Tiger Airways battles to stay in the air
CEO of struggling budget airline 'Tiger Airways' spends the day locked in crisis talks with aviation authorities as management battles to keep the fleet in the air.
The future of Tiger Airways in Australia is in your hands. It is currently in the hands of the Civil Aviation Safety Authority, which has banned it from flying until 6am next Saturday morning and will decide in the next few days whether it will apply to the Federal Court for extension of its ban order to give the airline more time to address serious crew training deficiencies.
But CASA, aware of past criticism that it has been weak and meek in not enforcing airline safety standards, is also intensely sensitive to its need not to pick winners or play favourites.
"We certainly are very mindful of the fact that this is causing disruption to people, that is causing people's travel plans obviously to be stopped this week," CASA spokesman Peter Gibson told the ABC. "So we will get on and do as much work as we can as quickly as possible to resolve these issues, but of course we have always got to put safety first."
The other part of the puzzle is whether Tiger Airways wants to persist with its chronically unprofitable Australian operation – now a little less than half the airline – when its Singapore hub is returning strong surpluses.
But the group’s president and chief executive, Tony Davis, now in Melbourne, said last night that both Tiger's Australian management and its Singaporean parent company, part-owned by Singapore Airlines, were "absolutely committed to the airline's long-term future in Australia".
The blunt question is: if Tiger flies again in Australia, will it have enough customers to sustain it? Have people been scared off by the airline’s grounding?
There’s no doubt the airline has a legion of critics because of its business model, which is designed to eliminate customer service where possible to save money and to charge like a wounded bull for “ancillary” items that are either free or cheap on its competitors.
But it also has a legion of mostly happy customers who love its ultra-cheap fares that have made it possible for many people on a budget to criss-cross the country for the first time.
That will all disappear if the airline decides to cut its losses. My very conservative estimate is that the cheapest available fares on routes contested by Tiger will rise by about 30 per cent if Tiger doesn’t fly again.
I’m hoping that many people who mightn’t ordinarily read this blog are out and about online looking for information, so please weigh in with details of your circumstances and your assessment of the situation.
Have you flown with Tiger? Would you continue to fly with Tiger? Do you know people who still have Tiger bookings into the future? Is it important for competition that Tiger continues to fly the Australian skies? Would it be better for the country if the ultra-cheap fares sold by the likes of Tiger disappeared?