Sunday, 22 May 2011

Air Asia – Internal Flights (Penang to KL)

When I travelled from KL to Penang readers will know I took a coach (Nice Plus) and a very pleasurable experience it was too. When I returned to KL I decided to take a flight as the flight times coincided more with the time I wanted to get up after what was a late night for my last night in Penang. I have often seen comment made that a flight is better as it’s “only an hour”. More on that later!!!!
I booked with Air Asia and if you book online you can get some significant savings if you book a few days in advance. At the time of booking I chose to upgrade my baggage allowance to 25K for about RM 30 just in case I had crept over the allowed 20 kg. You also get the option to book a ticket at half price (RM 4.50) for the Sky Bus that will take you on the 1 hour journey from the KL Low Cost Carrier Terminal (KL LCCT) at which these budget flights all arrive. If you don’t book this it’s no problem as you can buy a Sky Bus ticket on board the Air Asia flight or as you get on the bus outside the terminal. One thing to watch when you book is that the screen will default to a premier seat option with an RM 30 booking fee. These are just seats with more leg room and for a 1 hour flight (it’s actually about 40 minutes in the air) isn’t worth it IMO. You can select the standard seats at an RM 5 booking charge when you get to the “Select Your Seat’ stage of the booking. For those with printer access you can also check in online and get your boarding pass before getting to the airport, cutting out this stage if the queues are long.
Penang airport is in a bit of a state at the moment with much renovation work going on so it can be a bit tricky to find your way around. Suffice it to say that once you are in the terminal, departures is up a level on the first floor. Fortunately it is not a massive airport so there is less room for error.
If you book online you will get a booking reference which you will need at the airport. To the right of the Air Asia check-in desks there are a few ATM style machines that you use to book in. You enter the details the machine asks for and a boarding pass gets printed. You then take this with your luggage to check-in. Either their scales were out a little or my suitcase had indeed crept over the 20 Kg so I was glad I’d ‘Supersized’ my luggage as they call it online. Budget airline excess charges can be punitive. After check-in I went to departures to await the flight which departed on time and had a very pleasant and attentive crew on board. The aircraft was clean and tidy to with leather seats which are quite resilient to the heavy use.
So what of this “It’s only an hour”? Well, all in all, it’s not only an hour, not by a long way. Penang Airport is between 30-60 minutes away from Gurney etc, longer if the traffic is bad. You need to check in2 hours before the flight so that’s already 3 hours. Add to this the 1 hour flight, 30 minutes for bags to come off, 1 hour on a coach from KL LCCT to KLSS and there you go. Five and a half hours, and that is if you are confident traffic in Penang will not delay you, otherwise you may need to add a further 30 mins plus. Add onto that a traffic jam in KL (which we had due to a road closure) and the journey took 7 hours.
For me, to be honest, unless it was out of necessity I would not do it again. The coach was far more enjoyable, less changes of transport, half the price AND drops you in KL (either at the Old Railway Station or at the Corus Hotel dependant on operator). If coach times are not convenient for you then the flight is another option. Just don’t expect it to “only take and hour”, far from it. I understand the non-budget operators fly into KLIA which will reduce the hassle somewhat but I suspect the prices for these would be anything but budget. With luggage upgrade and taxes the flight came to around RM 130. It would be more if bought on the day at the airport, easily twice as much.

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