Note: This post is cross posted from my old blog and is a few years old. A few things have changed since then. Recently, Jetstar introduced direct flights from my home town of Melbourne to Japan which eliminates the long stopover. Air Asia have also moved their stopover from the very primitive LCCT in Kuala Luampar.
I thought I should write up my thoughts about my flight with Air Asia because, when I booked my flight with them, a lot of people gave me dire warnings. But, when I asked them to compare them to other budget airlines, not many people had flown both.
Since these two are the main budget airlines flying to Japan (and other Asian destinations) from Australia, I figured it's good to let people know my thoughts. Well actually I pretty much just think it's good to let people know my thoughts about everything...
# Note: I've only flown these airlines from Melbourne to Tokyo/Kansai so I can't comment on anything else.
Jetstar only fly direct from Cairns or the Gold Coast. If you are flying from Melbourne or other parts of Austalia, prepare for a stopover. It doesn't seem to be too bad on the Aus-Japan flight but the return flight is a bitch - long stopover after an overnight flight does not make for a happy Kathryn. Plus it's Queensland so it's usually hot + (every time I've been there at least) raining. So it's not even like you can go outside and sit on the grass, enjoying the sun.
And you have to pick up your luggage and wait for check in to open so you have all your bags with you. One of the dudes at Cairns airport told us to go to the beach, just across the road. Yeah, you really want to wheel a suitcase down the beach!
At the Gold Coast, you can use the Jetstar lounge for $10. It has food and booze and coffee and free wifi. But you can't actually go in there until your flight opens so you might still be hanging around with shitall to do for a few hours.
With pretty much all Air Asia flights, you go via Kuala Lumpar. I had a 6 hour stopover there which was a shitty amount of time. If you want to go into the city, you have to do the whole customs thing which cuts the 6 hours down quite a bit.
I met some other travellers while I was there and they said if you get a shorter stopover, you run the risk of missing your connecting flight if you are delayed. One girl said she was literally running between flights one time and just made it.
On the plus side, your luggage is checked all the way to your destination so you don't have to deal with all that.
If you do decide to stay in transit, there aren't many facilities at the airport (the Low Cost Carrier Terminal). There are some food places and the toilets have a shower - there's no sign saying that but the upstairs toilet at least has one.
There is a lounge you can use but the fancy lounge is outside the transit area. The one in the transit area just had food and coffee (and, I think beer). No showers and the food is pretty basic.
On the actual flights themselves, well both are pretty cramped. On the Jetstar planes, there never seems to be enough overhead locker space and, since it costs $$$ to check luggage people take a lot of cabin bags. You might end up with your bag about 5 rows down the plane from where you are sitting. That didn't seem to be an issue on Air Asia.
On both airlines you can pay extra to get an exit row seat.
Do not pay for the exit row seat. It's so not worth the money. I did it on my KL - Tokyo flight and I ended up with the whole row of three seats to myself but the arm rests are fixed in this row so I was stuck in my shit seat anyway.
Air Asia also have an arrangement with a third party business so you can pay and get an upgrade (if available) or have an empty seat beside you (again, if available).
I think the empty seat option might be worth paying for but I had empty seats beside me anyway and didn't have to pay. Because these options are through a third party, I didn't like the idea of having to pay upfront and then be reimbursed if they weren't available.
With budget airlines, everything costs. The meals on Air Asia seem to be a lot cheaper than on Jetstar. I didn't really eat on the flight because I'd eaten at the buffet in the lounge but the hot meals smelt really delicious.
I've never paid for in-flight entertainment on either airline either because I have my ipod, kindle etc so I don't know what that's like. On Air Asia, you can apparently rent a Nintendo DS which was tempting.
There are no screens at all on the Air Asia flight so you don't get to see any information like the map with the oversized plane showing your destination or how long it is until you land or what the temperature is outside the plane. You do get announcements, which are actually quite annoying if you are wearing headphones. I don't want announcements, I want something I can read.
My Air Asia flight was on time - actually landed earlier than advised. A few years ago I had problems with Jetstar but it's not been so bad with the last few flights I've taken with them.
All up, I'd say the Air Asia flight was better than Jetstar apart from the long stopover. If I'm going to be hanging around the airport, I'd much rather do it in Australia where I can go outside and don't have to dick around getting money exchanged and that kind of thing.
With all the extras I'd had to pay for on Air Asia, I don't think my flight was that much cheaper than the one my sister booked on Qantas. So it's worth shopping around and don't just assume that the budget airlines are the cheapest option.