Friday, 16 March 2012

Penang to Changi by Jetstar Asia

My recent trip to Singapore was only the second and third time that I had flown with Jetstar Asia. The first time was some two years ago, I think, when I chose this airline over AirAsia because I wanted to try something new. I was impressed then by the efficiency despite Jetstar Asia being a budget airline too.

This time, I was heading a group of six people to Singapore and in my midst were three senior citizens, namely, my aunt and my two in-laws. With three senior citizens in tow, I was very concerned about my ability to watch over all three at the same time while at the airport. Luckily, I had my wife and son with me, so we shared the responsibility all round.

Still, it would be a huge responsibility and I had to consider many factors.

Firstly, there was the baggage to think about. As I had expected all of us to travel light without any check-in baggage, my wife, son and myself would likely have to do double duty by carrying their bags as well. That would slow us down.

Secondly, the old folks are not entirely nimble on their feet. At their age, they are slow walkers and we (meaning my wife, son and I) would have to slow ourselves down consciously so that the senior folks could catch up with us.

Thirdly, again because of the old folks, we would prefer an airline that uses an aerobridge at the airport.

The local budget airline, AirAsia, has an irritating habit of refusing to use the aerobridges (a news report once said that the cost of using an aerobridge was equivalent of the airline paying only an extra 25 cents per passenger to the airport management authorities) and would prefer to subject their passengers to a long walk across the apron to their aircraft. It is usually a long walk. Passengers would have to ascend a flight of stairs at the terminal building and then negotiate up another flight of stairs in order to board the aeroplane. Despite their tagline of "Everybody Can Fly," they do not seem to care too much about the inconveniences of older folks or disabled persons who use their services. It's a sort of discrimination against the old and weak. Besides, the weather has been rainy almost every afternoon and I did not fancy walking across a wet airport with them in tow. AirAsia may say that they provide umbrellas but again, when your hands are full, how on earth are you going to handle that bloody contraption?

(However, I must add that I have seen AirAsia making use of the aerobridges at the Penang International Airport on the odd occasions although I do not know why. But more often than not, they don't, and I didn't want to risk it with the senior folks around.) 

That third factor alone convinced me that between the two budget airlines, my only choice of travel between the Penang International Airport and the Changi International Airport was by Jetstar Asia.Therefore, the decision to book my flights through Jetstar Asia simply became a no-brainer. At the very least, I was confident that the management at Jetstar Asia would be sophisticated enough to make use of the aerobridge facilities at the airports.

It was thus not a gamble with using Jetstar Asia but I was proven right anyhow. My three senior relatives were completely well sheltered from the outside elements right from the moment we arrived at the Penang International Airport in Bayan Lepas. We never left the terminal building at all. Getting on board the aeroplane proved to be equally convenient as well. They didn't say anything to me but no comment from them can only mean that there was no discomfort of any sort.

A final word on Jetstar Asia. Their cabin crew was also very professional. In the flights I was on, the crew went out of their way to help passengers stow away their carry-on baggage in the overhead compartments. They were also rather polite. So unlike the other budget airline where, in all my years of travelling with them, seldom have I seen them do the same. As far as I have noticed, they'd just stand around and watch people struggle with their bags and only assist when asked for a helping hand. What a difference between the Orange and the Red.

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