Tiger Airways given all-clear to resume flights

Tiger Airways to resume flights

Tiger Airways announces a reduced fleet and base closures as it's cleared to resume flights.

The six-week grounding of Tiger Airways Australia has ended, with the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) today lifting the ban on the airline.

CASA aviation safety director John McCormick announced the lifting of the suspension in Brisbane this afternoon.

Mr McCormick said a new set of conditions had been imposed on the airline.

The lift on the ban is effective immediately.

"Tiger can resume operations that are safe at a time of their choosing," said McCormick.

In a statement, the airline said it "will resume ticket sales today and will implement a gradual resumption of domestic services from Friday" - the first flight expected to be a Melbourne to Sydney trip around midday.

The safety authority found missing, incomplete and outdated documentation relating to pilot training, operational procedures and maintenance oversight among other problems, Mr McCormick said.

As the safety authority could not determine the currency of pilot training from the poorly kept records, all of Tiger's 110 pilots have been put through proficiency retraining in aircraft simulators, he said.

A small number of pilots failed aspects of the retraining, he said, requiring them to undertake more remedial training.

The airline was grounded after the safety agency lost confidence in the airline following two low-flying incidents, one into Melbourne airport and one into Avalon, but Mr McCormick revealed his agency had found problems with the airline dating back into last year, which were unresolved at the time of the latest flying incidents.

Systems and personnel underpinning the airline did not keep pace with its rapid expansion from its start-up in November 2007, growing from four planes to 10 in the fleet, he said.

CASA has imposed conditions on Tiger's pilot training, crew rostering, updating document control manuals (the airline's reference materials) improving safety management systems and maintenance oversight and the appointment of suitably qualified and experienced senior personnel.

Some of these, including retraining pilots, were preconditions for being allowed to fly again, while the airlin has been given a timeframe of months to achive on others.

"Tiger must comply with these conditions while they are in place," Mr McCormick said.

Tiger will be allowed to fly only 18 sectors a day (or nine return flights a day) for the rest of August, with any expansion subject to the safety agency's approval. Before the grounding Tiger was flying about 60 flights a day.

It also means Tiger will be forced to cull a number of its ports of call from its route network.

"Any failure to comply with these conditions will be taken seriously," said Mr McCormick.

The airline would be subject to ongoing close scrutiny, he said.

"We will also be meeting regularly with the airline to review ongoing safety performance and compliance with the conditions on the airline's operations," he said.

Mr McCormick said he would be happy to fly on the airline now, and to put his family on board, too.

CASA grounded Tiger Airways Australia from flying on July 1 due to a "serious and imminent risk to air safety".

The no-frills, Singapore-based airline's grounding has resulted in upheaval for the carrier over the past few weeks, including costing its former chief executive Crawford Rix his job.

The Singapore-based group's chief executive, Tony Davis, has relocated to Australia to fix the mess.

The grounding caused disruptions for tens of thousands of passengers who had their travel plans ruined during school holidays and beyond.

It also cost the airline dearly, nearly $12 million over the past six weeks, on top of $13.7 million in forgone ticket sales and refunds, and $1.4 in lost ancillary revenues.

That comes on top of the airline's $18 million loss from Australian operations for the first financial quarter this year.

The airline also drew the ire of federal and state consumer watchdogs for continuing to sell tickets while grounded, before suspending sales after warnings.

Ticket holders have faced weeks of delays in receiving refunds for tickets paid for flights that never took place.

Tiger's Singaporean acting chief executive Chin Yau Seng said last week "our relaunch will focus on route profitability and operational excellence", lending weight to speculation that Tiger will cull a number of its unprofitable domestic routes here, including withdrawing flights from Avalon Airport near Melbourne.