Discount airlines in Asia
This article is a travel topic.
This is one of several Wikitravel articles about Discount airlines.
Asian carriers have often offered lower fares than their European or American rivals. Now they are starting to catch the wave of discount airlines, pioneered in the US and Europe. In South-East Asia, an ASEAN-wide open skies agreement is in the works, but in the rest of the continent flights are still severely restricted by bilateral agreements.
Asian carriers are generally much cheaper than their American or European rivals, and there are some great bargains to be had. The low-cost airline industry in Asia is sure to boom in the coming years.
Below is the list of the carriers, grouped by their base country.
China's first low-cost airline was launched in July 2005, and many seem set to follow. Internationally, you can already fly in to various points in southern China from cities in Southeast Asia (see section below). Hong Kong's pioneering long-haul LCC Oasis shut down operations in April 2008.
Hong Kong Express
Viva Macau flies from Macau to Jakarta, Ho Chi Minh city and Sydney (from August 2007). One of their revenue stream is by charging heavily on over-weight luggages, people have been charged up to $200MOP/kg of over-weight luggage.
India's airline market is rapidly liberalising. A number of domestic low-cost carriers have started operations. They are notorious for offering cheap tickets with high taxes and "fees." Rising fuel prices in 2008 have forced many airlines to cut back on flights. Indian low-cost airlines tend to have bad delays, and restrictive cancellation and rescheduling policies.
Low-cost flights into India remain more limited, although Air India Express does operate some international flights and various Middle Eastern carriers fly to India. There are also limited connections from South-East Asia: as of November 2007, Tiger flies from Singapore to Chennai and Kochi. Air Asia flies to Tiruchirappalli in Tamil Nadu from its KL, Malaysia, base. (Nok and Jetstar have terminated their services.)
Air India Express
Air India Express is the low-cost spinoff of state carrier Air India. The carrier currently operates flights to Middle Eastern destinations Dubai, Abu Dhabi, Muscat and Salalah, as well as from Chennai to Singapore and from Chennai to Kuala Lumpur.
Air India Regional
Air India Regional is the low-cost regional airline of state carrier Air India.
Kingfisher Red (formerly Air Deccan) is the low-cost airline operated by Kingfisher Airlines. The Kingfisher Airlines website allows bookings for the full-service Kingfisher Class as well as low-cost Red Class flights. Kingfisher Red was originally Air Deccan, which was taken over by Kingfisher Airlines and rebranded in August 2008. Service standards have risen since the takeover. The Kingfisher Airlines network covers 69 destinations within India.
SpiceJet started operations in May 2005.
Japan's low-cost carriers have had a rocky ride, with most being snapped up by the majors. Dirt-cheap fares are simply not available.
Low-cost flights into the country are very limited (there are none from China, Korea or Taiwan), but Jetstar  does fly from Australia to Nagoya and Osaka. Philipines Cebu Pacific Air fly's from Manila to Osaka with reasonable one-way fares ($110 US incl. taxes as of Feb '09)
Skynet Asia Airways
South Korea's staid aviation scene was shaken up in 2005 when the first low-cost carrier started operation. (Needless to say, North Korea's aviation scene remains virtually non-existent.)
Air Arabia, the largest LCC in the Middle East, are based in Sharjah in the United Arab Emirates. A coach service connects Sharjah with Dubai for US$2.50. They fly to a variety of destinations in the Middle East, East Africa and the Indian Subcontinent. They operate a modern fleet. Their fares are often very good value, starting at 119 UAE dirhams (US$32) on some routes. They offer a connecting flight service.
They sometimes seem to use bait-and-switch advertising; their advertised rates are not always available when you try to book. Actual rates are often much higher, though usually still well below those of major airlines. Luggage allowances are about half of what one would expect for a mainstream carrier, which can be quite a surprise at check-in (one check-in bag, not two!).
The airline operates flights to Mumbai, Jaipur, Kochi, Nagpur, Trivandrum, Ahmedabad, and Chennai in India. Other cities across the globe touched by Air Arabia are Aleppo and Damascus (Syria); Alexandria, Assiut and Luxor (Egypt); Amman (Jordan); Astana and Almaty (Kazakhstan); Bahrain; Beirut (Lebanon); Chittagong (Bangladesh); Colombo (Sri Lanka); Dammam, Jeddah and Riyadh (KSA), Doha (Qatar); Istanbul (Turkey); Kabul (Afghanistan); Khartoum (Sudan); Kuwait; Muscat (Oman); Sanaa (Yemen); Sharjah (UAE) and Tehran (Iran).
Jazeera Airways flies to many destinations across the Middle East and India. It has main hubs in Kuwait and Dubai.
Southeast Asia has the most developed low cost carrier networks in Asia, with many operators and fierce competition. As of September 2007, all countries in South-East Asia except East Timor can be reached by LCC.
Bases across multiple countries
Malaysian airline Air Asia has the distinction of having been acquired for 1 ringgit (US $0.25), but they have now grown to the largest (and most profitable) operator in the region. Originally founded by government-owned conglomerate DRB-Hicom, the heavily indebted airline was purchased by former Time Warner executive Tony Fernandes's company Tune Air Sdn Bhd for the symbolic sum of one ringgit on December 2nd, 2001. They operate on the now-classic model of open seating, primarily Internet/phone booking and no complimentary refreshments. AirAsia operates Flyasianxpress or FAX and AirAsiaX in addition to two associated Companies: Thai AirAsia and Indonesia AirAsia.
- Malaysia: Alor Star, Bintulu, Ipoh, Kota Bharu, Kota Kinabalu, Kuala Terengganu, Kuching, Labuan, Lahat Datu, Langkawi, Miri, Mulu, Penang, Sandakan, Sibu, Tawau
- Thailand: Chiang Rai, Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Krabi, Narathiwat, Phuket,Ranong, Surat Thani, Ubon Ratchathani, Udon Thani
- Indonesia: Bali (Denpasar), Balikpapan, Bandung, Banda Acheh, Batam, Medan, Padang, Palembang, Pekanbaru, Solo, Surabaya, Yoyakarta, Makassar, Manado
- China: Haikou, Shenzhen, Xiamen, Hangzhou and Guilin. As of January 2008, flights to Tianjin are planned but not yet started.
- Hong Kong
- Cambodia: Phnom Penh and Siem Reap
- Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam
- Clark in the Philippines
- Yangon in Myanmar
- Gold Coast, Melbourne, Perth in Australia
- Vientiane in Laos
- India : Trichi
Jetstar is a Qantas-backed LCC currently flying from Singapore to Bangkok, Hong Kong, Ho Chi Minh, Manila, Phnom Penh, Phuket, Siem Reap, Taipei, Osaka and Yangon. Flights to India have been terminated. Jetstar's subsidiary brand Valuair flies to Jakarta, Surabaya, Medan and Denpasar (Bali). Jetstar's Australian registered planes also fly to Cairns via Darwin. Jetstar Pacific, its Vietnamese subsidiary, launched operations in 2008.
Garuda Citilink operate a domestic route network in Indonesia. Fares start from 125,000 Indonesian Rupiah ($15). Warning: this subsidiary of Garuda Airline does not currently accept credit card purchases online or at its call centre, requiring payment via a limited number of ATMs in Indonesia or directly at their office in Jakarta.
Warning: as of March 13, 2008 Lion air only accepts online credit card payment more than 48 hours before the departure time of the flight. Payment can be made via many popular Indonesian ATM's, however this option is not available to holders of foreign credit cards.
Philippines Airlines (PAL)is the number one in the Philippines and shares some local routes with (the number two) Airlines Philippines but should not be confused with this number two. Outside the Philippines you will see mostly PAL and Cebu Pacific Ailines.
Cebu Pacific Air
Cebu Pacific flies primarily within the Philippines. The airline is very successful also flying from Manila, Cebu and Davao to Bangkok, Jakarta, Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh city, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Taipei, Singapore, and Guangzhou, Macau, Shanghai, and Xiamen. They also fly to Osaka, Japan. This is the most internet friendly air company from the Philippines. But probably as a result of problems they also had with VISA cards bookings they will never respond on e-mails while booking by thelephone will result in higher seat prices. Internet prices start from 0 peso both inside and outside the Philippines but the highest costs are the tax and fuel costs resulting in the almost steady price of 50$ per single flight. Its the only company who flies from Cagayan de Oro(Mindanao) to Cebu.
Tiger Airways is a low-cost airline set up in Singapore jointly by Singapore Airlines and the people who started Ryanair. Services currently operate from Singapore to Australia (Darwin, Perth), China (Guangzhou, Haikou, Macau, Shenzhen and Xiamen]), Indonesia (Padang), Philippines (Manila), Thailand (Bangkok and Phuket), Vietnam (Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City), India (Chennai and Bangalore). No free food or drinks are provided on Tiger flights. If you buy any while on-board your change will be given in Singapore dollars, even if you're flying from Macau to Manila. Please note that Tiger charges extra for check-in luggage, pre-allocated seats and credit card fees on top of the usual fees and charges, so consider these when you compare prices.
Thai Airlines low-cost spinoff Nok Air took to the skies in 2004 sporting a lurid purple paint scheme with a bird's beak painted on the nose, and employing a price scheme similar to that of Air Asia.
Passengers can book on the web, call-center Tel-1318 or at the airports. Payment can be made via credit card, counter service, 7-11, or online credit card. Those who make the booking online can choose the seating right after the purchase.
Currently, they fly from Bangkok to Chiang Mai, Hat Yai, Phuket, Nakhon Si Thammarat, Udon Thani, Trang and Loei, from Chiang Mai to Chiang Rai, Udon Thani, Pai and Mae Hong Son. Nok's international routes to India and Vietnam have been terminated.
Orient Thai , which also uses the brand One-Two-GO , flies domestic flights in Thailand as well as international flights to Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Seoul from both Bangkok and Phuket. They stopped flying for a while in 2008, but as of March 2009 are flying again.
Note: Even by low-cost carrier standards, Orient Thai's on-time record is notoriously poor and their planes, particularly the 747s, are old. A crash in September 2007 killed 89, although the jury is still out on what caused it.
PB air flies domestic Thai routes and Da Nang, Vietnam.
This page was last edited at 14:18, on 18 March 2009 by Jani Patokallio. Based on work by Pau Comellas Prat, D. Guillaume, Aadisht Khanna and Matthew Hutton, Anonymous user(s) of Wikitravel and others.