5 Best Budget Airlines in Asia
For a lot of travelers, airfare can be the most expensive aspect of the trip. They can cut costs in accommodation (find cheap hostels), food (just buy a sandwich), and tours (join free walking tours), but airfare is usually fixed.
Fortunately, the budget carrier industry, especially in Asia and Europe, has grown exponentially in the past few years. By getting rid of food served onboard, charging for check-in luggage, and making bookings available online only, these no-frills airlines have certainly made travel a whole lot more affordable.
If you find yourself in Asia, take a look at these airlines when making your booking. You may just get lucky and find $1 tickets from your destinations of choice!
AirAsia is indisputably the queen of budget airlines in Asia. Born in Malaysia and originally managed by a government-owned corporation , this award-winning low-cost carrier (LCC) started the whole low-fare trend after it was bought for 1 ringgit by the current management.
Even with cramped seating and no complimentary refreshments, AirAsia has grown to be the largest budget carrier operator in the region. It has affiliate airlines in India, Indonesia, the Philippines, and Thailand, with domestic and international flights to 100 destinations in 22 countries.
Indigo Airlines (India)
Indigo, launched in 2006 in India, is one of the best LCCs in Asia and the largest airline in India with 36 domestic and international destinations. In 2011, it has been named the Best Low-Cost Airline in India for Customer Product and Service Quality by the World Airline Awards.
Unlike other budget airlines, it allows free 15kg of checked baggage on domestic flights and 20kg on international ones. This is aside the 7kg hand baggage (plus laptop) allowed each passenger.
Tiger Airways (Singapore)
Singapore’s flagship budget carrier offers incredibly low fares to 35 international destinations, not only in Asia, but also in Australia. Launched in 2004 by Singapore Airlines and the company that started Europe’s top budget carrier Ryanair, it quickly set its mark as one of the best in the region.
Tigerair now flies from Singapore to Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, the Philippines (Manila), Macau, Thailand, and Vietnam. A subsidiary in Melbourne also serves domestic destinations in Australia. It used to have an affiliate company as well in the Philippines, but it was later bought by Cebu Pacific.
Like any budget carrier, there are no free refreshments provided on flights. Passengers who wish to buy meals can either pre-book online, or buy onboard. Check-in luggage are also paid, although there’s the usual 7kg for carryon.
Jetstar Asia (Singapore)
Tiger Airways faces stiff competition in Jetstar, a budget carrier owned by Qantas Airways and other Singapore-based groups. From Singapore, it flies to a number of Australian and New Zealand. Jetstar has a hub as well in Vietnam.
Currently, Jetstar flies from Singapore to 14 international destinations in Asia.
Cebu Pacific Air (Philippines)
Cebu Pacific is one of the trendsetters in the budget carrier industry. With hubs in both Manila and Cebu City, this LCC made its mark by offering $1 fares in domestic and international destinations.
As one of the largest budget carriers in Asia, Cebu Pacific currently flies to more than 50 domestic and international destinations, including its newest flights to Australia, Japan, UAE, and Saudi Arabia. Cheapest flights are usually booked online, but there is so much extra cost (e.g., fuel, web fee, taxes) that published prices are only a fraction of the price you pay for the ticket. Still, you can find a lot of good deals in Cebu Pacific during their seat sales.
There’s a 7kg free carryon allowance, but checked-in baggage are paid. There’s no free refreshment, but as always, there are some available on board for purchase. The cabin crew also holds fun games in domestic flights.
Aside from these major players, there are also many others in Asia that are worth mentioning. Spring Airlines, for example, is a Shanghai-based low-cost airline launched in 2005. This first budget carrier in China now has 39 domestic and 14 international destinations, all in Asia.
Lion Air, Indonesia’s largest privately-run carrier, is also worth mentioning. It flies to more than 36 domestic and international destinations, including Singapore, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Saudi Arabia.
True, flying in these no-frills airlines can be uncomfortable sometimes, especially with the cramped seating and the lack of refreshment. However, a lot of travelers are willing to put up with it for a few hours, in exchange for saving money that can help them stay longer on the road.