Air travel in Asia
used to be the business of just a few big international carriers. Now it's open skies from Hong Kong to Mumbai, India, thanks to the advent of regional carriers just like those that have made flying cheaper — if not easier — in Europe and the U.S.
To get to Tioman Island, I flew diminutive Berjaya Air, which also connects the beach resorts of Koh Samui in Thailand and Redang Island in Malaysia
to Kuala Lumpur
. For other Southeast Asian destinations, there are baby budgets including Jetstar, part of Qantas; Tiger Airways and Nok Air, chiefly owned by Singapore Airlines
and Thai Airways, respectively; and Firefly, a subsidiary of Malaysia Airlines.
But the most successful of all is Air Asia. A failing company when it was bought 10 years ago from the Malaysian government for 25 cents by former music industry executive Tony Fernandes, it was named the World's Best Low Cost Airline in 2009 and 2010 by the aviation consortium Skytrax. Fernandes started it with just two planes and one destination; now the Kuala Lumpur-based carrier has 92 aircraft and 70 airports, including London, New Delhi, Melbourne, Australia, and Beijing.
Like Southwest and JetBlue
, Air Asia trims tickets prices by booking chiefly on the Internet and charging for baggage, large seats and in-flight meals. Fares are always low — think $35 from Kuala Lumpur to Singapore
— and periodic sales can make it cheaper to fly Air Asia than to take a bus. The Southeast Asian airline's slogan is: Now everyone can fly.
And they do.
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