Choosing an airline was quite easy as Air Asia was by far the cheapest airline to get into China from Australia. At the time, Air Asia was under a third of the cost of the other airlines going in that direction.
As a comparison the flight with Air Asia cost a total of $251 (Melb to KL) where as Qantas economy to Kuala Lumpur was between $708 and $2906. The next leg from KL to Chengdu on Air Asia totaled $77, so the total into China was $328 while on Qantas a semi direct flight into Chengdu is around the $1400.
Its worth noting that when the flights go on special its best to book them. They only get dearer as it gets closer to the time you want to leave. To take advantage of the specials it will mean that you will have to plan ahead, but its well worth it.
For my trip to China I took advantage of the promo rate for an economy seat to Kuala Lumpur and held off on booking the next leg to China until a special came up going from KL to somewhere in China.
The first special to show up was the new service running from KL to Chengdu. I grabbed it. At the time I would have probably preferred to fly into Beijing but after some research Chengdu really seems like an interesting place and a great place to start off when discovering southwest China. I guess I’ll find out if that proves to be correct!
Check in was the usual line up but fairly hassle free for me due to travelling light with only carry on luggage. My back pack just managed to fit in within the bag size limits for Air Asia (same with all airlines) but tipped the scales a tad over the 7kg allowed limit. Fortunately the attendants scales were perhaps reading a little lightly that day! My camera bag holding my trusty canon 400d also made through without a second look. They seem quite generous in their allowances, but from some the signs in the check out area and the in flight messages seem to indicate that this may be starting to be tightened up.
I am not sure what the domestic Air Asia flights are like but on the international legs they do have allocated seating rather than the free for all on other airlines. I was fortunate on the Melbourne to KL flight that I scored the whole row to myself. In economy there are 3 seats to the left, three in the middle and three on the right, so you are almost rubbing shoulders with the person beside you, or persons if your in the middle. Luckily I could spread out and relax on the way to KL!
They also seem fairly relaxed about seating arrangements after the flight has lifted off, the 3 people behind me, perhaps envious of my good fortune, made themselves comfortable in the few empty seats nearby and no seemed to be to concerned.
One thing worth noting about AirAsia flights, and its probably the same with all the budget carriers, is that everything is extra. Movies are extra (all the seats have individual LCD screens), Food is extra, pillow are extra, blankets extra, etc. etc. so take your fun and fluff. For an inflatable neck pillow and an mp3 player worked for cost free in flight entertainment and comfort.
The plane was very modern, if not new, and took off without hardly a bump, rattle or shake. And the whole flight was that way, including the descent and landing at KL. Very comfortable.
I have no complaints about flying economy with Air Asia and will be sure to be doing it again. Maybe the seats are a little hard and it can get a bit cosy, if your not lucky enough to get a row for yourself, but its money well saved on a flight thats only 7 or so hours long.