I N T R O D U C T I O N
On the first few hours after posting this report, flight D7
2402 makes its last journey to Abu Dhabi from Kuala Lumpur. From the airline’s website, the returning flight did not even show as operating, let alone fully booked or even available for sale. Unsure of the exact reason, one possibility could be an indication of a ferry flight that will carry the remaining deadheading crew back to Kuala Lumpur, and resulting in the disappearance of any AirAsia X brand in the region. Hence, this chimes the ending rhythms of a story I suddenly concluded as strange and inadequate.
It was only two years ago when AirAsia X casually squeezed in the usual ‘seeking to expand into the Middle East’ sentence in one of its countless press releases. Just like the general public, this airline couldn’t be blamed for not knowing much about Abu Dhabi, when the typical Dubai chatter was happening only an hour away. Soon enough however, that mindset became a last season’s affair.
It was a relationship that was purely built from scratch, and was one that wasn’t just based on the exchange of simple numbers, trends, statistics, and figures. In fact, those numbers were not even the main event. Even at one point, the airline in its ever so sarcastic and joking manner, would say things like “please man, no more numbers, we have seen enough!”
It was a very laid back encounter with AirAsia X. Sure enough, it was definitely about showing the true opportunities and the multi-million dollar projects that are transforming Abu Dhabi into the global leader. But it also involved dinners at Burger King, and drinks at the seediest bars at times. This is what this airline is about, and the term ‘down to earth’ cannot describe it enough!
AirAsia X was absolutely impressed with Abu Dhabi and immediately believed in the opportunity to make it work as their first Middle Eastern gateway. As a result, 5 weekly flights to the UAE capital were inaugurated in November 2009, and a huge bash was put together to celebrate this trend-setting event.
What happened afterwards was what defied all the normal expectations and left everyone in complete shock. Only weeks ago, the airline suddenly announced a temporary suspension of the route due to lack of availability of an appropriate aircraft. They immediately concluded that they will return to Abu Dhabi soon, with a vengeance, and with better aircraft.
But what about the strong-standing relationship? And the genuine hopes and beliefs in the Abu Dhabi market? Was that just hype to spark up the media? But why send an aircraft here if it was only marketing fluff? So many questions and very little answers resulted in gloomy moods of confusion and frustration all over town.
Today the market conditions are still very vague, and perhaps AirAsia needs to hold its horses a little until signs of global improvement begin to show. By then, they should return.
As for now, I share with you my flying experience with AirAsia X from Abu Dhabi, brought to you with a little bit of sadness and lots of hope for another future! Consider it a symbolic tribute to an airline that made it happen for me during my career! They are really something!
In a blink of an eye, this is AirAsia X’s turnaround at Abu Dhabi…
WELCOME TO MY 21st TRIP REPORT
will cover the following flights on my ‘self-connecting’ trip to Bangkok on the AirAsia brand:
B A C K G R O U N D
- A) Abu Dhabi – Kuala Lumpur; in XL Class on AirAsia X (A343)
- B) Kuala Lumpur – Bangkok; on AirAsia (A320)
- C) Bangkok – Kuala Lumpur; on Thai AirAsia (A320)
- D) Kuala Lumpur – Abu Dhabi; in Economy Class on AirAsia X (A343)
I have absolutely no justification for this trip.
When AirAsia X announced Abu Dhabi services in August, they inaugurated the ticket sales with a super promotion of 99 AED ($27 USD) for a one-way fare from Abu Dhabi to Kuala Lumpur, and similarly MYR
99 ($27 USD) for the return segment.
I have never come across the opportunity to use such a promotion before, and I thought what the heck? why not purchase a ticket and see what this is all about. I had no solid intentions to fly, and was under the mindset that if I couldn’t make it, then so be it.
AirAsia certainly makes a huge fanfare when releasing such promotions, and the ads continue to fill their websites even months after these fares have sold out. However, the trick is to subscribe to their newsletters and closely watch for new promotions. In my case, there was no newsletter required as I was in the midst of it all.
On the day of the launch, I logged on to the AirAsia website, and began my search for flights. Funny enough, barely any of the dates offered this promotion, but I was adamant enough to keep searching for the right combination of out and inbound travel days. It took a good 30 minutes to secure two days that resulted in a two day trip to Kuala Lumpur.
On AirAsia, you practically pay for everything you want. Similarly for this AirAsia X flight, I decided to go on a shopping spree and bought the following add-ons:
- A) Comfort Kit (56 AED = $15 USD)
- B) Malaysian Meal (22 AED = $6 USD),
- C) Advanced Seat Request (110 AED = $30USD)
The total price after selecting everything except for the checked-baggage fee, including taxes resulted in 386 AED ($105 USD) for a total roundtrip ticket between Abu Dhabi and Kuala Lumpur. How ridiculously cheap is that?
As time drew closer to the day of my intended travels, it became more evident that there was a public holiday that would fall on the same days, which meant I was definitely traveling.
AirAsia is technically a point-to-point airline however, they heavily promote their self-connect possibility to the public whereby passengers peruse the airline’s point-to-point network to voluntarily connect to wherever possible. So since it was probably the only time I would be flying AirAsia, I thought to step it up a notch and experience this self-connecting concept by slapping on a tag ticket between Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok. So much for not wanting to travel!
To add icing on the cake, I was also given a free upgrade to XL Class on both my AirAsia X flights, with compliments of the AirAsia team! That was very nice indeed, but when traveling LCC, one needs to go purely LCC, and XL Class was not on my list!
O U T B O U N D
At 10:20pm, I left my apartment in Downtown Burj Dubai (or Burj Khalifa now) and drove towards Abu Dhabi. Arriving the airport at midnight, I parked my car at the new Terminal 3 car park which was recently opened. Although this car park is designated for T3
passengers, it is relatively easy to navigate between Terminals 1, 1A, and 3 from there.
New Terminal 3 Car Park at Abu Dhabi International Airport
I arrived Terminal 1A at 12:10am, where AirAsia X normally operates from. There was a crowd predominantly from the Indian Subcontinent that formed outside the terminal’s entrance however, there was no queue to go inside. Presumably, these passengers were awaiting the Air India Express Milk-Run that was operating several hours after my flight.
Terminal 1A at AUH
Proceeding through the typical pre-check-in security I arrived at the check-in hall which was fully designated for the AirAsia X flight at that time of night. As a minimum, the airline requires 5 check-in counters to process their passengers and on that night, all seemed to have been used quite adequately.
AirAsia X Check-in Counters at AUH
There was a long queue and it was moving rather slowly; something I was expecting given that this was the 3rd flight to operate since the inaugural. A quick passenger profiling scan revealed most of the passengers were UAE expatriates, most of which were from the Indian Subcontinent, a few Caucasian families, and a surprising number of Malaysians (Malays, Chinese, and also Indians). The Malaysian population in the UAE is very small, and most reside in Dubai but it seems that the AirAsia magnet worked to lure them here.
In Queue for Check-in
At my turn for check-in, I was processed rather quickly because I had no baggage to check. I asked the friendly, but frustrated agent what was taking so long at the counters and she claimed that the passengers had absolutely no knowledge of having to pay for every checked baggage and a lot of time was required between a quick briefing on the AirAsia concept, and for passengers to make their way to the excess baggage counter to pay for the luggage fees.
and the region may need to reach the learning curve when it comes to pure LCC-type of operations, but I also think that the airline should have been receptive to this, and should have found ways to educate its passengers prior to their arrival at the airport.
My Boarding Pass to Kuala Lumpur
Unique Stickers on my Boarding Card Indicating my Meal & Comfort Kit Purchase
At 12:40am I proceeded to immigration, which took a mere 5 minutes to get me airside. The flight tonight was operating from Gate 8, which is located in Terminal 1. Once you reach airside at Terminal 1A, it is relatively easy to go one level up and arrive at Terminal 1. Since the operation was still in ‘inaugural mode’ the AirAsia X flight was accommodated during the first week of operation and was given a contact gate as necessary.
At the main satellite area at Terminal 1, I went for my usual stroll when I decided to settle for a cup of hot tea at the coffee shop next to the lower-level duty free shops.
My LCC cup of Tea!
At around 1:30am the inbound flight from Kuala Lumpur had landed, and the passengers and crew were eventually released into the terminal.
Deplaning Passengers from Kuala Lumpur
AirAsia X Crew that Operated D72402 from KUL
At 2AM I Proceeded Inside Gate 08
Passing through security, I was inside the holding area at 2:05am, where a small crowd of passengers had already formed.
Inside the Holding Area
The Raiders Plane in Abu Dhabi!
At 2:10am a boarding call was made for all passengers with children, and those that required additional assistance. This was followed by boarding calls according to row numbers, and beginning from the back of the aircraft. As an XL passenger, I was allowed to board at anytime.
AirAsia X Flight 2403 With Service to Kuala Lumpur is Now Ready for Boarding
Approaching the ground staff at the gate, my boarding pass was zipped off, and I was wished a pleasant flight before proceeding down the aerobridge. Arriving at Door 2L of the aircraft, I was greeted by two AirAsia X girls, dressed in their typical fiery red outfits, with an LCC version of “Hi, welcome on board!” By ‘LCC’ I mean no act, no frequent flier to pretend we recognize, and just pure hearty, casual, friendly, and very informal.
By 2:25am I was on board.
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