Travel therapist: The best budget airlines in Asia

Help! I want to organize some air travel within Asia to save time traveling overland but there are so many budget airlines out there and I’m not sure exactly how to book. Is it safe to travel with these carriers and to make a booking online?

You’ve come to the right place. I’ve taken a lot of flights both around the region and internally and I can give you some guidelines based on my own experience!

Finding an airline

The first step is finding the airline you need. As you are no doubt aware, there are a plethora of budget airlines on offer – Adam Air and Lion Air in Indonesia, India has JetAirways and Kingfisher and the list goes on. And of course there are those that fly across the region like Tiger Airways or Air Asia.

For a good listing of Asian airlines there are a number of websites you could consult. Here are some choices:
Budget airlines listed by country
Discount airlines in Asia
Comparison website for budget airlines in Asia
Most popular budget airlines in Asia


Air Deccan. Pic: AP

Airline safety

As for safety, well flying is never without its risks. The safety record of a lot of Asian airlines is very good – particularly those that fly into countries with stringent controls such as Singapore, Australia and New Zealand. But there are those that are a little less scrupulous. If you want to get more information regarding this, visit this website.


So next comes the booking process! As to booking online, well always make sure you have a secure server anywhere you are entering your credit card details. That might be hard when all you have are Internet cafes around. If you absolutely have to make a booking at a cafe, then make sure no one is hovering around watching you enter your credit card details and clear the computer cache of cookies, history and sites visited when you finish up.

To actually make the booking, you simply log on to the airline’s website, enter a request by date and follow the prompts.

China Airlines, Taiwan

China Airlines. Pic: AP.

Many of these airlines are budget so you won’t get meals and other frills unless you pay for them at the time of booking or onboard. They are also point to point which means that they may not check your luggage through even if you have an ongoing flight with them or another airline – that can mean clearing customs, collecting your bag and checking it in again and it is usually advised you leave three hours between international flights, less time for domestic ones. It may also mean you need a visa for the country you are transiting in as you are officially entering the country – so check the details!

As budget airlines do fast turn arounds in their schedule and the same flight returns to its origin almost immediately, any delay in cleaning or otherwise, holds up the entire schedule. In a perfect world, booking earlier in the day usually means less delays in general but do remember this is Asia! The last flight of the day can sometimes be delayed or even cancelled on some airlines due a lack of bookings.

In India, this is certainly not unheard of. If you have entered a mobile number with your booking they may well text you about the delay (got one once!) otherwise you might have to find out for yourself at the airport without an outgoing flight. It can really be up to you to keep yourself informed. However, flights that are cancelled are either reimbursed or you can fly the following day.

Hong Kong Air China Cathay Pacific. Pic: AP

If you do experience a delay, inform ground staff immediately of any further travel plans that are dependent on it. Make sure they make any phone calls to request assistance for you in front of you so you scan ee they actually do it and get a letter from them explaining the delay for any insurance claims you may need to make. Believe me, in my experience, both are mandatory!

After that sit back, relax and enjoy the flight.