This week we booked our flight to move on to South East Asia at the end of April. I went through countless hours of research to find the best possible combination of price plus airline. Staying true to our flashpacker style of travel, we decided we wouldn’t go on one of the budget airlines (Air Asia or Jetstar) and that we needed to travel on a full-service airline. This is partly due to the length of the flight but also because, at 20 months, Reuben is getting big and heavy and would simply take up too much of the reduced space you get when flying on a budget airline flight. We don’t want to pay for a seat for him until we have to when he’s two in July (and then it’s a whopping 75% of the adult fare). Full-service airlines usually have a policy of saving a spare seat for infants if space on the flight permits. Most of the time we get lucky and have three seats. He is big enough now to sit up in the airline seat after take-off, belted in, and watch kid-friendly videos on the in-flight entertainment. If you ring the airline they will usually provide a child’s meal for a toddler as well.
What are the options for cheap travel to South East Asia from Australia?
A direct flight to Bangkok for Brisbane on Thai Airways was A$750 one way – too expensive. There had to be a better option than this. On Qantas connecting via Sydney was still A$725 – again, too expensive. There are flights on Virgin Australia, Emirates and Thai Aiways but the cheapest option is on Malaysian Airlines via Kuala Lumpur for A$675.
I didn’t really mind where we landed so looked into all the airports in the region that had connecting Air Asia flights to Bangkok – Bali, Singapore and Kuala Lumpur. Brisbane is the closest major airport but if it was A$100 or more cheaper to fly from Sydney or Melbourne we could have flown there – turns out, it wasn’t.
The absolute rock-bottom price I found was Brisbane to Bali via Darwin on Jetstar for A$250. I considered this because it was so darn cheap and an afternoon in Darwin could have been nice. I’ve been to Bali before and we definitely could’ve spent a week there before heading to Bangkok. After a little research we decided against it because of the space issue with Reuben. We could’ve got to Bali direct on Virgin for a little over A$400 but it didn’t seem worth it to travel no frills when there were better options for the same price.
Air Asia don’t fly into Brisbane but service Queensland with flights from KL to the Gold Coast airport at Coolangatta which is just too far from the Sunshine Coast and would have meant a two-hour drive and probably an overnight in a hotel. Malaysian Airlines direct and Emirates via Singapore were all pushing A$800 meaning KL was definitely out of the running.
I really didn’t expect Singapore to be the most budget-friendly option. We found two good options from Brisbane into Changi Airport. Etihad departing in the afternoon for A$510 and Emirates departing at 2.30am for A$410. You might think a 2.30am flight sounds painful and inconvenient but to us it really represented the best option. Emirates is a great airline, flying through the night meant Reuben would be asleep for most of the journey and we would arrive at 8am in the morning meaning an easy connection to an Air Asia flight to Bangkok. Decision made! Now we just need to convince Lee’s Dad to drive us to the airport in Brisbane, over an hour away, at 11pm.
If you’re flying from Melbourne the Emirates flight into Singapore is still a good option, not that much more than flying on Air Asia. If you’re flying from Sydney Air Asia is by far the cheapest option followed by the Etihad flight – it would be cheaper to fly to Brisbane and wait for the Emirates flight.
We booked the following flights:
Emirates flight EK0433. Departing Brisbane 02.30am, arriving Singapore 08.15am, duration 7 hours 45 minutes. Total cost for two adults and one infant – A$870.
Air Asia flight FD3502. Departing Singapore 10.55am, arriving Bangkok 12.15pm, duration 2 hours 20 minutes. Total cost for two adults, one infant, one 20kg bag and four meals – A$234. (We booked the meals because they were incredibly cheap, less than S$4 each and we booked four just in case one of them was yucky! We figured this would be cheaper than eating lunch at Singapore airport as it’ll be lunchtime in Australia when we’re waiting in transit.) We did have to fiddle our departure date to get a reasonable price on the Air Asia flight as there weren’t any sales on.
I always get a huge wave of excitement after booking flights – there’s usually a little victory dance and some high-fiving. There’s something very satisfying about getting a good deal. I can’t wait to jump off the plane in Bangkok and run straight for the nearest sticky rice and mango stand then lay down for a two-hour massage! Six weeks and counting!