Budget airlines have been flying around Europe for years and years but the market is still rather new in Asia. That being said, no other region of the world has so quickly or strongly embraced the budget airline industry. There were well over 40 budget airlines in the region at last count and every year we see more and more companies popping up. The budget airline growth has been contributed to a combination of a growing middle class and the geography of the region, dominated in the South by island nations where air travel is the most convenient option.
For travelers, the budget airline boom in Asia means that while your long-haul flight to Asia might cost a pretty penny, once you are here you can get around for next to nothing. Check out some of the recommended budget airlines below to see what deals you can score.
With their main base in Kuala Lumpur, this Malaysia airline has grown to be the largest and most profitable budget airline in the region. They have a very large network, flying the region’s most popular routes as well as many secondary routes. Using the airline you can reach nearly all the major cities of Malaysia, Thailand, and Indonesia. Beyond that they fly as far as India to the west, Japan to the north, and the Australia to the south.
While most budget airlines are independent companies, JetStar is actually the budget branch of the Australian Qantas Airlines. Being backed by this larger, most standard airline, makes the budget airline strong and the service more standard as well. The main hub of the airline is in Singapore but if you include the addition subsidiaries of JetStar – JetStar Pacific and Valuair – you’ll find that they cover a large section of Asia, especially Southeast Asia
Another popular budget airline, though with a slightly less favorable reputation, is the Singapore based Tiger Airways. Created by a partnership between Singapore Airlines and the founders of Europe’s Ryanair budget airline, Tiger Airways remains competitive by offering some of the lowest ticket prices across the board. The majority of their flights are in Southeast Asia though they do fly as far as China, India, and Australia.
If you will be traveling in Indonesia, island hopping has become much more convenient and affordable thanks to the budget airline Lion Air. Based in Indonesia and mainly operating as an island-hopping flight service, Lion Air is often the most affordable option for flights to or between the islands of Indonesia. Besides their many domestic flights, they also have international routes between Jakarta and Singapore or Kuala Lumpur.
Like budget airlines around the world, all of the above companies make their profits by cutting out certain amenities. You can expect crowded planes, no beverage service, and most tickets need to be bought online to score the best prices. While the service isn’t anything to write home about, the budget airlines of Asia are not any worse than the rest of the world’s budget airlines and most flights are short-haul flights of no more than an hour or two anyway.