Review: Air Asia – Kuala Lumpur (LCCT) to Siem Reap (REP)


Economy class, A320 – September 2012

Picture: Air Asia

Kuala Lumpur certainly gives Sao Paolo and Istanbul a run for their money in terms of traffic jams. And that’s saying something. One of the few saving graces of a 6.45am flight out of the Low Cost Carrier Terminal in the Malaysian capital is that you miss the morning rush hour, so you can shave off an hour or much more of regular taxi time and reduce the compulsion to self harm while you sit in an automobile moving at the kind of infuriatingly glacial pace that would require stop motion photography to record. You still have to fly from LCCT, which is a glamour-free experience for sure, but you’ll be in Siem Reap for the start of the day proper, so it’s worth the alarm call.

After a week of food poisoning and an inability to face anything other than small bowls of white rice, it seemed cruel and unusual that my appetite would return the morning of this particular flight. Kuala Lumpur’s low cost terminal is no place to get hungry. My judgement had been weakened along with everything else so, since the only other options were Starbucks or curry, I gave McDonalds a whirl. It’s a mistake I won’t be making again in a hurry. It had taken me a decade to forget what it was like and it’ll be at least as long again. But still, it was early and the day could but improve. It was but a short pre-dawn hop to the temples of Angkor Wat.

Once through security, there was nowhere to buy water. Duty free whisky? Plenty of that. Mineral water? No.

The luggage-drop and check-in arrangements at LCCT for Air Asia are abysmally sign-posted. Dazed by the early start, I stood in the wrong queue for over half an hour and then had a mad dash to the right part of the terminal. Once through security, there was nowhere to buy water. Duty free whisky? Plenty of that. Mineral water? No. The whole thing seemed a bit rum given that Air Asia have a rather aggressive policy of banning customers from consuming their own food and drink on board, but after flying with the airline several times, I have to say that it’s the only time I’ve felt held hostage in this respect. It’s not a usual occurrence.

The boarding process was the most disorganised I’ve ever experienced in all my years of flying, but having spent time in the company of Air Asia’s online booking engine, I wasn’t surprised. Once tickets and passports were checked there was no one to identify precisely which of the many planes on the apron outside was going to Siem Reap. Fifty people meandered back and forth, wondering quite where in Asia they might end up, until someone took charge and walked us to the right aircraft. So far, so low budget (we’re talking under £60 for a base fare, with baggage costing between approximately – depending on currency fluctuations –£5 and £25 for between 15kg and 40kg of luggage). On board, things were absolutely fine. Seats are allocated when you book, so I knew I was in row two with a window seat. The plane was clean and staff – dressed in sporty red short-sleeved outfits – faultlessly polite and friendly. There’s the usual no-frills hard sell of loyalty cards, but it wasn’t over the top or repetitive. You pay for all F&B on board, but there’s a discount if you pre-order your nasi lemak online when you book. I’d already suffered at the hands of Ronald McDonald so was nil by mouth for the 90 minute flight. We landed on schedule and, having arranged a pick-up through the Amansara, my visa, immigration and customs arrangements were all speedily handled by one of their agents. I was poolside less than an hour after landing, slightly frazzled after my experience at LCCT, but overall, very happy with the in-flight experience itself.