Air Asia

Air Asia are one of Asia's most famous scam airlines. Much like Scoot, they make their money by cancelling flights and keeping the money. Air Asia first launched their Japan service in August 2012, as a joint venture between Air Asia (from Malaysia) and All Nippon Airways, themselves a very good airline, who also own Peach. Air Asia Japan, however, received a lot of deservedly bad press over their late departures and high cancellation rates, and most Japanese refused to fly them; on my only experience the flight was full of Australian snowboarders. Air Asia never filled their planes, and after huge losses the airline stopped operating in October 2013.

The New Air Asia

ANA's half of Air Asia then became Vanilla Air, which has kept using the same dishonest business strategies as in their former existence as Air Asia Japan. Air Asia, however, now plans to re-launch their service again in summer 2015, hence this post. I strongly recommend steering clear of both the new Air Asia Japan and the old Air Asia Japan (now Vanilla Air).

My Experience

I was skiing in the mountains in Hokkaido (northern Japan), and at the end of my trip I was ready to return to Tokyo. Being the new year all the major airlines were full. I wanted to take a train, but unfortunately it's not possible to reserve tickets online. In the end I gave up and booked with Air Asia, the only airline with seats available, and now I know why.
The plane was delayed, but check-in went as normal. While in the waiting lounge on my computer I suddenly heard a man arguing with a staff member, saying he needed to get back to Tokyo for a flight back to Europe the next morning. I looked up and realised that the waiting lounge was emptying out. There were no announcements in English, but we needed to go back through the gate the wrong way, collect our bags from the carousel and line up. No announcements were made at all, and people just had to wait for hours for their turn at the desk to ask to take their "refund" (as a "voucher") or see if there was room on another flight. Fortunately since Japanese (sensibly) weren't using Air Asia there were still seats available on the flight the next day, which i took.
We were then told to take our luggage and leave, as the airport was about to close. It was a day before New Year's Eve, so most hotels were full. The temperature was well below zero, it was almost midnight and it was snowing outside. I was lucky that I'd stayed in a hotel near the airport a few days earlier, and that they still had a vacancy, but I don't know what other people would have done.

The only help the airline provided was to offer a fraudulent letter saying the delay was due to weather, so that people could claim costs against their insurance. However I asked staff why the other flights were still departing for Tokyo (Narita) and staff then admitted that it was because they plane had suffered mechanical problems earlier that day in Nagoya, and that they had caused the plane to be delayed.

That's my experience with Air Asia. I don't recommend them, but if you do try your luck I hope you have a better experience than I did!  

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