Part 1: About the pass
(skip to Part 2 part if you have the pass and are having problems)
For our upcoming trip to SE Asia in May, Rose and I decided to go for AirAsia’s new ASEAN pass. This pass allows travel between all the ASEAN member nations (Malaysia, Brunei, Singapore, Indonesia, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, Laos, Cambodia, and Philippines). There are two types of passes. The first costs US$160 for 10 credits redeemable in a 30 day window. The second, costing US$290 allows for 20 credits used over a 60 day period. Flights cost either 1 or 3 credits. Generally, flights of 2 hours or less are 1 credit each way. Other flights that are longer distances cost 3 credits (e.g. Kuala Lumpur to Yangon). Here is a link to a chart with cost in credits for all available flights with the ASEAN pass. NOTE: As of this post not all flights are available with the ASEAN pass! I will discuss this in detail in Part 2.
The passes only cover the cost of the base fare and do not cover airport fees and taxes, so it took a bit of calculation to figure out if the ASEAN pass was right for us. In order to determine if it was a good deal, I added up the total costs of the flights I would need to take WITHOUT the ASEAN pass. I recorded the total costs as well as the taxes and fees for each flight. (see screenshot below)
Because the cost of the ASEAN pass ($160) plus the taxes and fees total ($70.94) was less than the cost of all flights without the pass ($230.94 vs $304.61), we decided to go with the pass. Another thing to consider is that the cost of the flights tend to increase as the time of the flight draws nearer. The ASEAN pass is not affected by these fluctuations in price because you simply use the credit system.
A few other things to keep in mind before you make the plunge and buy these passes
- NOT ALL FLIGHTS WILL BE AVAILABLE (AS OF THE TIME OF THIS WRITING) – Rose and I are basically having to replan our trip to SE Asia because of the availability of the routes on this pass
- Credits can only be used in a 30/60 day window that begins after the departure of your first flight booked with the pass
- Credits can only be redeemed 14 days or more before the departure date of the flight (i.e. no last-minute flights with the ASEAN pass)
- Does not include baggage charges (AirAsia charges for all checked luggage – I’d recommend packing light and not checking any luggage)
- Each route can only be redeemed ONCE (i.e you can’t fly KUL to SGN, SGN to KUL, and then KUL to SGN again – no repeat routes with this pass)
- Must be 12 years or older to use the ASEAN pass
So the AirAsia ASEAN pass can save you some money if you are flying around a lot in this region. But is it worth the trouble?Next, I’ll cover some of the trouble we’ve had so far with these passes, and how to resolve some of them.
Part 2: Problems with the AirAsia ASEAN pass
(Note: We understand this is a difficult time and we send our condolences to the families of the victims of the recent crash. We do not feel this precludes AirAsia from criticism of what we believe to be a seemingly rushed, sub-standard product. We have flown AirAsia many times before and consider ourselves loyal customers. This is why we feel upset with the quality of the ASEAN pass program)
1) Payment Problems
Once we had gotten our ASEAN passes, we were really excited to start redeeming our credits. We were able to purchase the ASEAN passes just fine using a Visa card from here in the United States. However, when the time came to pay for the taxes and fees associated with each ticket, our payments were repeatedly unsuccessful.
We tried multiple credit cards to attempt the purchase, including the card which we used to purchase the ASEAN passes in the first place. We contacted our banks to ensure that they were not cancelling the transaction, but the banks assured us that no transaction was coming through.
We contacted customer service (more on that below) and they were no help at all.
Here’s how Rose finally fixed the problem:
I had entered my Bigshot ID number into both her pass and mine when I signed up for them. This allowed only my pass to work when attempting to redeem credits. Once Rose deleted the Bigshot ID number out of her pass, she was able to redeem her credits as well.
2) Limited Routes and flight times
AirAsia does not allow you to check which flights are available with the pass until after you purchase it. I didn’t think much about this, I naively figured that all the flights I could search for on the main AirAsia page would be up for grabs. Not so.
We had planned a nice trip to Palawan in the Philippines, but there were no flights from Kuala Lumpur to Manila in all of April and May! This seemed really ridiculous as KL is AirAsia’s hub and Manila is a pretty major city. Needless to say, there were no flights from Manila to Palawan either. I felt scammed.
I tweeted @AskAirAsia and asked why there were no flight from KL to Manila. Somewhat miraculously, the next day that route had been added. However, there was only one flight time, which was at 7:30 AM. This time is less than ideal for our itinerary (and our sleep). What’s really frustrating is that on AirAsia’s main site there are five different flights on that day at various times of the day.
They made me feel second-class as an ASEAN pass holder because I couldn’t access those flights.
If your route is unavailable, try tweeting @AskAirAsia.
3) Customer Service
So it was time to contact AirAsia’s customer support. We first tried the live chat option. The first try we waited and waited and then gave up because it was taking too long. We tried later and were more patient, watching our number in the queue slowly come up. Finally we spoke with a representative. We explained the problem and were told that we needed to submit an e-form with a screenshot of the page where it says the payment is unsuccessful. We submitted an e-form explaining the issue and received an automated email message stating that:
“Our Customer Care team is now looking into the issue. We will provide a more substantive response to your problem and an appropriate resolution within 14 days. Thank you for taking the time to share your experience with us”
14 days?! Holy crap, we wanted to be done booking our hotels by that time! We received another email message two days later:
“Thank you for writing to AirAsia. In response to your email, kindly retry to perform another booking for Asean pass. If you still facing the same issue kindly furnish us with screenshot for further investigation.”
Wow. I hadn’t thought to just retry. So I retried and whattyaknow.. still didn’t work. SO I sent another screenshot of the error screen.
A day or two later (while waiting for a response from the other e-form) Rose randomly tried to buy a ticket from her work computer. And it worked (this is because she bought the ticket on my pass). So now I had a ticket from Saigon to Kuala Lumpur but Rose couldn’t get hers. We had redeemed 1 of our credits and needed to redeem 19 more total. This was going to be a nightmare!
The night after we were able to redeem our 1 flight, I received another email message regarding my e-form:
“In regard to your email, please kindly be informed that you proceed to https://aseanpass.airasia.com/ to check on the status of your AirAsia Asean Pass. However, you must log in to your member account before proceeding with the website. Should you need any further assistance, please submit online form (http://www.airasia.com/my/en/e-form.page). For simple inquiry, please feel free to check our AskAirAsia portal at (http://www.airasia.com/ask/) or follow us at our Twitter account, or approach our Live Chat service available from 0800 to 2000hours (GMT+8). Thank you for choosing AirAsia. Have a nice day!”
So basically, they sent me a link to the login page and reminded me I needed to log in before attempting to redeem my credits. I was pissed. Eventually, Rose figured the problem out, not these guys.
Stay tuned… updates to come!
We will be updating this blog post based on the resolution to these issues. We are keeping our fingers crossed for flights to Palawan from Manila with the ASEAN pass. Good luck on your travels!