Between them, AirAsia X, Scoot, and Jetstar have low-cost, medium-haul flying around South East Asia and Oceania covered. They offer a great alternative to legacy carriers when you’re looking to cover a lot of miles without spending a fortune. But spending six or seven hours on a low-cost carrier isn’t everybody’s idea of fun. However, forewarned with some prior knowledge, a flight on any of these three airlines can turn into a positive experience.
South East Asia is a hotbed of low-cost carriers. Most focus on short-haul or regional flying. This article is going to focus on the low-cost carriers that do a fair amount of medium-haul (and even long-haul) flying in the region: AirAsia X, Scoot, and Jetstar.
AirAsia X is the medium and long-haul operation of the brand AirAsia. Before the pandemic, AirAsia X was the largest of the three but has since been undergoing a restructuring. Technically, there are two versions of AirAsia X. The primary version operates out of Malaysia. Smaller sibling Thai AirAsia X is based in Bangkok.
Scoot is owned by Singapore Airlines and flies out of Singapore’s Changi Airport. Of the three airlines we are looking at, Scoot has the lowest profile outside its home base. On its medium- and long-haul flights, it rolls out modern Boeing 787-8 and 787-9 Dreamliners.
Scoot allows you to use some Singapore Airlines perks as well (including earning miles). Photo: Getty Images
Jetstar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qantas. There’s a Singapore-based Jetstar Asia that primarily focuses on short-haul and regional flying. In this article, we’ll concentrate on Jetstar’s medium-haul flights into Asia to and from Australia.
Where does each airline fly?
While COVID saw much of Asia and Oceania close off its borders, all three airlines have been steadily building back their operations in the last few months. Here’s a look into their pre-pandemic, and hopefully, upcoming network.
In addition to flying around its immediate neighborhood, Scoot ventures into India, China, Japan, Taiwan, Saudi Arabia, and Australia. Scoot is particularly strong with China and India, flying to over 20 Chinese cities and about 10 Indian cities. More recently, the airline also resumed its fifth-freedom flight to London.
AirAsia X has cut its future A330 orders. Photo: Airbus
AirAsia X has a similar medium-haul destinations board. AirAsia X normally flies to Abu Dhabi rather than Scoot’s option of Saudi Arabia. In addition, AirAsia X heads down to New Zealand. Primarily flying in out of Kuala Lumpur, AirAsia X shines if you are based there or prefer Kuala Lumpur’s Airport to Singapore’s Changi.
Jetstar’s medium-range international flying connects Australia to various Asian airports, from Japan in the north to Bali in the south. Indeed, some of Jetstar’s most popular flights are those between Australia and Bali, a kind of southern hemisphere version of the Costa del Sol flights. Jetstar also offers some handy direct international flights to the Australian holiday hotspots of Cairns and the Gold Coast.
What type of plane will I end up on?
AirAsia X exclusively operates Airbus A330-300 aircraft. It seats 377 passengers in two classes. There are 12 angle-flat seats in business class in a 2-2-2 configuration. There are 365 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration in economy class, split across three distinct cabin spaces. While some A330neos are due, this order has been slashed during the pandemic.
While some Jetstar flights between Australia and Bali are operated using small single-aisle Airbus aircraft, including the A321neo family, the remainder of Jetstar’s medium-haul flights to and from Asia use Boeing 787-8 aircraft. These seat 335 passengers in two classes.
In the 21 seat business class cabin, the recliner seats are laid out in a 2-3-2 configuration. There are 314 seats in a 3-3-3 configuration in the economy class cabin, also split across distinct zones separated by bulkheads.
Jetstar’s Boeing 787-8 Dreamliner. Photo: Jetstar
Scoot used to fly some Boeing 777s but now sticks to Dreamliners for its longer flights, operating both the 787-8 and 787-9 types. Scoot has two possible configurations across its 787-8s. You might get a 335-passenger plane offering three cabin types, or a 329-passenger plane, also offering three cabin types. The bigger 787-9s seat 375 passengers in three cabin types.
Across all three Scoot configurations, the business class cabin has its seats in a 2-3-2 layout, and the economy class sticks to the Dreamliner standard of 3-3-3.
Getting the skinny on the seats
On the AirAsia X A330s, seat pitch is 60″ in business class, and the seat width is 20″. In the main economy class cabin, seat pitch is 32″, and seat width is a tight 16.5″.
On Jetstar’s 787-8s, seat pitch is 30″ in economy class, and seat width is 17″. In the business class cabin, the seat pitch is 38″, and the seat width is 19″.
Across all three possible Scoot plane types, the seat pitch in economy class is 31″. Seat width on the 787-9 is 18″. On both 787-8 types, seat width varies between 18.9″ and 19.7″. In Scoot’s version of premium economy, called Scoot Silence, seat pitch varies between 34″ and 36″. Seat width is the same as in economy class for the aircraft type. Up the front, in Scoot Plus, seat pitch is 38″. On the 787-8s, seat width is 22″ but only 18.5″ to 19.5″ on the bigger 787-9s.
AirAsia X is the only one to provide a flatbed for long-haul flights. Photo: AirAsia
With a flatbed, AirAsia X’s business class is the standout best product here if the price is right.
The in-flight experience
Up the front, you’re going to get a product akin to premium economy on a fairly average legacy carrier. A meal, some drinks, a blanket and pillow, and average headphones. It’s not a bad option for a day flight.
But most folks are on low-cost carriers to save money, so travel in the main cabin. Unless you buy bundles (which will jack up the base fare considerably), you’ll be flat out getting a complimentary cup of water. Everything will cost you.
That said, the food on these airlines isn’t terrible. AirAsiaX almost has a decent reputation for their food, including a pretty good Bukhara Chicken Biryani. Jetstar’s chicken pesto pasta is usually edible. As a rule, it costs less to pre-order food than to purchase it onboard.
It’s important to bring a tablet loaded with shows, a pillow, and a blanket (especially if you’re on a night flight), and the hours will pass more comfortably. Service on all three airlines is typically friendly in a slightly rushed sort of way. Scoot might be an offshoot of Singapore Airlines but temper your expectations of any superb Singapore Girl service here.
Service on all three carriers is usually friendly and professional. Photo: Jetstar
Who is the cheapest to fly on?
This is a bit of a biased question, as the ‘cheapness’ of a flight depends on a variety of different factors.
The first is which hub you might be flying out of. If you are in Singapore, Scoot is the cheapest. If you are in Kuala Lumpur, it will be AirAsia X. Lastly, Jetstar has the most power out of Australian cities, but can sometimes be beaten.
And the lead-in entry fare is always the barebones choice – no baggage allowance, food, seat selection, or inflight comforts. Once you start adding them, the price can start to rise steeply. In fact, in many cases, flying on an all-inclusive full-service carrier can be a cost-competitive option, especially when the full-service carriers are running sales.
Who is the best?
If you are flying in business, AirAsia has the best product. However, if you are flying economy, then Scoot has the biggest seats. But as noted above, a lot depends on where you are off to and your personal preferences.
For me, most of my northbound flights into Asia are daytime flights. The premium economy style business class options these low-cost carriers offer are a good option for a seven-hour daytime flight. My southbound flights home is often overnight, so I stick to premium carriers and burn points in exchange for a good night’s sleep. Like most people, I mix and match to extract maximum value, convenience, and comfort from flying. Low-cost carriers like Jetstar, Scoot, and AirAsia X have a role to play in that.
For a lot of people, if you’re flying a low-cost carrier, you are looking for something cheap and easy to get you to where you need to go. Go for the cheapest option to suit your budget.
Which airline do you like the best? Let us know in the comments.