Is the AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass a good deal?

Unlimited flights within ASEAN for S$388 sound too good to be true? It is, in a way. Here's all the fine print that would-be AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Passholders should know about.

Every year, AirAsia does a big song and dance about the latest iteration of their Unlimited Travel Pass, which allows holders to fly all they want for a fixed price.********

Yes, the ******** is warranted, because like all deals that sound too good to be true, this comes with an awful lot of caveats attached.

Case in point: this year’s AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass, which is now on sale till 31 March 2024. The PR campaign is in full flow, with the usual assortment of paid shills waxing lyrical about how amazing it is.

And look, I don’t doubt that it’s theoretically possible to save a big chunk of money with a Pass. But I think it’s crucial that you go in with both eyes open. So in that spirit, here’s my attempt to highlight all the fine print you won’t find in the marketing fluff. 

Overview: AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass

The AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass is available for purchase till 31 March 2024, or while stocks last. 

The price is S$388, with a S$16 discount if you use BigPay (a further 5% early bird discount was available from 22-24 March, but that’s over now).

The Pass is valid for international travel (you can’t use it for domestic flights) between 1 May 2024 to 30 April 2025, between the following countries:

  • Brunei
  • Cambodia
  • Indonesia
  • Laos
  • Malaysia
  • Myanmar
  • Philippines
  • Singapore
  • Thailand
  • Vietnam
❓ Typo?

There’s what I suspect is a typo in the AirAsia press release, which says that Unlimited – Asean International Pass passholders can redeem their flights for one year from the pass date (eg: 25 March 2024 – 25 March 2025) and travel from 8 March 2024 onwards”

This directly contradicts what’s found in the FAQs and T&Cs, which give the travel period as 1 May 2024 to 30 April 2025 regardless of when you buy your pass, and I’m going to go with that.

Flights can be on any of the AirAsia Group carriers, namely:

  • AZ: AirAsia
  • D7: AirAsia X
  • FD: Thai AirAsia
  • QZ: Indonesia AirAsia
  • Z2: Philippines AirAsia

The fine print

I obviously don’t expect AirAsia to highlight this in their publicity blitz, but it’s important that anyone considering a Pass is fully aware of its limitations and gotchas.

These are the main ones I spotted.

You still pay taxes and surcharges

The AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass only waives the base fare. You will still need to pay taxes and fuel surcharges, which can represent a substantial portion of the total ticket cost.

Here’s an extreme (but valid) example. Consider this one-way flight from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur in May 2024, which prices at S$70 on the AirAsia website. 

Notice how the base fare is zero. All AirAsia makes from this flight is the fuel surcharge (S$4.80), and the rest of the money goes to the airport or government (S$65.20).

This is a great deal if you don’t hold a Pass. But if you’re a Passholder, I imagine you’ll feel rather bummed out that you’ll need to pay S$70 for this flight, exactly the same amount of money as someone who didn’t shell out for a Pass.

Like I said, it’s an extreme example, but even so, with low cost carriers the base fare tends to be a relatively small proportion of the total ticket cost. Here’s another case of a June trip to Bali, where the base fare comes up to just S$51.60 out of a S$294.37 ticket, or 18%. 

And of course, you’ll need to pay for add-ons like checked baggage and meals, so don’t be surprised if you still end up paying a lot for your “free” flights. 

Flights must be booked 14 days in advance

All flights with the AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass must be booked at least 14 days in advance.

It’s not a deal breaker in and of itself, but reduces the ability to use the Pass spontaneously (e.g. water pipe burst in the office and we all need to work from home this week!).

Blackout dates apply

Your AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass will not be valid for travel during the following blackout periods.

PeriodHolidayAffected Carriers
30 Oct to 4 Nov 2024All Souls/Saints DayAirAsia Philippines
19 Dec 2024 to 5 Jan 2025Christmas and Year EndAll Carriers
24 Jan to 3 Feb 2025Chinese New YearAll Carriers
27 Mar to 6 Apr 2025Hari RayaAirAsia, AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia
10 Apr to 20 Apr 2025SongkranAirAsia, AirAsia X, Thai AirAsia, Indonesia AirAsia
15 Apr to 22 Apr 2025Holy WeekAir Asia Philippines

As expected, these are the peak periods for travel, the time when the Pass might come in the most handy.

You can only hold two bookings at a time

AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Passholders can only hold two confirmed unflown PNRs at any point in time. These can either be one-way or round-trip bookings.

This is referred to as a “Fair Usage Policy” (a term more synonymous with telco plans than unlimited flight passes, where the whole idea is more usage- I guess “fair” depends on your point of view!), and is illustrated below.

If you try to book another itinerary using the Unlimited ASEAN Pass while you already have two unflown PNRs outstanding, you’ll receive an error message. 

Restriction on same-day usage

AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Passholders are allowed to have two trips on the same day, but the trips cannot be from the same departure location.

I don’t think this will be an issue for most travellers, but it does mean you can’t visit Penang in the morning, return to Singapore, then fly to Bali in the evening, in case that was your plan. 

Three strikes policy

AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Passholders are allowed up to three no-shows throughout the validity period, after which the Pass will be forfeited. 

I have no issues at all with this policy, since inconsiderate use deprives other people of seats.

Of course, you need to remember that AirAsia flights cannot be cancelled, so the most you can do is to make changes to dates and flights, for which a fare difference fee may apply. You should be fairly certain that you’re going to travel to the place you book with your Pass, or else you’ll use one of your three strikes. 

It’s unclear how good seat availability will be 

Perhaps my biggest concern is that it’s unclear just what kind of availability Passholders will get, or what fare class these seats book into. The press release says that “availability of the free seats is dependent on supply and demand on a particular route”, but doesn’t specify anything beyond that.

Put it this way: I don’t think you should expect last seat availability, and I can imagine it’d be frustrating to see seats available for sale on the website, but none available for redemption with your Pass. 

What about the other perks?

Enjoy one free airport transfer in Malaysia with your Pass | Photo: AirAsia

In addition to the flights, the AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass comes with:

  • Up to 50% off AirAsia Hotel bookings, capped at RM50
  • 5,000 AirAsia points (worth about S$11)
  • One free airport transfer with AirAsia Ride to/from KLIA airport, up to RM80
  • Unlimited RM2 discounts for AirAsia Ride e-hails

“Up to 50% off” hotel bookings is attention-grabbing, but note the “up to”, the discount cap of RM50, the fact that the hotels must be outside your country of residence, and the fact that hotel prices on AirAsia may be inflated compared to other OTAs or booking direct. 

The 5,000 AirAsia points are fine, they’re worth about S$11 which I suppose you could see as an indirect subsidy of the Pass cost.

The free airport transfer is only valid for rides to and from KLIA, and while I understand the cap of RM80, harder to understand is the minimum charge of RM59. Also note that you need to make your reservation at least 18 hours in advance of arrival, so it’s not a “get there and do” thing.

All in all, none of these extra perks really move the needle for me.

FAQs and T&Cs

You can find links to FAQs and T&Cs for AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass below:

My take on the AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass

By buying an AirAsia Unlimited ASEAN Pass, you’re basically locking in all your regional travel to AirAsia for the next year. You effectively give up the freedom to pick other carriers whose schedules and prices might better suit your plans (I mean you still can, just that you’ll feel quite sian you’re not utilising your pass). 

I’m certain there are power users out there who will mange to milk every last cent out of the Pass, and if you’re one of them, go right ahead. However, the casual user is likely to find it too restrictive and time-consuming to plan their travels in a way that lets them turn a profit on their Pass, after opportunity cost is taken into account.

So proceed with extreme caution, and don’t be surprised if your actual savings are smaller than expected. 

Conclusion

AirAsia has launched the latest iteration of its Unlimited Travel Pass, which offers unlimited flights within ASEAN for a year.

Buy it if you’re sure you have a game plan for recovering all your upfront costs, and then some, but speculative purchasing should be discouraged. You’re still on the hook for taxes and surcharges, there’s a 14-day booking window, blackout dates apply, you can only have two bookings at a time, and only AirAsia knows just how many seats they’re releasing for bookings using the Pass.

It’s a hard pass for me.

Aaron Wong
Aaron Wong
Aaron founded The Milelion to help people travel better for less and impress chiobu. He was 50% successful.

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Garry

AirAsia offered these before. Does anyone remember what they used to cost last time around?

Leo

Malaysia version is (2022) RM668, (2024 now) RM1188, about 80% increase. Should be similar to SG version, i.e. S$210+?

Last edited 21 days ago by Leo
Lianne

thank you for this!

Curious El

Not really about the ASEAN pass per se, but in the extreme example above, is AirAsia making a loss with $0 base fee? Can the fuel surcharge cover the cost of flying 1 passenger to KL? Or they’re hoping that the passenger will add on baggage / meals etc?

Leo

Considering it only covers airfare, say S$30 per trip (Bali example above is 20+), it requires passholder to take 13 such flights just to break even the cost… a bit crazy

EL

The pass last year was much better as it included domestic flights – effectively allowing you to depart from senai and transfer at klia

Leonardchidrawi@gmail.com

Aaron, I was sitting with visa card in grubby paw ready to pay 8888 baht for Unlimited ( what is not clear)
And then I read your review.
You are such a party pooper .
But like it says in the classics, every party needs a party pooper

Samuel Lieman

hi Aaron,
I come to this page and checking the offer. on item E-1 it said: … on direct international flights operated by AirAsia, within… continue with: For avoidance of doubt, the Flight Benefits shall be applicable only to direct international flights, and not including any multi-city and/or transit flight.
This pass is ONLY for direct flight! Are you forgot to list this in the limitation for this article or it’s not an issue at all? Just curious…

regards

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