The Mystery Behind AIR ASIA AND MALAYSIAN VISA RESOLVED:
Air Asia has extremely cheap flights for passengers traveling from Hyderabad to Kuala Lumpur. Now, if Malaysia is the only country you are visiting then this could be a steal deal for you. But if you plan to visit another country and halt at any Malaysian Airport till your next flight is bound to take off (even for one hour) you require a visa! YES . You heard me right, a weird rule which applies to Air Asia passengers only, states that you need to have a valid Malysian visa to leave the terminal, even if you are not leaving the airport itself.
I had a flight from Manila to Kuala Lumpur and the next flight from Kuala Lumpur to Hyderabad in a five hour gap. I didn’t have to leave the airport but I had to check out my bag from the first flight and check it in for the second one, which means I was required to leave the terminal in order to check in my bags for the next flight. I had read on the internet that a transit pass is available at the airport itself for Indians traveling via Malaysia.
But when I went to the transit visa counter at the airport, I was informed that I was not eligible for a pass as one needs to be working in another county and also has to produce their residential address in the other country they are working at to be able to apply for a transit pass. This information was not available on their immigration website and I also went to the Malaysian Embassy in India to confirm my eligibility for a transit pass before leaving for my trip, but I was not given any such information on the procedure.
The immigration officer at the airport bluntly refused to let me leave the terminal and instead asked me to head to the Air Asia counter to request them to check in my bags for me for the scheduled flight to Hyderabad. I went to the Air Asia counter and they said they were not allowed to check in my bags for me due to security reasons. Air Asia is a point to point low carrier airline and therefore a passenger traveling via Air Asia needs to produce a visa whereas, if you are traveling via Malaysian Airline, this rule does not apply. Air Asia has very few connecting flights from specific destinations (Hyderabad not being one of them). So if you are a “fly thru” passenger they check in your luggage for you and present you your boarding pass, so that you don’t have to leave the terminal. If you have booked two separate Air Asia flights on different PNR numbers then you do not qualify as a “fly thru” passenger and require a visa.
I was stuck at the terminal with no where to go.They suggested I should take my flight to Hyderabad without my luggage and then report my luggage as missing at the Air Asia counter at Hyderabad. I politely declined their offer as I had a flight to Mumbai the same day and couldn’t take the risk of leaving all my luggage behind at Kuala Lumpur. Then they said they would have to deport me to Manila, since there was no other option. I told them my Single Entry Tourist visa for Manila had expired as I have left the country already so I would not be able to travel back there. I even offered to pay extra and get a new ticket to India but that was not a possibility since I was not allowed to leave the terminal whatsoever.
I cried at the Air Asia counter pleading for help, but it was of no use, so I went to the Immigration officer and explained him my situation. He came with me to the Air Asia counter and asked them to check in my luggage for me. Finally the Air Asia staff agreed to make an exception for me. In return, I had to write an online feedback form for the staff that helped me check in my baggage so that they do not lose their jobs because of me.
When I arrived at the Hyderabad Airport, I was relieved to find both my bags on the luggage belt advancing towards me! One of the bags was slit open, like someone had tried to rob something out of it but thankfully I had nothing valuable in the bag that they tried to tear open. Also I was very tired to check what was missing so I just left for my flight back to Bombay.