Tiger earns stripes on member fees

TIGER Airways has extracted tens of thousands of dollars from customers without them even getting close to an aircraft, just for the privilege of being among the first to know about upcoming fare sales.

In the latest revenue-raising "innovation" among low-cost airlines, Tiger has started charging passengers a "membership" fee of $29.95 a year to join an email list that gives priority access to sale fares a day before their general release.

Already "thousands" have signed up and paid the joining fee, a Tiger spokeswoman said - even though there are no points accruals or reward redemptions such as in other airline loyalty programs.

Most airlines offer free email alerts spruiking special deals, such as Jetstar's JetMail or Virgin Blue's V-mail.

The move is driven by falling fares. Leading domestic airfares fell more than 15 per cent this month, according to government economists, and budget airlines are looking to more inventive ways of extracting passenger revenue beyond the fare paid.

But after paying for Tiger's email alerts, there is no guarantee you will be able to snare flights at the sale price, for yourself or your companions, as sale bookings are subject to seat availability.

And be warned: there's no refund of the fee if you want to quit later and, after the first year, fees can change "at any time without notice to the member".

And if you want to argue the point, you'll need a Singaporean lawyer, because the membership will be "governed by and interpreted in accordance with the laws of the Republic of Singapore", the airline says.

Tiger Airways Australia's managing director, Crawford Rix, said the idea of "members-only" previews of sales came from customers.

"Our promotions are so popular that many customers have suggested special 'members-only previews'," he said.