The AirAsia ASEAN Pass made my ASEAN Explorer Trip possible – I only paid $360 for 11 flights of 6,541 miles around South East Asia! In more than 20 years of traveling and 4 Million miles of flying, these were the cheapest flights I’ve done! But there are some pitfalls with the ASEAN pass, like availability, fees and conditions. So, Check my Air Asia Asean Pass Review to make the most out of it!
The AirAsia ASEAN Pass 2017 is available with 10 credits for $120 (30 days) and 20 credits for $215 (60 days), making it even cheaper than before. And with new availability checks, it’s less risky than before, making it a better deal than when it was launched. Read my Top 10 Tips below to make the most of it:
1. Be spontaneous, have an open mind!
You will have the most fun with the ASEAN pass if you are open to exploring for 30/60 days what South East Asia has to offer and are flexible with your travel dates. It’s ideal for somebody living in SE Asia or planning to travel around for a few months. It will be much tougher, if you have specific destinations and dates in mind, as seat availability might hamper your plans!
2. Check availability!
Certain routes have great availability, others not so much. If you are coming from outside the region, your best bet is to start/end in Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, where there are lots of flights with good availability. You have lots of options to put together a great trip across the region from these cities!
Before you purchase the ASEAN pass Air Asia, you can now see availability – you can enter all the segments you have in mind, with routes and dates. The system will show you how many credits each flight requires. There is NO NEED to pay somebody to search for availability anymore!
Once you have completed your plan, you can search for availability and the system will show available flights, allowing you to adjust your schedule for any routes not available on your dates:
This functionality makes it much easier to plan your trip and decide, whether the AirAsia pass will work for you! Thumbs up to AirAsia for listening to complaints and making this big improvement!
Also, here are some route specific tips, based on my experience from searching countless routes and dates over the next few months:
– Weekends, holidays: Availability around weekends and local holidays is very limited. While I have a few weekend flights, on many routes there are no or very few seats from Friday to Sunday and during holiday periods.
– Philippines – Malaysia: On all routes between Kuala Lumpur/Kota Kinabalu and Manila, Clark, Cebu, Kalibo there were only a few seats over a period of 60 days available. I ended up building the whole trip around the availability of these seats, ending up flying through Kota Kinabalu twice. You have a slightly better chance from/to Clark.
– Bali – anywhere: Bali is a very popular and relatively expensive destination (for flights). This shows in very limited pass availability. Your best bet is actually from Kuala Lumpur – many flights to/from other Indonesian airports are tough!
– Phuket: Similar to Bali, Phuket is a popular and expensive beach destination with limited availability during the high-season!
– Routes with single daily (or less frequent) flights
I noticed that several routes that have only a single flight per day have no availability over several weeks. Many routes with multiple daily flights out of the main AirAsia hubs, like Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok, seem to have better than average pass availability!
3. Small or big pass? Select the small pass!
There are two passes with 10 credits for 30 days or 20 credits for 60 days. I bought the ASEAN+ pass with 20 credits for the maximum saving per flight. While I was able to use the pass (with one credit left), this will be hard to replicate for anybody with less flexibility on dates and destinations. I’d recommend to buy the smaller pass with 10 credits instead, so you don’t get stuck with unused credits. If you need more flights, you can just buy a second pass and keep flying!
4. Pay in Malaysian Ringgit (MYR)
The price in MYR is much better than in USD or other currencies – the Air Asia ASEAN Pass 2017 is $120/$215 in MYR vs $160/$290 in USD. Select MYR and use a credit card without foreign exchange fee to pay for it. Just google the exchange rate to make sure you are getting a better deal!
5. Wait to activate the pass!
Once you have purchased the pass, you can assign it to somebody. I’d wait with that until you are ready to book your flights. If something comes up and you can’t go, you can assign the pass to somebody else!
6. Mix & match ASEAN pass tickets and cash tickets!
I was determined to make this pass work for me and use it exclusively for this tour – which gave me quite a headache. You can make your life a lot easier by using the pass where seats are readily available and purchase regular seats where they are not! Even if they are not available, the seats are usually very cheap with AirAsia, so you still get a pretty good deal!
7. Minimize international border crossings!
With the actual base fare only $12 per credit, the various terminal fees, departure fees and Visa fees can increase the cost of your trip significantly. Of the ASEAN countries, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Brunei, Vietnam and the Philippines are visa free for many countries. Laos, Cambodia and Myanmar have fees for non-ASEAN visitors. In many places, the international departure fees are much higher than domestic ones (ie Thailand, Philippines). Try to avoid going in and out of countries to minimize your cost!
You can see what fees & taxes I paid on my routes in the post ASEAN Explorer by the Numbers! If you want to get an idea of the total hotel cost, check out my post on ASEAN Explorer – Hotel Cost!
8. Travel light!
AirAsia makes a lot of their money from add-ons – checked baggage, meals, insurance and seat selection. With checked luggage fees from $15 (20kg) to $52 (40kg), you might pay more for your luggage than yourself! AirAsia allows one carry-on and a personal item (purse, laptop), together weighing no more than 7kg. I traveled with hand-carry only and didn’t have any issues. I check in online and my back pack has never been weighed! But don’t try to sneak on a wheeled carry-on – chances are it will be weighed and you end up paying even higher fees!
Read my 10 Tips to Pack Light to save on luggage fees!
9. Plan your full trip before booking the first segment!
Because of the availability issues, I’d recommend to try all segments of your planned trip first, before booking the first flight! Otherwise, you might end up in one location that you can’t get a pass flight or reasonably priced cash flight out of!
10. Prepare your credit card and be patient!
I ended up booking 11 AirAsia online purchases in two days. I used my Citibank Prestige card, which has never made any issues when using it abroad, one of the reasons I love that credit card! I had many transactions blocked, including booking AirAsia (cough… Chase Sapphire Preferred…cough), so you might want to give your credit card company a heads-up before starting on your purchasing spree. Also expect to have card verification kick-in and be patient – the AirAsia site occasionally has payment processing issues, with transactions failing for no apparent reason. Just start over and it will probably work out.
South East Asia is a wonderful part of the world with many beautiful destinations and I hope these tips help you to see much of it at a small price! Good luck, make the most out of your ASEAN pass and travel safely!