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Old 30th June 2017, 03:40 PM   #1
Carfield
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Default Inaugural LCC Way – Air Asia X to Honolulu on June 28, 2017

Inaugural LCC Way – Air Asia X to Honolulu on June 28, 2017



Air Asia X is the long-haul arm of Air Asia, which is based in Kuala Lumpur and has mixed success on their goals of bring affordable to medium to long haul flights. It had tried Europe using some second-hand A340s, but this experience was short lived. It had also tried Middle East targeting the labor traffic but D7 seems to have given up on most routes, except Jeddah and Tehran. It has successfully founded its niche on medium haul flights that are too long for its Airbus A320 fleet, such as flights to Australia, New Zealand, North Asia including Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, and China. According to its latest report, Air Asia X has given up on these super long-haul flights to Europe and West Coast of USA, or at least for now. Thankfully this Hawaii project came before this latest change of heart. For many observers, this Hawaii flight seems to be a precursor to long-haul flights to at least the US West Coast, but I also wonder how much the advanced booking of these flights also played in this sudden change of heart or the simple high costs on operating to North America especially security costs in the US. While it is not the first long haul transpacific LCC (Jetstar has been flying between Australia and Honolulu for a while, and Jin Air, a low-cost arm of Korean Air, also flies daily between Seoul Incheon and Honolulu using 777s, but then it has some aspect that is more traditional full service.), Air Asia X will truly be new to many American travelers, who are not familiar with low cost travels. I am a bit skeptical on how many Americans can D7 attract, especially its 9-abreast economy seating, and in the end, I have a feeling that it might rely on the backpackers and the young independent travelers in Asia and Japan to fill up these flights, but can they sustain these flights? Of course, I am too weak to consider flying its economy cabin, but its premium flatbed offers a good value proposition for those who cares only about the seats and having a pillow and duvet. I paid $700USD for this one way flight form Kuala Lumpur to Honolulu via Osaka and paid for one extra meal for each sector. While I will be honest that I regret doing this inaugural all the way from KUL to Honolulu, it was still a good flight and given the price, it was nice to at least get some sleep for that price. It is earlier type sliding seats, but at least they are not the first generation one. Air Asia X also does a good job in maintaining these seats. Unfortunately, I felt that Air Asia X has slipped a bit with poorer selection of food, such as the cutting of the “Big” breakfast (and I honestly don’t mind paying extra for better pre-booked food, even a full meal) and the service has slipped a bit. Well, having two Air Asia CEOs on these inaugural flights seem to consume the energy of the F/As (mostly on the first leg) and lessen the experiences of paid guests. Despite the little shortcoming during these inaugural flights, I will hopefully give you a good enough report on these LCC premium adventure. For new Air Asia X passengers especially those based in the USA, I hope I help anwering some of your concerns.

Full album link:
http://s1213.photobucket.com/user/Ca...aXHNLInaugural

Booking:
There is one thing that Air Asia does right is its website, which sadly many traditional even full service Asian airlines can’t event do. Booking a flight is easy and you can conveniently add all these baggage options and pre-book your meals, even after purchasing the tickets. It is easy to navigate and use. I played with the meal options a few times and enjoyed this flexibility.

As a Premium Flatbed passenger, I am entitled to 40kg of check-in baggage (more than before), priority check-in, priority baggage handling, Zone 1 boarding, and choice of one free meal.

Check-in:



Well klia2 is more like a shopping mall than an airport and it is honestly a bit too much. Anyway, the airport authority needs to make money so it makes sense for them to make money. I noticed Aerotel will open up a new landside airport hotel soon and it will make a good option for airport hotels, other than the Sama Sama line. I am still waiting for major hotel chain to open up a real airport hotel in KUL.

Premium Flex and Premium Flatbed passengers has a priority counter in Aisle W and you don’t need to do web check-in if you don’t feel like it. You won’t be asked to pay for a fee to get a boarding pass. Unfortunately, airport check-in no longer yields a nice cardboard boarding pass, and I hate these flimsy boarding passes. But then it is a LCC. The wait was somewhat long given only one party was checking in. But the strange thing here in Malaysia is that you see one person checking in and then all the sudden this person’s companions will come out of nowhere. Anyway, after waiting for a while, it was my turn. A supervisor has to check me in because of the newness of this flight but he did not do it right though. They apparently needed to issue two boarding passes – one from KUL to KIX and then one from KIX to HNL. I am not sure why, and maybe it is easier to issue two boarding passes than providing a transit card and more staffs in checking transit passengers. I guess this kind of issue will pop up during the early operating days. My bag was checked through to Honolulu and there was a priority tag.

Immigration line was not busy but was slow – typically Malaysian experience. Then after passing immigration, there was a custom check – not a proper security check. This check is to curtail the illegal drug trade. Please also note that Air Asia is strict with its one piece of hand luggage carry on policy. There were at least four staffs checking bags in the entrance to the restricted area. What is acceptable in the US is definitely unacceptable here, especially some of those big roller board suitcases.



Lounge:


Yes, Air Asia X offers a premium lounge for paid (which I don’t recommend) and for Premium Flex/Flatbed passengers (limited to three hours). The lounge has a nice modern touch and is hip for the young modern travelers, but there is a severe lack of amenities. The bathroom and shower was actually sort of nasty. Food selection is limited to sandwiches, fried noodles, some Malaysian chicken and vegetarian dishes. Drinks are limited to soft drinks but there is a specialty coffee machine. Beer is available for a fee. However, the free WIFI is the best feature here. There is apparently an upper level that I did not check out. I will not recommend anyone paid to get in, but if you receive free admission, it is a nice spot to check emails. The speed is deent enough.






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Old 30th June 2017, 03:41 PM   #2
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Beer is not free


Limited food


June 28, 2017
D7 1 KUL-KIX Lv1400 Arr2125 Airbus A330-300E 9M-XBA

Gate:




Our plane, 9M-XBA, was already parked here at gate P6, and to no surprise, it was a closed gate. They opened the gate for passengers at 12:40pm, and there was a passport check by local immigration officials, and of course, they have to give each Honolulu bound passengers new set of boarding passes. For some reason, they did not have my boarding passes pre-issued, but the staff told me to go straight to the passport check and then she would return later with my new boarding passes.






Crews arriving – there was a crew change in Osaka Kansai.


Air Asia’s Fun team performing

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Old 30th June 2017, 03:41 PM   #3
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Chairperson of Air Asia Group and CEO of Air Asia X cutting cake




There is no buffet or anything special like that. However, Air Asia social media team and its “fun team” are there to perform music, and to take pictures with passengers. I am not surprised with the low-key arrangement as most of the passengers seem to be bound for Kansai.




Boarding began at 1:30pm and it took a while to get the message through because of the music and performances. I got a goodie bag and shook hands with Chairwoman of Air Asia, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, who was also a former member of the Malaysian parliament. She was sitting in the premium flatbed section across the aisle from me and actually next to me on the final leg. Everyone obviously shook hands with her. Anyway, a Japanese flight attendant was mainly in charge of our section today. Air Asia X’s new CEO, Benyamin Ismail, was also a guest on this special inaugural. Flying to the US has been in the works for so long and Ismail actually said something that contradicted the earlier news that Air Asia X will not pursue ultra-long-haul flights. Ismail actually said that if the Honolulu flights work well, they will open up most West Coast cities. Unlike traditional airlines, there was obviously no pre-takeoff service except handing out a bottled of water, and then later mango juice. The loading was 50% here in premium flatbed and I think there might only be one more revenue passenger (apart from me) this afternoon. The quiet zone was also not too full, but the back is almost 100% full.

Some cabin pictures
Air Asia X’s “Quiet Zone”




“Premium Flatbed” Cabin




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Old 30th June 2017, 03:42 PM   #4
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Gift bag







Pineapple tart – note the Mahalo sticker


Pre-takeoff bottled water and mango juice



Despite being a new flight, things went smoothly and door was closed right on time at 2pm. We pushed back a moment later and headed towards R/W33. We took off at 2:19pm and it was a six hours and nineteen minutes flight. It was longer than normal, as there was a lack of tail wind, as well as ATC congestion in Kansai. We traveled at 35,000ft first and then climbed up to 37,000ft.



Beautiful day to fly

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Old 30th June 2017, 03:43 PM   #5
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Seat:
The primary asset of the premium flatbed is the “seat” itself. It is nothing fancy but compared to other Asian long haul low cost carriers, such as Scoot, this second generation sliding flatbed is not bad. The seats are well maintained and there was a power outlet at each seat.

Relax position


Flat Bed


Flat Bed with duvet



Entertainment:
There is no WIFI (but the CEO, Ben, carried a go-go inflight backpack) or streaming entertainment, but tablets were available for free in premium flatbed section and available for rent in economy class. I did not partake with the tablet because I have my own devices and entertainment. Plus, the selection looks pretty weak.

Inflight magazine too


Service:
As I said earlier, you get one free meal for each sector, but you can buy an additional meal plus you can maximize your meal with a pineapple tart and apple juice, and also add a bottle of water or carbonated beverages. I remembered back in the days, they have this big breakfast service, but now it was gone. So, the cheese omelette I had for the first meal was pretty sad. The worst part is the carbonated beverage package and you are basically stuck with Coke – not even the real coke but a Malaysian local brand.

My first meal




Special cake for the inaugural flight – only available out from KUL


Service was also very slow and I did not get my meal till an hour after takeoff. My previous experience with premium flatbed was actually better and the F/A basically tried to serve the first meal for the premium passengers ASAP, so they could focus on setting up the service in the back. Unlike traditional airlines, they have less F/As for a plane with more passengers. However, the cabin with mostly special guests meant that they were served first, while the paid passengers waited. As an Asian, I was not surprised, and I already knew the meals are small, so I ate before the flight.

My second meal was Uncle Chin’s Chicken Rice, which is still one of my favorite Air Asia meals, and got a bottled water deal with this meal. However there is more rice than chicken these days. Less chicken and more rice…. Sigh!


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Old 30th June 2017, 03:43 PM   #6
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I also wanted a cup of soup, but since they have a MYR30 minimal, I purchased a few snacks along with it.



For new Air Asia X fliers, you cannot bring outside food onboard. In reality, I think you can get away with snack items, but if you bring in something with a strong smell, you are expected to be asked to put them away. As someone traveled within Asia, it is a good policy. It is not a way to be cheap but some local food can have a strong smell. I think you can get away with bring your own water or soda, and if you are a bit discrete, most F/As are fine.

My feeling about Air Asia X’s meals is still the same – very affordable option, but I still can’t understand why they cannot offer real Coke or even Pepsi product and also diet sodas. There is no Diet Coke/Coke Light/Coke Zero option at all. Plus, it is time to provide passengers options to purchase a real full meal with starter, bread and dessert. I don’t mind paying at all. The F/As should also let Premium Flatbed passengers aware that they can purchase extra food and drinks and can set up a tab.

Arrival
Since Air Asia X is a low-cost airline, like Scoot, the F/As are very aggressive in preparing for cabin, and getting ready for the next flights. They literally turned on the lights in full blast 60 minutes prior to arrival, and then for flatbed passengers, they will actually collect your pillow and duvet too. You also have to turned off your phone during descent. I presume that they hired less cleaning staffs or the F/As were in charge of cleaning too.



Descent began at 8:40pm Japan local time and we had a gradual descent pattern. We did not land on R/W24R till 9:38pm. We parked at gate 38 in the South Wing at 9:45pm, which were twenty minutes behind schedule. Thankfully we had two hours of transit time.

Transit at Kansai




With the second boarding pass, passengers continuing to Honolulu just proceeded to the transit checkpoints located in the main immigration area. So yes, we had to take the tram to the immigration area and then after clearing security, we took the tram back to gate 38. Kansai was fairly busy this evening with many late-night flights.

A number of Japan Airlines wide-body planes



Air Asia X 9M-XBA getting ready for the next leg to Honolulu




D7 1 KIX-HNL Lv2325 Arr1230 Airbus A330-300E 9M-XBA



The event here at Kansai was more formal and less “fun” than Air Asia X with off duty Air Asia staffs playing music and snapping picture with passengers heading to Hawaii.

Once again, there was no food and drinks, but two Air Asia X F/As were taking pictures with passengers.
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Old 30th June 2017, 03:44 PM   #7
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There was a ribbon cutting ceremony.





Then there was a promotional ceremony with a few extremely thin Japanese models posing with the CEOs and guests. Not sure what is going on here!




Then there is a media session between CEO Ben and the Japanese media.


While there were a few of us going all the way from KUL to Honolulu, the majority of the passengers were Japanese especially young single women travelers. I notice that there were many groups of young women traveling together. It should not surprise anyone that Air Asia X attracts mostly a younger crowd and independent travelers. There are also many young couples. The flight was very full, much fuller than the last segment.

Honolulu in Chinese



Chairwoman of Air Asia, Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, was passing out gift bags and shook hands with passengers.


Boarding began at 10:48pm and things went slowly, as they only used door one for boarding and deplaning.

Cabin Shot
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Old 30th June 2017, 03:44 PM   #8
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The F/As on these flights were a bit better and service felt more organized.

We got a choice of juices – mango, pineapple, and orange, and the bottled water was 500ml (not 300ml).



Door was closed on time at 11:25pm and we pushed back a few minutes.

There was a sendoff team here at Osaka but too dark to take good pictures.


I almost forgot to report that the pursuer actually did a formal introduction of all the cabin crews and where they are from and languages that they spoke, before conducting the safety demo. Then they did a bow too before taking their seats for landing too. There were nine F/As on tonight’s flight.

We took off from R/W6R at 11:44pm for our seven hours and thirty-nine minutes flight to Honolulu today.

Service sequence was the same as before. Duvet was passed out first, and then tablets for those who wanted it in Premium flatbed. They are complimentary for Premium Flatbed passengers, but I declined on both flights. However here is the brochure showing the list of moves, televisions, books, music and games available.






Due to the inaugural flights, the F/As passed out postcards (free postage I supposed) and pineapple tarts to every passenger.


Inaugural gift bag from Japan
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Old 30th June 2017, 03:45 PM   #9
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Then the F/A verified he meal orders and if you had a second meal, you discussed the sequence of your meals being served. Just like the previous flights and most Air Asia X flights, they do two services – one after takeoff and one before landing.

I had the Japanese Bento for supper, which was just alright. It featured egg omelet, mackerel fish, one tiny shrimp (peeled), plain sushi, and two side dishes – black beans and a shredded carrot & beans in sesame sauce.







Cute flower to decorate the tray


Here is the full menu for the flights between Kansai and Honolulu. They were more expensive than those departing from KUL. Obviously, they cannot do return catering due to strict laws in the US, not to mention the length of the flights. I was surprised that those hot entrées cost $16USD ex-Honolulu, considered there were no side dishes or came with drinks. However, the F/A was a bit more generous on the drink served with meal. I got a glass of juice with the first meal. Those pineapple juice was good, and course we only got a cup.

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Old 30th June 2017, 03:45 PM   #10
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Old 30th June 2017, 03:46 PM   #11
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For economy class passengers, I noted the time of service, and it was 1:18am, a little more than 90 minutes after takeoff before service began. So, if you sit in coach, please be patient! If you want to rest, you need to invest in some eye-masks, as the lights were kept on for a long period of time. It also took them a while to complete the services, to collect trash, and then duty free. For this flight, duty free took place after the final buy-on-board service. For normal day flights, duty free took place after the first meal services. The second service began almost three hours prior to arrival with lights being switched on again. So, eye-masks are a must.

In Premium Flatbed, the second meal service began two and half hours prior to landing. It was still way too early. I was sad that there was no longer a “big breakfast” set.

I ordered the Breakfast frittata, which was filled with cheese, onions and tomatoes, and accompanied with chicken sausages and potatoes. The F/A offered tea or coffee.









Descent began at 11:51am Hawaii local time, and the F/A prepared the cabin at the same time. Thankfully I got some beautiful views to look at.


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Old 30th June 2017, 03:47 PM   #12
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Lovely day here in Hawaii



We landed on R/W8L at 12:23pm and parked at gate 24 right on time at 12:30pm.








There was a low-profile welcome with typical orchid flower ring, along with Hula Dance performance.
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Old 30th June 2017, 03:47 PM   #13
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Gate 24 was one of the good gates that was located next to immigration hall, so no need to take those Wiki Wiki shuttles to the immigration hall.


Things were very quiet at this time of the day, as most Asian flights had already landed.

First bags, which were priority tagged, came out at 12:45pm, and my suitcase was the second one. With Global Entry, it was a breeze.


I was flying onward to Oakland on Alaska Airlines, so I went back to the departure level.
Air Asia X counters were literally located next to the TSA Pre-check line.



There was already a queue and unfortunately, there was no sign indicating that it was Air Asia X’s first Honolulu departure. I wondered if the recent incident in Perth scaled back the celebration here, and I did not see any local news stations reporting on this inaugural flight. When I checked the gate later, there was no indication of any celebration too.

But the outdoor situation here allowed some good photography even using my iPhone.







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Old 30th June 2017, 03:48 PM   #14
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In conclusion, Air Asia X has never strayed from its brand as a budget airline. Even the inaugural flights felt very budget with not much amenities and mostly social media stuffs that have minimal costs. There was no water canon salute (but it might be local issue with water conservation). However, it was always a nice thing to do. The flight itself was fine and American passengers definitely needed some adjustments because even its premium product basically still resembles a low-cost airline but with few priorities and a flat seat. Will I fly Air Asia X again? I don’t think so, and KUL to Japan is perhaps the longest time that I can deal with Air Asia X! It will be interesting to see how Air Asia X’s load will be affected when Scoot will also start this route. I hope you enjoy this inaugural trip report, as there is another one coming in a few days.

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Old 6th July 2017, 10:26 PM   #15
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Funny that neither Tony nor Kamaruddin were there for the inaugural.. hm..
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