Instead of earning points on Cathay Pacific, I chose to save dough flying Air Asia on my recent trip to Malaysia.  My partner guilted me into it, “It’s not like you’re flying down to meet me on business.”

He’s just jealous because I’m American Airlines Platinum and he’s still Gold.  HA!

Air Asia is a Kuala Lumpur based budget carrier with additional hubs in Bangkok and Jakarta.  The planes are mostly clean, the flight crews visibly cheery, the food for purchase inevitably shitty–and such poor selection too.

I tried unsuccessfully to book my ticket online but my credit card wasn’t accepted.  So I called their Singapore office (the Kuala Lumpur number wasn’t working).  This very happy man answered and explained that US or UK based credit cards are not accepted when booking online OR if you call.  “Sorry!” he laughed.

I had my partner book my flight using his Hong Kong based credit card.  Minor crisis averted.

On the morning of my flight, the Air Asia counter was not yet open when I got to the airport.  I arrived early, as I always do, to avoid long lines.  I HATE waiting in line.  HATE it!  So I killed time drinking coffee and wandering around Hong Kong’s huge airport.  Impressive but spooky like 28 Days Later when you’re the only one there.

I picked up my boarding pass an hour later and waltzed through security and immigration.  Air Asia doesn’t assign seats, so I had to wait in line to board the plane.  EVERYONE wants to sit up front, so if you don’t mind sitting in the back like me, I suggest not rushing to find a seat unless the plane is full.  Who wants to sit between a phlegmy elderly local and snotty-nosed kid?

The cabin crew was very friendly, quite young and fairly attractive.  The only male flight attendant read me immediately and gave me a knowing smile.  Gaydar is bizarre.  I woke up super early, looked like hell, dressed like a bum, and still this guy was able to read me.  What?  Am I fluttering about the cabin in pink pajamas and Perrier?

I smiled back, but was later annoyed when he and the women flight attendants were all trying to help me at once, none of them successfully.  No Diet Coke or Coke One.  I guess it is pretty gay to ask for a diet drink.  In my defense, I asked for a beer first.  Unfortunately, no alcohol is served on this budget carrier based in Muslim Malaysia.

We arrived in Kuala Lumpur after some terrible turbulence, and taxied past the impressive, new Kuala Lumpur International Airport.  Unfortunately, that is NOT where we were headed.  No.  We were headed for the Low Cost Carrier Terminal, LCCT for short.

Remember when Kathleen Turner arrived at the Bogota airport in Romancing the Stone?  Well, that was LCCT.  No pigs or chickens, just chaos and laze-abouts, aggressive pirate taxi drivers, no clear signs,  little direction, unhelpful airport personnel, and shifty-eyed locals I seriously doubt were there to board a flight.

My partner arrived from Singapore with a slight fever and congestion, so I was in charge (as usual) of finding a way out of this LCCT hell-hole.  I managed to locate the bus to the main terminal, 1.5 Malaysia Ringit per person–you better have small bills.  From the looks of this bus, I thought we might have to “Yabba Dabba Do” it the Fred Flintstone way and collectively lift the bus and run it to the terminal, but the bus (somehow) managed to get us there.  We caught a legitimate and regulated taxi from the new terminal to our hotel.

Air Asia bottom line?  You’ll save money, but waste time.  You’ll get there, but just barely.

I like to think that getting there is half the fun (Bloody Marys in business, champagne in first, lounging at the club), but if you’re willing to tough it out, perhaps Air (G)Asia is for you.  I’ll fly Cathay next time.

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