This will be a quick post, but I thought I’d throw it in. We left Chiang Mai via an AirAsia flight to Krabi, on the southwest coast of Thailand. This was our 3rd AirAsia flight and we felt pretty complacent since the previous two experiences were great.
AirAsia is a budget airline serving much of southeast Asia and has some strict money saving guidelines/rules about pre-printing boarding passes and luggage tags, luggage weight, etc. Since my suitcase was on the edge of the 20 kg checked bag weight limit, I’d taken to buying an extra 5 kg, which really is a lot of extra weight and, happily, can be pooled with tickets on the same booking, i.e., David and I had 45 kg between the two of us. We never came close to going over this, but for an online charge of about $4, it was well worth it not to worry about weight. Also, carry-on is ostensibly limited to 7 kg/bag–not much, but we’ve found they never weigh carry-on luggage, so it’s really a non-issue. The flights are cramped for leg-room, but on our longer (2 hour) flight to Krabi, I “splurged” for exit row and we had plenty of space. Even the pre-booked seats I got for our 2 previous flights (Singapore to Kuala Lumpur, and Siem Reap, Cambodia, to Luang Prabang, Laos) counted as upgraded seats and got us a “meal” (a “hot pocket” on the shorter flights and “assorted sandwiches” on the Krabi flight) and early boarding. Anyway, the airline had been cheap, clean, efficient and punctual.
We knew right away that something was different when we arrived at the Chiang Mai airport. At first, we thought the problem was the security scan of luggage and people at the entry doors, but once inside it was obvious something else was up. A huge crowd of people milled in a poorly formed “line” that seemed to circle around a central escalator. Unfortunately, all this seemed related to AirAsia as other airlines’ check-in counters were virtually empty.
Thankfully, we’d printed our boarding passes at our hotel in Chiang Rai and carried them all this way. (AirAsia opens online check-in 14 days prior to the flight.) So, when I spotted a short “baggage drop-off” line, we fought our way through the crowd and got in that line.
It turned out that AirAsia was experiencing what seemed to be rolling computer failures, but they were able to check in some people some of the time via scanner and some by hand. I was worried we might be turned back because we didn’t have pre-printed baggage tags this time; they simply hadn’t been offered when we checked in online. We got through the baggage drop-off line relatively quickly (despite multiple failures on the part of people ahead of us, particularly a pair of Chinese tourists who hadn’t printed out their boarding passes like we had). Thankfully, our boarding passes were enough, they were able to print out our luggage tags, and we moved on. Our flight was delayed nearly 30 minutes and we waited on the plane while they boarded the last of the people stuck in the check-in fiasco. The flight to Phuket seemed even more full than ours, though, so those people may have waited longer.
Anyway, just a heads-up that arriving early is never a bad idea…and print and bring those AirAsia boarding passes!