Air Raiders

Budget airlines are taking over Asia's skiesincreasing competition and making travel accessible to millions

Paula Bronstein / Getty

A flight stewardess serves drinks and snacks on board the AirAsia Boeing 737-300 flight.

It's only moments before takeoff when Tony Fernandes, CEO of high-flying budget airline AirAsia, rushes onto a plane destined for the Malaysian resort town of Kota Kinabalu. But there's no plum seat waiting for him. Even top managers at no-frills airlines don't get any frills. Fernandes treks through the crowded plane searching for an empty chair, ending up in one of the last rows. When flight attendants appear with a cart of sodas and instant noodles for sale, he plunks down 80¢ for a can of Milo chocolate drink. Fernandes then spends much of the two-hour journey chatting and shaking hands...

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