Firstly, let me premise that I'm not convinced Air Asia is profitable.
Any reported "profits" could simply be accounting manipulations based
on unrealistic depreciation values assigned to new airplanes or very
temporary competitive advantages based on hedged fuel and low wages.
But from a brand perspective, here is what the company does different
(Air Asia is an umbrella group of independent national airlines).
-Western Rock music during boarding and unloading.
-Charges for water
-Flies small people (compared to North America and Europe)
-Is genuinely comfortable. Having suffered through two 7 hour ANA
Dreamliner flights, I can confirm that Air Asia's A320 seats are far
more comfortable. They are in leather à la Westjet (so easy to clean)
and have foam in them.
-Takeoff like rockets. They shoot for the moon when they go up and
travel at very high altitude.
-Leave early. I always wondered how airlines enforced their 20 minute
rules at the gate. Well Air Asia does it more often than not by simply
leaving the gate!
-Flight attendants are gorgeous and kept humble by having them clean
the plane. And they start cleaning the front before all the passengers
How pretty? People were taking pictures and videos of them.
-Ban outside food. As a North American I find this one hard to digest,
but South Asia food does tend to smell, spill and stain. So that
cucumber sandwich will have to wait.
-No alcohol. This is probably because of Malaysian and Indonesians
imposing their stupid religious customs on others, but no booze for
-They sell advertising space. You know that ad space inside city
busses, Air Asia does that to. Possibly for accounting and tax
reasons, however, it appears to be in-kind advertising. So companies
that advertise Air Asia get ad space on the luggage compartments of
the inside of the plane
-The face of the owner is on the side of the plane. I'm tempted to
call this an ego trip, but who knows? It is different, that's for
-10 minute sales pitches during flights. A flight attendant apologised
to me because he was going make a 10 minute sales pitch "in the local
language". 10 minute talks on cell phone plans are bearable when you
don't speak Malay. If you do, then you should be using your phone to
listen to music anyway (in Airplane mode, of course).
-You can buy tickets without a credit card. If you do use credit, it
will cost you $9. Your boarding pass can be printed at home or using
the bar code sent to you via MMS with the airport self serve kiosks.
Human check-in on international flights remain free and quite popular.
But travellers opt for human check-in are greeted by long lines. The
adjacent document check lines were at most 3 people long.
7 kilo hand luggage limit (10kilo with Tiger). That ain't much, but it
is doable. My weeklong travel bag containing a pair of jeans, charging
cables and plenty of underwear topped out at 6.7 kilos when my bathing
suit was wet from a swim at Singapore's Changi airport. But normally
it was well under. Locals don't seem to have mastered travelling light
and are paying luggage surcharges.
These observations are mostly based on my experiences flying in an out
of KLI2 in January 2015 operated by the Malaysian branch (The umbrella
group is based in nearby Sepang).