AirAsia launched the ASEAN pass in January this year. On the surface, it looks like a no-brainer – travel around the 10 ASEAN countries in a month for guaranteed discount prices. Sounds great, right?
Being someone who travels quite frequently for work, I decided to check it out. Who knows? I might be able to save a lot of money over a year.
However, quite unfortunately, even for someone who travels quite frequently, I decided not to use the pass for my monthly travels.
I’ll explain why in this article.
ASEAN Pass: The Offer
First, I want to explain to you what this pass is all about. On the AirAsia site, it says that the ‘The AirAsia ASEAN Pass is a travel pass that allows guests to book our low fares with credits, at least 14 days or more before the departure date to travel to more than 140 routes all across ASEAN.’
You can buy either an AirAsia ASEAN Pass for 10 or 20 credits.
On the surface, it looks like a no-brainer.
One of the most frequent routes I take is from Miri (where I’m based) to KL. One flight from Miri to KL usually costs me between RM170 – RM280 on a normal day. If I could book even just one return flight between Miri to KL I would have already gotten my money’s worth.
I could already see a savings upwards of 50%.
1, 3, 5 Credits
Then I scrolled down to understand more about how these credits were to be used. Apparently, there is a difference between the amount of credits required for different destinations.
Well, this is fine. I understand because some routes are longer than others.
For example, flying from Bandung, Indonesia to Singapore is 1 credit.
Going from Kuala Lumpur to Bali is 3 credits.
Flying from Bali to Jakarta is 5 credits.
So what this means it that if you’re planning to fly two 5 credit routes then you would have used up all your 10 credits for that.
Miri-KL: Savings Drop Below 50%
To fly from Miri to KL and back would cost me 6 credits, or about RM300 – about 20 – 30% off normal fares. Still a deal, I thought.
If I could slot in another flight from Miri to KL then I would would have made full use of my pass already.
I was all set to buy the ASEAN Pass.
But I didn’t. And Here’s Why (The Deal Breaker in the FAQ)
A lot of the fine print were written in the form of FAQ. Most of it I could deal with but here’s the deal breaker: You are NOT allowed to repeat routes.
What does this mean? The FAQ explains it as such:
As you can see, the example given is exactly the routes that I want to travel. For most people, unless you are on some sort of ASEAN tour, it’s highly likely that you travel particular routes more frequently than others.
Having this rules means I can’t travel from Miri to KL and back using the same pass. If I were to use this pass, two things would happen:
1. In order to take advantage of the Pass discount, I would need to book my Miri-KL and KL-Miri flights differently – one using the pass and one via normal booking – a lot of trouble for a bit of savings if you ask me.
2. I would not know what to do with my remaining credits since I can only claim 3/10. If I happen not be going anywhere but KL that month, all 7 of my credits would go to waste (since it expires in 30 days)
How to Decide if The ASEAN Pass is For You
Though I found the ASEAN Pass a bad fit for my routine travels, I still think it can be useful for certain types of travels I will be making in the future (like if I ever decide to plan a tour around ASEAN).
Here are five questions I would ask myself to decide to use the ASEAN Pass or to go with normal fares:
1. Check if you will be repeating any routes
This includes flights to the same destination and back (like my example of Miri-KL and KL-Miri).
2. If you are repeating routes, decide if it would be worth it to split between Pass discounts and non-Pass fares
The key decision here is to see if you’ll be able to make full use of all 10 (or close to 10) of your Pass credits to make it all worth it.
If say you are repeating too many routes that you can only use a maximum of 5 credits, the Pass may not be worth it as the total cost of buying the full pass on top of tickets at non-Pass fares might become more expensive than just buying all your tickets at a non-Pass price.
3. Decide if AirAsia sales are cheaper than Pass discounts
There are some instances where you can get flights for prices cheaper than the ASEAN pass. As a guide, you can use these base prices for comparison:
1 credit = 1/10 x RM499 = RM49.9
3 credit = 3/10 x RM499 = RM149.7
5 credit = 5/10 x RM499 = RM249.5
Remember that these prices don’t include any add ons like seat selection, luggage etc. So you should only base your comparison on the base fares.
Of course, the benefit of using the ASEAN Pass is that you don’t have to wait for discounts. The discounts are guaranteed. The down side is that this means that it’s possible for AirAsia to offer prices lower than that they are offering on their ASEAN Pass.
So do check before you make the booking.
4. Decide if you are willing to put up with all the other fine print
Read the entire page very carefully because once you buy it you have to put with all the rules they have in place (Read the section under ‘Please Note’ and ‘FAQs’ very carefully). If you think it’s worth the discounts then go for it.
Remember, don’t make any assumptions. Go to their Ask section to check if you’re unsure.
I might use the ASEAN Pass This September
This September I will be traveling to Yangon, Myanmar and Yogjakarta, Indonesia. Seeing that I am traveling more than two ASEAN countries (including Malaysia), I might consider using the pass. To make the final decision, I will be making my decision based on the four points that I noted previously.
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The AirAsia ASEAN Pass is a great deal for anyone who is planning a tour around the 10 ASEAN countries. Though so, you have to be careful when you make your plans as there are many rules that can make the pass not worth it.
If you are willing to spend the time and effort to properly plan your trips around the rules and restrictions of the ASEAN Pass, you will find discounts up to 50%.
Although I chose not to use the ASEAN Pass for my monthly travels because of its restriction on repeat routes, I can see myself using this pass for any trips that will involve two or more ASEAN countries.