Whether you're hitting the Cameron Highlands of Malaysia or the tea fields of Sikkim, the mysterious Taoist caves of China or the temples of the Thai north, the throbbing cityscapes of the Philippines or the brilliant beachfronts of the Nusa Tenggara, saving money on the journey is sure to help with that holiday budget. But how you ask? Well, by going on a low-cost carrier of course!
In fact, there are now more cheap airlines criss-crossing the skies of Asia than those of any other continent, while the region also did well to dominate the Skytrax line-up of top budget fliers on the planet in 2014! To help you choose right this year, we've looked at all the chart-topping low-costers currently operating out of Asia, as voted for by the passengers themselves.
As of January 2015 Skymark Airlines of Japan has been in the throes of near bankruptcy, with the airline ANA All Nippon heading up efforts to revive its various routes across the islands along with a whole host of other Tokyo-based firms. However, whatever the future has in store for this one, it looks as though the cheap hops between Fukuoka, Haneda, Nagasaki and Tokyo to name just a few were enough to garner it some appreciation, with the carrier kicking off this list of the top 10 budget fliers in all of Asia.
Connecting the legendary beachfronts of the Thai Andaman Coast with the bustling hubbub of the capital at Bangkok, the mysterious hill towns on the fringes of Burma in the north with the local markets of Nakhon Si Thammarat, and the chilled-out old centre of Chang Mai with the gateway to the Gulf at Chumphon, Nok Air is now the most prolific domestic flier in the skies of Thailand. Incidentally, the carrier's 2015 joint venture with Scoot of Singapore is also one to watch, set to offer low-cost long-haul flights across the continent.
Former title holder of the acclaimed CAPA Low Cost Airline of the Year award (2006 and 2010), it looks as though this budget carrier out of Singapore is continuing to fly high amongst its peers. In 2014, Tiger Airways expanded their services to include connections to the Chinese city of Xi'an—the Shaanxi home of the Terracotta Army—and Male in the Maldives, where some of the finest beaches in the Indian Ocean coalesce on the cays. What's more, passengers enjoy an in-flight offering of Southeast Asian foods and a free travel magazine to boot.
After slashing many of its fares by up to 50% in the summer of 2014 to meet competition from the wealth of other low-cost fliers in India, SpiceJet is now unquestionably one of the cheapest budget carriers on the continent. Customers of the Gurgaon-based company now benefit from an on-time guarantee (which entitles passengers to a voucher of up to 1000 rupees if their departure is delayed) and an aromatic in-flight menu of curries from across the subcontinent, complete with vegetable biryanis and butter paneer for the veggies!
With just four years of flying at its back, Japanese low-coster Peach has set its sights high. Currently the carrier connects major hubs across the islands of its home nation, although there are rumours that the coming years will see destinations like Ho Chi Minh City, Bangkok, Guangzhou and Shanghai bolster the roster. Passengers looking for a little more privacy and room on-board Peach's jets can opt for the 'Space Seat' selection, which guarantees a free chair on your aisle, while there's also a menu of mouth-watering Asian foods available in the air.
With a humble fleet of just seven Boeing jets, this subsidiary of Singapore Airlines is a no-frills alternative that offers long-haul connections between cities in Asia, China and Australia. Since first taking-off in 2011 it's risen to offer a two-tier cabin system, with the ScootBiz business class equivalent coming complete with 10.4-inch personal entertainment screens and 38-inches of pitch. In economy, travellers can opt to rent on-board iPads, or go for elongated 'Stretch' seats, which have just a tad more legroom and comfort.
Hailing in as the best low-coster in the skies of the Australia-Pacific region last year, JetStar are an unsurprising addition to the top five of this list. And while the carrier's routes across Asia are somewhat limited (serving just Singapore, Japan, Indonesia, China and Thailand), travellers with this one not only enjoy a two-tier cabin system, food and drink services at an extra cost, seatback entertainment screens and on-board iPads, but also earn Qantas frequent flier points while in the air.
Standing strong for the Indian subcontinent at a very respectable third place here is Delhi-based budget flier, Indigo, which now offers a whole host of destinations from its bases at the Indira Gandhi Airport and Visakhapatnam International, including Bangkok, Dubai and oodles of cities across the country, from Assam in the north to Kerala in the south. Travellers can expect a truly no-frills experience, with a single class cabin structure and some seriously low fares!
Picking up the miles which its parent company, AirAsia, left out, AirAsia X is essentially the long-haul extension of the celebrated brand, and offers travellers a smattering of intercontinental hops between Southeast Asia, Oceania and the Middle East. Aside from this second-place position amongst the top budget carriers on the entire continent, the airline also picked up coveted Skytrax accolades for its business class cabins and premium services last year, which is great news for travellers looking to hit KL in style!
Now offering discounted checked-baggage at booking, an all-new business class option, in-flight meals at an extra cost, services for unaccompanied minors and a ground-breaking all-you-can-fly scheme starting at just $160 a month, not to mention one of the largest line-ups of destinations across the Asian continent—from Beijing to Balikpapan—and no fewer than six first-place positions on this list in the last decade, it seems as though there is nothing that can stop this true pioneer of low-cost travel.