AirAsia review: hands down the best food I’ve *ever* eaten on an airplane

AirAsia A320

I know. That’s probably not the kind of title you would normally expect to see for generic AirAsia reviews. It’s not what I expected to experience either, so I guess there’s shock and awe all around.

Wait. Before you get too excited, you need to know that there’s not really a lot of other things that qualify for “shock and awe” in this review. So – it’s probably best if you go grab a beer or a glass of wine before proceeding because you’re going to need to calm down.

My sincerest apologies for hyping this up into something that it’s really not.

AK6123
Penang, Malaysia (PEN) – Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia (KUL)
Sunday, March 1, 2020
Aircraft: A320-216
Registration: 9M-AGM
Duration: 39 minutes
Seat: 4F (Hot Seat)

AirAsia A320 side view
AirAsia A320 side view illustration by Norebbo.com
airasia a320 seat map
Seat map of this AirAsia A320 (courtesy of SeatGuru.com) showing my seat (4F) for this flight to KUL.
ak6123 flight track
Our route from Penang to Kuala Lumpur today as AK6123

The video

I’ve mentioned it several times already, but making videos for these extremely short low cost carrier flights are really difficult. Usually what happens is that I panic and end up shooting far more footage of the time waiting for the flight than I do of the actual flight itself. In other words, I had a whole lot of trimming to do to make sure this video wasn’t a documentary of me just waiting at the airport.

Thankfully, as you just saw, the AirAsia Chicken Rice saved the day. It ended up being the star of the show, and without it, it would’ve been extremely difficult to justify publishing such a lame video.

Well, it wasn’t completely lame. The music (which I got from Epidemic Sound), was pretty good in this one. They’ve always got a wide variety of new tracks to choose from every week, and it makes the process of choosing the soundtrack for my videos fun and easy.

How much did I pay for this AirAsia flight down to Kuala Lumpur?

It’s complicated. You see, the price of this flight was actually bundled into a rather convoluted purchase. For example:

  • It was a 2-segment one-way ticket from Penang to Taipei via Kuala Lumpur
  • This segment from Penang to Kuala Lumpur was booked as a “Hot Seat” – which is AirAsia’s clever marketing term for the seats towards the front of the plane with extra leg room. Note that you’ll also get priority boarding if you’re in a Hot Seat.
  • The second segment of the itinerary was on AirAsiaX. Not AirAsia. I know. That’s confusing for me too.
  • Not only was the second segment on AirAsiaX, it was also in business class.

Without dragging it out any further, I paid $497.02 for this one-way itinerary to Taipei. Personally, I feel that was an excellent price to pay just for the business class segment from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei alone. Having this Hot Seat segment from Penang to Kuala Lumpur thrown in made it all the better.

Please note: some of the links in this article may be affiliate links. This means that I will get paid a commission if you buy something or take an action after clicking one of them.

As always, I use my American Express Platinum card to make the purchase. Because I earn 5X points on all airfare purchases with that card, I earned a grand total of 2,485 Membership Rewards points for this itinerary. Nice!

Pros and cons of the AirAsia A320 Hot Seat

Is it rude of me to admit that I was expecting the worst before this flight? I mean, AirAsia is essentially the Spirit or EasyJet of Asia, and I was expecting a rather miserable experience. Especially since this flight required me to get out of bed at 3 AM.

Some would say that that’s not the fault of the airline, and that shouldn’t be included in this AirAsia review, but I beg to differ. They were the ones who decided to time their Penang to Kuala Lumpur flight at 6:40 AM.

I was booked in a “Hot Seat” though, which meant that my experience would be elevated (slightly). According to AirAsia, perks such as priority boarding and extra leg room are yours if you choose to pony up the extra Pesos.

Pros

  • As I’ve already mentioned, there are some really good deals to be had on AirAsia. I can’t believe how little I paid for this entire itinerary up to Taipei.
  • Everything ran on time and exactly on schedule. There were no surprises, and the process from checking in at Penang to deplaning in Kuala Lumpur was simple and easy.
  • The food! OMG the food. No, it isn’t free, and yes – it is a little expensive. However, the hot meal that I was served was probably the best meal that I’ve ever been served in economy class. That’s right. I’m knocking the meal that I had on my Turkish Airlines economy experience from Chicago to Istanbul out of the number one spot. AirAsia Chicken Rice rules all.
  • I quite liked the interior design of the aircraft. It was also spotless and clean.

Cons

  • Nothing is free on AirAsia. If you so much as want a sip of water, you’re gonna have to pay for a full bottle.
  • I didn’t find the extra leg room of the Hot Seat to be all that generous actually.

The full video transcript of my AirAsia review – with loads of detailed pics (and cheesy commentary)

As a reminder, everything you’re about to see has been extracted from the video that I created for this flight. Yeah, I’ve added a few extra little bit of details here and there. However, if you’re the kind of person too much prefers watching a video, do be sure to check that out.

Arriving at the airport

Don’t get me wrong. I love reviewing airlines for a living, but having to get out of bed at 3 AM to catch an ultra low cost carrier flight in a strange country where I don’t understand the language and isn’t always as fun as it sounds. Despite all that, I somehow managed to pull myself together and end up where I needed to be.

Hey everyone, my name is Scott, I’m the founder of SANspotter.com, and I’m in Penang Malaysia this morning checking in for AirAsia flight number 6123 to Kuala Lumpur.

sanspotter Apple Watch S5
I’m ready! Sort of. Maybe? Not really.
Penang airport departures entrance
Wait. There could be deadly diseases anywhere and I’m not taking any chances here. Does this look safe to you?
Penang airport departures
How sad is it that it’s become necessary to scan for deadly viruses before walking into an airport these days? I really can’t wait until things get back to normal again…
AirAsia ticket counter Penang airport
Since the ticket counter isn’t open yet, it looks like I’m going to have to use a kiosk to check in.
AirAsia check in kiosk
Wish me luck…
SANspotter selfie Penang airport
Success! With all the bad luck I’ve had trying to extract boarding passes from kiosks over the years (*cough* Air New Zealand at LHR *cough*)…I’m actually quite surprised that it worked.
Penang airport security checkpoint
Anyway, there’s still a few minutes to go before they open the security checkpoint, and as you can see: social distancing isn’t really a thing here in Malaysia yet.

The AirAsia pre-flight experience in Penang

As usual, once pass the security checkpoint and into the main terminal, I realized that I had arrived far too early. I’ve got a really bad habit of doing this, and the amount of sleep I get while out on the road could be drastically increased if I learn to chill out just a bit.

AirAsia A320
Well, there she is. Although I’m excited to be flying AirAsia for the very first time today, this was not my first choice.
SANspotter selfie PEN airport
I had originally booked a seat on the Cathay Dragon A330 up to Hong Kong, but with mainland China being Ground Zero for COVID-19, “scare Asia” suddenly emerged as the safer option.
Penang airport terminal interior
With only 35 minutes to go before boarding time, the empty gate area was leading me to believe that (just maybe ) everyone else was willing to take the chance of getting sick routing through Hong Kong. And it was *I* that was the foolish one here.
SANspotter Penang airport selfie
Wouldn’t have been the first time.
PEN airport terminal
BTW, the terminal itself here at PEN is fairly nice – if not a bit bland.
gate B7 Penang airport
The good news is that my flight to KUL was departing from gate B7 – which was the very last gate at the far end of the terminal. The long walk helped to kill some time!

The boarding process for AirAsia flight 6123 down to Kuala Lumpur

If you’ve ever flown EasyJet, the process of boarding a AirAsia flight will feel eerily similar. It’s not a strange and awkward as the Ryanair experience, but it is a little different than what you would normally expect at any major airport around the world.

US passport Penang airport
Well – this makes me feel better. It looks like it’s going to be a decent load, and I didn’t make a foolish choice after all.
AirAsia A320 Penang airport
Of course it’s too early to come to that conclusion yet. Let’s get on the plane first before I break my arm trying to pat my own back.
boarding AirAsia flight
Missed being first in line by *thiiiisss* much.
Penang airport jet bridge
Not only that, she came out of absolute nowhere and beat both of us through the door.
boarding AirAsia A320 air stairs
Oh heck yes! It’s not often I get to board via air stairs, and this was unexpectedly awesome.
AirAsia A320 close up
Oh – and no offense to easyJet or anything, but boarding a plane like this in tropical Malaysia is a lot more fun than doing it in cold and rainy Amsterdam.
AirAsia A320 boarding door
About to lose my AirAsia virginity in 3…2…1…

My first impressions of the AirAsia Hot Seat

As a reminder, AirAsia is all about economy. From the seats, to the service, to the entertainment, and everything in between – very little of the AirAsia experience is considered “premium.” Not even these Hot Seats were all that fun and extravagant. Well, that’s not to say that you couldn’t order every drink on the menu and have a really good time, but you know what I mean…

AirAsia A320 cabin
The AirAsia A320 cabin. See? If would have been a little faster (and more aggressive), this could have been a forehead-free pic. Dang it!
AirAsia Hot Seats
I’m in seat 4F this morning, which is a premium seat with a bit of extra leg room. AirAsia calls it a “Hot Seat” btw.
AirAsia Hot Seat leg room
The leg room in these Hot Seats is tepid (at best). By the way, have you ever wondered what’s inside my always-overstuffed carry on bag?
AirAsia A320 safety card
I normally use this safety card footage as b-roll in my videos, but…since the most popular nickname for this airline is “scare Asia”, it’s probably a good idea to take notice of where the nearest exits are.
AirAsia A320 safety card pic
Maybe canceling that Cathay Dragon flight was a bad idea?
AirAsia menu
Unlike what I mentioned in my Scoot Airlines review, I was fully cognizant of the fact that I preordered a meal for this flight.
AirAsia menu cover
Sure, this is only a 45 minute hop over to Kuala Lumpur, but…I never miss an opportunity to over-indulge.
SANspotter selfie AirAsia
Despite all the scare Asia jokes, I’m having a really good time so far (even though I’m thinking about all the footage I need for the review and the fact that I look like a dork whenever I think about footage that I need for the review).
AirAsia seat design
This seems to be a fantastic crew (on an airplane with awesome seat colors), and I don’t have a care in the world at the moment.
SANspotter social distancing
I’m also social distancing like a boss, so…yeah. Life is good.
AirAsia A320 engine
Random thought here as we’re rolling out of departure. I wonder what QFS Aviation is doing at this exact moment? No doubt working on another amazing video, I’m sure, and I can’t wait to see it.
AirAsia departure from Penang Malaysia
With only 45 minutes of flying time over to Kuala Lumpur, I’m gonna need all the footage I can get to make a full video out of this.
SANspotter getting b-roll
Here’s some completely random b-roll to help make the video longer…
AirAsia Wi-Fi
Did you know that there is in-flight entertainment available on all flights in the AirAsia network? I sure didn’t.
AirAsia Wi-Fi streaming entertainment
Anyway, it’s a streaming service, and from what I could tell it was fast and responsive.

What’s the food like on AirAsia?

My God, you have no idea how long I’ve been waiting to get to the part about the food in this AirAsia review! However, I feel like I’ve given way too much information already. Especially if you seen the video.

Regardless of what you know so far, I’m just going to say this: AirAsia Chicken Rice is otherworldly. Think I’m exaggerating? Well I’m not because there’s apparently a lot of other people that think the same thing. Next time I’m in Malaysia, I’m definitely checking out the AirAsia restaurant in Kuala Lumpur.

AirAsia food
It’s time to eat! And more importantly…I think I may have found an awesome way to kill tray table viruses.
AirAsia hot food
I’m no scientist, but I’m just gonna go with the assumption that a steaming hot container of food placed on top of pesky viruses will kill them dead.
SANspotter AirAsia chicken rice
So yeah. I paid extra for this meal when I booked this reservation, and I’m going on record as saying it was the BEST meal that I have ever been served in economy class. Even though several months ago I made a video about awesome airplane food and didn’t declare this the winner. I’m indecisive like that.
AirAsia chicken rice
I’m dead serious – even though it doesn’t look like much, it was phenomenal.
SANspotter AirAsia review
The exact moment I declared my love for AirAsia Chicken Rice. Mind. Blown.

Never in a million years would I have guessed that my best ever meal in economy would have happened on a 45 minute AirAsia flight. I don’t know what was in that stuff, but…damn.

A few words about “Hot Seat” comfort on AirAsia

Maybe because it was the fact that this was an incredibly empty flight and I had an entire row to myself (and my belly was full of the best meal I’ve had a in a good long while), but I was decently comfy up there in the Hot Seat. Though, to be honest, it felt nearly the same as my EasyJet experience from Amsterdam to London last year. These are perfectly fine seats for short segments such as this.

SANspotter AirAsia trip report
I may be looking at an A320 winglet, but I can assure you that I’ve got chicken and rice on my mind.

What’s the verdict? Would I fly AirAsia again?

I would! And I did. I’ll be posting my AirAsiaX review about the segment from Kuala Lumpur to Taipei soon, but I will say that it was an equally good experience as this was.

However, this segment down to Kuala Lumpur isn’t over yet. Where was I? Oh yeah – basking in the sweet sweet glow of AirAsia Chicken Rce. Combine that with a beautiful sunrise right outside my window, and all was pretty much perfect in the world.

Malaysia sunrise
Sure is a beautiful morning out there, isn’t it?
AirAsia A320 engine and wing
The sun is rising off in the distance, we’re 10 minutes ahead of schedule, and my belly is full of the best chicken and rice I’ve ever had. Sorry Cathay Dragon. I’m not missing you at all.
landing in Kuala Lumpur
Why am I still thinking about that chicken and rice when 1). I’ve got rows of seats to myself and 2). It’s a stunningly beautiful morning out there? Because it was truly phenomenal, that’s why! Duh.
Arrival at Kuala Lumpur
Welcome to Kuala Lumpur! Local time is chicken o’clock and somehow we managed to chicken 15 minutes ahead of schedule.
Kuala Lumpur airport
Oh, and if I haven’t mentioned it already, the Chicken Rice is phenomenal on AirAsia. Just wanted to make that clear….
AirAsia A320 KUL airport
Pulling up to another AirAsia A320. Oh – and to all my amazing Patrons: I wish you good health, happiness, and of course…unlimited supplies of AirAsia Chicken Rice. You guys and gals are the best, and I really mean it when I say “thank you” for your continued support.
SANspotter unbuckling seat belt AirAsia
No, you guys – I’m unbuckling my seatbelt – NOT fondling myself. lol
End of AirAsia flight
With COVID-19 just getting started as I was walking off this plane, all I could really think about (other than AirAsia Chicken Rice) was what was going to happen with the SANspotter brand over the next 6 months or so. Scary stuff. Anyway, thanks for watching, keep your distance from everyone else, and I’ll catch you in the next one.
Kuala Lumpur jet bridge
(me not taking my own advice about staying away from others) #facepalm

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