As aviation continues to grow in Asia, so does the list of low-cost carriers. According to Boeing’s Current Market Outlook 2016-2035, the Asia region continues to see rising economic growth. As a result, airlines, airport capacity, and passenger traffic are also expected to experience a robust growth rate in the next 20 years, fueled by demand from the continued expansion of the middle class who can afford air travel. Once you've arrived in the region, you may want to consider flying these 10 low-cost carriers.
This Malaysia-based low-cost carrier group serves more than 165 destinations in 25 countries. The company was founded by Tony Fernandes in 2001 as Tune Air Sdn Bhd to offer low fares in his country. He and his team bought the financially troubled AirAsia in 2001 and took on that name. Since then, the carrier operates low-cost subsidiaries Air Asia X (which has been approved to fly to the United States), AirAsia Berhad, AirAsia Indonesia, Thai AirAsia, Philippines AirAsia, AirAsia India, AirAsia X Berhad (Malaysia), Thai AirAsia X and Indonesia AirAsia X. It is known for its strict policy of not refunding tickets, along with restrictions on carry-on bags and the sale of buy-onboard food and snacks.
This Kochi, India-based low-cost operator is a subsidiary of flag carrier Air India that was formed in April 2005 to compete with a crop of other LCCs that have grown rapidly in the country. It handles 596 flights a week. It operates a fleet of 23 Boeing 737-800s in one class seating around 180 passengers. It served 13 international and four domestic destinations. Unlike other LCCs, Air India Express does serve free meals onboard its flights and allows for some free checked baggage.
This Philippines-based LCC began flying in March 1996 to compete with flag carrier Philippine Airlines. It operates a fleet of 47 Airbus jets and 11 ATR turboprop aircraft. It flies to 29 international and 37 domestic destinations out of six airport hubs. It flew 19.1 million passengers in 2016, up 4 percent from 2015, driven by a boost in flight frequencies in key domestic markets.
Based at Indira Gandhi International Airport in Delhi, this carrier bills itself as India’s largest passenger airline. Formed in August 2006, it operates a fleet of 126 Airbus jets to 37 domestic and six international destinations and 818 daily flights. It promises travelers low fares, an on-time flight and a courteous and hassle-free experience. In August 2015, the airline ordered 250 Airbus A320neo narrowbody jets in a deal valued at $27 billion, making it the largest single order ever in the French manufacturer’s history. It operates in an all-economy configuration with 180 seats on its jets. It does not offer free meals but allows travelers to buy food and snacks onboard all flights. For an extra fee, passengers can get services including pre-assigned seats, refundable fares and priority check-in.
This Jeju City, South Korea-based LCC calls itself the fastest growing airline in the country. Created in January 2005, it flies to 20 domestic and international routes in Asia to Japan, China, Taiwan, Philippines, Vietnam, Thailand and Guam using 26 Boeing 737-800s seating 186 passengers. Travelers get a discount by paying for checked bags in advance. You can also choose your seat, pay for and order food before boarding and use a free lounge. Onboard, the airline’s crew members will entertain passengers by playing games, performing magic tricks, offering face painting and caricatures, making balloon sculptures and playing live music.
This Melbourne, Australia-based LCC was formed by flag carrier Qantas in 2003 to serve as a low-fare operation. Subsidiaries include Jetstar Airways in Australia and New Zealand, Jetstar Asia Airways based in Singapore, Jetstar Pacific Airlines, based in Vietnam and Jetstar Japan, a partnership between the Qantas Group, Japan Airlines, Mitsubishi Corporation and Tokyo Century Corporation. The carriers operate more than 4,000 flights a week to more than 75 destinations. It operates 74 aircraft, including Boeing 787-8s, Airbus A320s and A321s and Bombardier Q300 turboprops. It offers a single class of service on domestic flights and business/economy on the 787 fleet. Travelers pay for baggage and onboard food and beverages.
This Jakarta, Indonesia-based LCC began flying in June 2000 to cater to residents who couldn’t afford to fly flag carrier Garuda Indonesia. It currently flies 183 domestic and international routes with a fleet of 112 jets, including the Boeing 747-400, 737-800, 737-900 ER, and Airbus A330-300. The carrier allows passengers to check one bag for free and allows for one personal item and one small bag as a carry on. Food and beverages are available for sale.
The Singapore-based carrier is a subsidiary of the country’s flag carrier, Singapore Airlinesand focuses on long-haul flights to destinations in Australia and China. It started flying in November 2011, operating a fleet of 12 Boeing 787s that include on-board wi-fi, in-seat power and what it calls comfortable seats. It offers economy and business class, which includes in-seat power, free meals and up to 66 pounds of checked luggage. The airline offers four fare classes that offer different levels of amenities.
This Gurgaon, India-based LCC claims to be the fourth-largest airline in the country. It operates 306 daily flights to 45 domestic and international destinations from hubs in Delhi, Kolkata and Hyderabad. It first flew in May 2005 and operates a fleet of 32 Boeing 737s and 17 Bombardier Q400 turboprops. It offers economy fares and premium SpiceMax fares that offer pre-assigned seats with more legroom, free meals, priority check-in, boarding and baggage handling.
This Singapore-based LCC is another subsidiary of Singapore Airlines that was created in 2004. It uses a fleet of Airbus A320 jets to offer no-frills flights to 40 destinations across Asia including Bangladesh, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Macau, Malaysia, Maldives, Myanmar, Philippines, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam. It offers all-coach seating on its jets and passengers pay for baggage, food and beverages.