Sometimes I’ve been guilty of falling in love with a product and/or service to the point where it blinds me from trying something else. When it comes to flying around select destinations in Asia, I’ve been a huge fan of Air Asia for years. Almost exclusively I’ve flown with Air Asia – on both long and short haul flights – whenever I haven’t taken more local forms of transportation such as trains or buses. As a traveller that seeks value over comfort, I’ve come to appreciate being able to take flights (when booked well in advance) that costs a mere fraction compared with major airlines. In certain cases, I’ve found flights with Air Asia that were far cheaper than taking either the bus or train!
Recently, I was forced to look at flights with another carrier when the route I was looking for, a flight from Chiang Mai, Thailand to Penang, Malaysia, was fully booked. With an impending Visa run just mere days away, I had yet to book a flight out of Thailand. I had heard about Nok Air, from several friends who had flown with them before; although, they had mentioned positive things about their experiences flying with Nok Air, I had yet to really consider them for my own personal connections.
Scrambling last minute, I was initially disappointed when I noticed they also didn’t have any available flights from Chiang Mai to Penang. Randomly, I started thinking of destinations in the southern part of Thailand that were close to the Malaysian border; Hat Yai and Krabi immediately came to mind. When I discovered that a flight from Chiang Mai to Hat Yai, on a promo fare, would cost less than half of the price of a train ticket I immediately pounced. Not knowing what to expect, concerns about safety, service and reliability from this ‘new’ airline crept into my mind as time grew closer to my departure.
Now that I’m writing this post from Phuket, Thailand, having just completed my Visa run to Penang, Malaysia, I’ve only got overwhelming positive things to say about Nok Air. When compared to flights I’ve taken in the past with Air Asia, three things really stand out:
FREE WIFI IN THE AIRPORT
Free wifi in the airport? For those accustomed to flying out of the highest rated airports in the world, such as Changi International Airport in Sinagore or Incheon International Aiport in Korea, free wifi has been in play for years; however, for those in North America – or flying with budget airlines – waiting for delayed flights can be excruciatingly painful without a wifi connection. What I loved about Nok Air, is that they had free wifi for customers waiting to board their flights. To connect, it didn’t require any fancy password or login id; I just simply had to enter my boarding number and within seconds I was surfing online.
Another huge bonus was that I didn’t have to pay extra online (or at the check in counter) for luggage. Because our bag was under 15 kg it was free to have it checked. When booking flights with Air Asia, I always find it a bit misleading when I have the fare etched out in my mind and then suddenly the extras (such as luggage) tack on a significant amount more.
SNACKS ON BOARD THE PLANE
Now the real kicker was having a surprise snack and beverage on board Nok Air! I’m used to having to purchase overpriced tiny portion meals from Air Asia; and in the rare case that I actually do decide I’m hungry enough to fork over money for something to eat, I end up paying more money out of pocket. Although the snack on Nok Air was merely nothing more than a couple of coconut pastries filled with raisins along with a water, I felt as though I was a valued customer.
Overall, I was so thoroughly impressed with the service of Nok Air, not to mention the silky smooth flights, that I’m going to consider them AHEAD of Air Asia on routes in and around Thailand and nearby borders. Although, I’ll likely price compare with Air Asia, and ultimately select the best value flight, if it is anywhere close to a tie I’m going with Nok Air hands down. I’ve found that it’s the little things, such as free wifi and a small snack, that can make the world of a difference when flying from point A to B. Moreover, I realize budget airlines often come with reduced service, or as they say in the industry ‘with no frills'; however, I think that there is a difference between being frugal (or value conscious) with your service versus being flat out stingy. I feel that Nok Air scores much higher in this area than Air Asia and it has consequently won me over as a customer.
Have you ever flown with Nok Air or Air Asia? What was your experience like?
How about your experiences flying with different airlines? Have you been as ridiculously stubborn and loyal as I’ve been in the past? What sort of things do you value when flying?
Let me know in the comments!