ASEAN Pass vs. AirAsia Deals: Which Should You Pick?

In a previous post I talked about who the AirAsia ASEAN Pass is for and why I decided not to use it. In it I also promised our MTA readers I’ll update you if I decided to use the ASEAN Pass for my upcoming trip in September. So here’s the update.

A Brief Recap

As you might recall, the ASEAN Pass is great for people who check all these two boxes:

  • Traveling more than two ASEAN countries within 30 days
  • Have discovered that fares are cheaper using the ASEAN Pass compared to normal fares or fares at a discount

In less than two weeks I will be joining two conferences in two ASEAN countries – Yangon, Myanmar and Yogjakarta, Indonesia, with transits in between using Kuala Lumpur.

Here’s a brief summary of my routes:

Route 1: Miri to Kuala Lumpur
Route 2: Kuala Lumpur to YangonRoute 3: Yangon to Kuala Lumpur
Route 4: Kuala Lumpur to Yogjakarta
Route 5: Yogjakarta to Kuala Lumpur
Route 6: Kuala Lumpur to Miri

Seeing that I check both the boxes for using the ASEAN Pass for this trip, I decided to do a comparison between using the ASEAN Pass and buying tickets the normal way.

The Details

As I’ve noted before, the ASEAN Pass only lets you use the pass for non-repeat routes. This means I can only use the ASEAN pass for Routes 1,2 and 4 since Route 3 would be a repeat of Route 2 and Route 5 a repeat of Route 4 and Route 6 a repeat of Route 1.

Removing flights I can’t use the ASEAN Pass for, I’m left with these:

Route 1: Miri to Kuala Lumpur
Route 2: Kuala Lumpur to Yangon
Route 4: Kuala Lumpur to Yogjakarta

A quick check using the table on the ASEAN Pass page tells me that…

3 credits

For these routes, I’ll use up a total of 9 out of 10 credits and waste 1 credit.

So that’s RM499 before airport taxes and GST for 3 out of 6 routes.

Let’s see how much I pay for normal fares:

It will cost me RM447.81 (plus taxes and GST) to fly from Miri to Yangon.

myy to ygn

And another RM251 (including taxes and GST) from Kuala Lumpur to Yogjakarta:

kl to yogja

A side by side comparison reveals:

ASEAN Pass Price: RM499 + RM107 (airport taxes and GST) = RM606

Normal fare Price: RM662

Difference: RM56

From the outset, it does look like I’ll get a better deal using the ASEAN Pass. I’ll save maybe a little more than RM50?

Finer Details

However, it’s not as straightforward as it looks. According to another travel blogger, TommyOoi.com, it is highly likely that the ASEAN Pass locks you out from some of the normal flight times:

tommyThough so, AirAsia has since rectified these issues, but not without a lot of requests.

What this means is that using the ASEAN Pass is not exactly the same as buying flights without it. Behind the fine prints are even finer prints: you don’t get the same flight options as everyone else.

To take full advantage of the ASEAN Pass you need to be very flexible with your traveling times.

Why I decided not to use it again

I decided to not go for the ASEAN Pass again this time because I need to arrive in Yangon and Yogja at specific times in order for me to make it to both conferences.

For a small price difference of only RM56, it was not worth the risk of buying 10 credits that doesn’t guarantee me the flights I want. Perhaps if the price difference was more I would consider.

A second thing I’m not keen about is that we only get to check the flight options available after we buy the ASEAN Pass. This feels risky to me. What if I buy the Pass then realize that none of the flight options match the ones I need? These passes expire a year after purchase. That will leave me no choice but feel obligated to use the Pass even when other deals are available (since I don’t want to waste it).

Again, for a small price difference I didn’t feel the risk was necessary.

Conclusion

Having said that, I’m still very much looking forward to a time I can use the ASEAN Pass for my travels around ASEAN. However, with any deal, there are fine prints that need to be read and re-read before making a purchase. As a precaution, it’s best to find out if your desired routes are available before making the ASEAN Pass. I don’t really know if asking AirAsia will do the trick but I suppose you can give it a shot.

For this trip I didn’t bother because RM56 wasn’t really worth spending hours going back and forth with AirAsia about available flights.

Announcement

Pamela and I will be traveling to Yogjakarta for the third Asian Women Empowerment Conference. This is the conference where we first met. It’s a conference about Asian women who want to make an impact in their societies. You will be seeing more updates about this conference in the next couple of posts! We’re excited!

P/S: Happy National Day to MTA’s Malaysian readers!

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