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AirAsia Safety: When I Stopped Flying AirAsia (And Other Cheap Carriers) In Asia

AirAsia Safety: When I Stopped Flying AirAsia (And Other Cheap Carriers) In Asia

  • Read about my nightmare flying AirAsia and why I began to question air safety.
airasia safety

Is AirAsia Safe?

AirAsia has a questionable history in the news and I can’t help but wonder, is AirAsia safe? Compared to a lot of other airlines in the world, sure. Most of its locations aren’t third-world, but something’s off. The fact is, you hear about lower-budget airline crashes far more often. You can’t possibly tell me that their pilots meet the same training time as Singapore or even United Airlines.

Regardless, I don’t fly them anymore. Here is why I question AirAsia safety ratings.

It was 2013 and I was traveling around Southeast Asia. I spent about a month with a  friend making our rounds through Bali, Thailand, and Singapore.

At that time in our lives, I traveled endlessly around Asia, but all the recent series of major plane crashes had yet to come.

Having flown AirAsia just one time before going to Thailand, my experience then was bad enough to almost swear me off the airline for good, almost. I can’t recall exactly where we were heading to, perhaps it was Vietnam.

But the layover in Kuala Lumpur’s LCCT (low-cost carrier terminal) felt like a scene from my own personal hell and is to this day, the worst airport BY FAR I’ve ever been to.

I’ve never again experienced an airport so filthy, so dirty, so noisy, and so chaotic. And if this was the HQ, it sure was not a good sign for the airline in general.

Flash forward a year later and not much wiser (2013), my friend and I decided to book AirAsia for a few hauls to and from Indonesia and Thailand, before ending in Singapore. I was reluctant to book with them, but I decided to suck it up and I didn’t want to have to cost my friend extra money she didn’t want to spend. After all, what are the odds, right?

is AirAsia safe

Things were OK for the first couple of flights, but the last flight back to Singapore from Bangkok was and will undoubtedly be the LAST flight I ever take on AirAsia, or on any low-budget carrier for that matter, particularly in Asia.

Midway through our flight, the plane hit what felt like a large brick wall of turbulence. It was so sudden, so jolting that the plane itself came to an abrupt slam in midair with so much force that was beyond unnerving.

Typically when you experience turbulence there’s a warning, or a storm, or a reason, but there was no warning and no storm, and the slam of the impact nearly gave me a heart attack and most certainly incited a panic attack.  It was an incredibly violent episode of turbulence that I’d never experienced before in all my flying.

The plane continued to shake like a plastic toy being tossed around by a disoriented toddler. I can remember clearly staring at the flimsy old cabin, watching it rattle, and hearing every creak in its joints. I prayed that someone, those likely underpaid maintenance employees in Bangkok, did their jobs adequately and tightened all the screws, etc.

I clenched my friend’s hands as she reassured me it would be ok. “I fly all the time for work, I experience turbulence through the mid-west.” Though I remember replying, “This is NOT Southwest, this is AirAsia!”

She was worried too though as we sat there, hands clenched, counting down the minutes until our arrival time. I might have bargained with God, promised to be a better person, and to donate more time and money to charity.

Time seemed to stop and the turbulence continued for a good half hour. Although not as severe as that first impact, I sat there waiting in fearful anticipation for another violent impact like the first.

We arrived in Singapore safely and after another rather rough landing, I swore off AirAsia for good this time. You can’t pay me any amount of money to fly this airline again. I’ve flown a good number of airlines in my day, but I’ve never experienced sustained turbulence like that from Southwest or Japan Airlines, and the landings are always rougher.

Flash forward a year later, we hear about the first plane crash on AirAsia that happened en route from Indonesia to Singapore, a route I’ve flown several times. Apparently, the turbulence was so severe that the pilot made an error and ascended too fast causing an aerodynamic stall.

Recently three subsidiaries of AirAsia have been placed on a list of the world’s most dangerous airlines, according to Airlineratings.comIf you’re curious about this list, check out this article on TheDailyMail, World’s Most Dangerous Airlines.

And here’s another interesting article about the hazards of traveling to Asia. I also read an interesting article in the WSJ a couple of months back discussing how the comparative number of plane crashes in the world overwhelmingly occurs in Asia. Five Major Risks to Flying to Asia, The Wall Street Journal. Also, read the Safest Airlines in the WorldHere’s another article by a former pilot for President Obama who refuses to fly AirAsia among a few other liners because of dangerous safety ratings and inexperienced pilots.

Former Obama Pilot: Some Airlines I Won’t Fly Because They Are So Dangerous I don’t aim to scare anyone from traveling to Asia, but simply to educate travelers a little more about the fact that just because an airline pops up in Kayak next to all the others, it doesn’t mean they’re equal in terms of pilot training and safety certification. Sometimes you can’t afford a better airline, but often you can if you give up something else.

And different subsidiaries of airlines have different ratings. Unfortunately, traveling around Asia and especially to smaller more remote places in the world requires flights on riskier smaller airlines where the pilots aren’t as extensively trained always. Before we left Japan, I really wanted to go to Myanmar, but Daniel refused to take Air Bagan, and I couldn’t take the train due to severe sensitivity to motion sickness. airasia safety

Sometimes, you want to go somewhere so bad you willingly assume the risks, but even for me, as much as I wanted to see Bagan, I couldn’t get myself to fly Air Bagan. But personally, I don’t take carriers that aren’t permitted to fly into the United States or are not IOSA certified or airlines that fly over hostile regions. It’s easy to assume that the airlines always have your best interest at stake, but it’s important to be proactive and ensure they actually do. Plane crashes are very rare, but there are also fewer catastrophic crashes and incidents as well. I hate to fly and I choose not to take on the added risk because it is risk and is that much more uncomfortable.

Is AirAsia Safer than Other Alternatives?

There are worse airlines you can fly around Asia, but it’s important to realize that not every AirAsia airline has the exact same safety rating. With that said, you’ve read my story. It was the worst plane ride of my entire life and it had me bargaining with God. I think I promised to be a better person, but in all honesty, if I’m going to be killed off, a plane crash is probably the best way to die if you want to get really morbid. The impact is usually quick and painless unless it explodes in the sky. But, if you lose oxygen at a high-altitude you have the added bonus of being knocked out unconscious. But, I’d rather not spend my last few minutes alive in sheer terror on my own account, so, I will not be flying AirAsia again around Malaysia and Indonesia. It was a nightmare.

What about their Safety Records?

Indonesia, Malaysia, and India are the branches of AirAsia that receive the most criticism with safety. Clearly, wanting to know “is AirAsia safe?” requires examining the AirAsia safety rating for every region.

  Read Other AirAsia Reviews About AirAsia Safety

AirAsia Customer Reviews

Product Review: AirAsia Reviews

AirAsia Thailand Safety

Indonesia AirAsia Safety

FAA Airline Safety Ratings

International Airline Safety Ratings

Airline Safety Ratings 2018

Top 20 Safest Airlines in 2020

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View Comments (9)
  • I flew to Thailand 3 times now, the first two times I flew with Qatar Airways, the second time with Emirates and the third time with TUI and I can say that the third time was the worst flight I ever experienced. The services were pretty bad, and the stewardesses were pretty unprofessional. I know that TUI cannot compare with Emirates or Qatar Airways, but still, we got lower quality services for almost the same flight price.

    That was the first and last time I will fly with TUI.

  • Air Asia does not have cheap price, but air line itself is cheap. No bag allow and no water during the flight. Worse airline ever.

    • Yea I don’t fly cheap airlines anymore. Their prices may not be the cheapest but I consider them a cheap airline. They have to cut costs all across the board and I don’t see how that doesn’t affect general maintenance too. I wasn’t aware they don’t serve water.

  • About 10 years ago, a Colgan Air flying for Continental crashed a plane on approach to Buffalo, because both pilots were inexperienced in handling icing conditions and the first officer was based in New York but lived in Seattle, and commuted on red eyes to get to work.

    Even expensive airlines cut costs and hire inexperienced crew and farm out flying to regional carriers. In 2006, a Comair flight, flying for Delta, that was supposed to go from Lexington to Atlanta, crashed into a mountain immediatly after take off, because the pilots, who had violated sterile cockpit rules and were talking about things unrelated to preparing the aircraft for departure, took off from the wrong runway.

    Asiana is not a “low cost carrier” and their pilots crashed a perfectly sound plane into San Francisco airport in perfect weather, because they were unable to fly a visual approach.

    In 2015 an Air Canada flight crashed on landing in Edmonton due to poor crew procedures.

    A Southwest Captain violated standard procedure and took over the controls from her first office just seconds before touch down and slammed the plane down nose wheel first.

    Just recently, a disoriented Air Canada Crew nearly landed on a taxiway at San Francisco, the crew of the United Airliens widebody on the taxiway, awaiting take off, sounded the alarm, causing a last moment go around they narrowly missed a disaster.

    About ten years ago, Air France crashed into the South Atlantic, because the Captain choose to leave the flight deck shortly before a severe storm (and if you read the transcript, before the Captain left, you could tell that the junior first officer, who was the flying pilot at the time was freaked out by the approaching weather). The crew was a bit hamstrung, because the flight from South America pushed the aircraft’s range to the limit and not wanting to circle the storm and have to make a fuel stop, they plowed right through the storm. The two pilots in the cockpit left to pilot the plane through challenging weather where very inexperienced. The junior first officer, the least experienced of the three, was flying the plane at the time. He inexplicably pulled back on the stick, causing the plane to stall. He never let go fo the stick. Eventually, the Captain, sensing the plane was falling, went up to teh flight deck, and rather than demanding somebody give up their seat so he could take control of the situation, instead he engaged the other two pilots in an academic disgusion about what could be wrong, while the junior first officer continued to pull back on the stick, until the plane slammed into the Ocean.

  • I just wrote one of my business case studies on Malindo Air, a joint venture between Indonesia and Malaysia. After writing that report, I’ll NEVER fly them!

    • Good to know! Yea I think Malindo Air is affiliated with Lion Air which has the WORST ratings!! These are the kinds of airlines I’m talking about, no thanks!

  • So sorry you had so bad experience in travelling with AirAsia. We’ve been in Asia this year, had more than 10 flights with AirAsia and everything was perfect.
    We would totally recommend this airline.

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