice to anyone flying internationally with a budget airline is “take your own food”. You’ll also have to pay extra for an in-flight video player and bulkhead seats if you’re tall or large.
Most members chose to fly Thai Airways instead of Singapore or Qantas to Thailand. AirAsia X is best if you’re looking to travel on a budget, but be aware that you must transfer to AirAsia in Kuala Lumpur for a connecting flight. General Jetstar gripes include delayed departures, late arrivals and poor communication, as well as poor food quality and paying for bottled water. “Our tickets were cheap but the whole experience has taught us never to fly long-haul again with a budget airline,” said CHOICE member Leonie. “We would rather pay the extra for a comfortable, normal service.”
Although most members flew Vietnam Airlines, our price check found cheaper flights to Vietnam on Singapore
Airlines (SIA), provided you book early. As well as flying to Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh, SIA also flies into Da Nang, the city nearest to Hoi An, an ancient coastal town that’s popular for its heritage sites and resorts. Jetstar and Vietnam Airlines fly non-stop to Vietnam from Sydney, whereas SIA requires a transit in Singapore (or Kuala Lumpur with Malaysia).
Members reported they were happy with Air China ticket prices, but not much else. “We were squashed in like sardines, many video and electronic systems did not work, and the food was basic and tasted processed,” said CHOICE member William. Cathay Pacific, Qantas and SIA flights to China require transfers in Singapore or Hong Kong. Despite this, SIA is once again the best choice. “Although its seats are not half as good as Cathay Pacific’s, Singapore Airlines’ in-flight crew is fantastic,” said CHOICE member Abbe.
Most members flew Qantas to Hong Kong but did not rave about its in-flight service, food quality, seat comfort or leg room. Cathay Pacific was the secondmost commonly used carrier, and had a good response for in-flight service and entertainment, food and seat comfort. Again, SIA is the clear winner overall, but unlike Cathay or Qantas does not offer direct flights to Hong Kong (transfer in Singapore is required).
Jetstar flies direct to both Osaka and Tokyo from the Gold Coast and Cairns. If you book your flight through Qantas, you may be put on an aircraft operated by Jetstar. Members were happy with Jetstar’s ticket prices for this destination, but everything else, including food quality and in-flight service, got the thumbs down. Qantas did a marginally better job than its budget subsidiary for food quality, in-flight service and entertainment. If you fly to Tokyo with Singapore Airlines, you can choose to board an A380 at your transit in Singapore. Japan Airlines (which only departs Sydney and Brisbane) also rated well, but is currently undergoing receivership.