Tigerair Australia takes a giant leap forward

Now a fully owned subsidiary of Virgin Australia, Tigerair Australia has recently undergone a major transformation – even ‘changing its  stripes’ –  in a bid to enhance its customer service and market fit.

Tigerair Australia’s focus remains on being the budget airline of choice for Australia, but the means of achieving that aim is constantly under review, as illustrated by a new look unveiled late last year.

A wide range of changes included new uniforms for cabin crew, pilots and check-in staff, while the fleet gained a 14th Airbus A320 aircraft. Customer communications were enhanced with a mobile app, SMS notifications and an improved call centre, and a new customer-friendly website boasted a superior booking and check-in system.

“When we rebranded to Tigerair and the joint venture with Virgin Australia was first launched in July 2013, we made a promise to Australian consumers that we would listen and we would change,” says CEO Rob Sharp. “The past couple of years have been focused on rebuilding the business and putting the right platform in place for future sustainable growth, with the customer at the core of everything we do.

“We are delivering on those promises. Our flights have never been consistently more punctual, our customer service never stronger and our customer satisfaction levels are now at an all-time high. It’s time to spread the word: a tiger can change its stripes.”

The latest Airbus A320 was put to work in Sydney, connecting the city with Cairns and Adelaide. It has now been joined in the Tigerair Australia fleet by three Boeing 737-800s, which are all based in Melbourne. These will assist the airline’s first foray into international services with a Bali route beginning in late March.

The international services will feature all-economy seating for up to 180 passengers, with five rows offering extra legroom – 18 seats at the front of the cabin and 12 seats in exit rows that can be purchased in advance.

Tigerair Australia will also offer a mix of free and paid wireless inflight entertainment for use on passengers’ own devices. Travellers will also be able to buy from an extensive inflight menu and purchase extra luggage over and above the 7kg free carry-on luggage allowance if required.

The aircraft have come from Tigerair Australia owner, the Virgin Australia Group, and all three have been reconfigured and rebranded in Tigerair livery. The new service to Bali – which is also being connected to Adelaide and Perth – will add 2,500 weekly seats through Melbourne Airport and Tiger Australia has recruited more than 100 new cabin crew to help cope with the extra operational demands.

The Bali flights will benefit from 70 new crew, specially trained in short-haul international service, while 50 new crew will help to accommodate extra frequencies on domestic services as well as new routes such as Melbourne to Coffs Harbour. The airline is already a major employer with some 1,100 staff.

The boost the airline is providing to the city as well as the state of Victoria was enough to persuade minister for industry Lily D’Ambrosio MP to attend an unveiling of the first Boeing 737 in Tigerair Australia livery alongside CEO Rob Sharp and Melbourne Airport CEO Lyell Strambi.

“The new international service and additional aircraft are exciting steps in the Tigerair Australia offering and we’re thrilled the newly branded aircraft will call Melbourne home,” Strambi noted at the official unveiling ceremony. “The basing of three additional aircraft in Melbourne further cements Victoria’s position as Australia’s home of low-fare growth and we will continue to work with Tigerair to further support them and Victoria.”

Promoting the new flights has been made easier by a three-year deal with Flight Centre Travel Group. The agreement calls for joint sales and marketing efforts, significantly growing the airline’s distribution possibilities.

“Tigerair consistently provides the best-value airfares in market,” Sharp comments. “We provide the seat for the lowest fare possible and then allow our customers to choose what, if any, optional extras they wish to pay for. Flight Centre has some 1,500 retail and corporate travel shops and businesses in Australia alone and a dedicated sales team of 7,000 people committed to providing the best-value airfare and travel deals. Not only does the partnership open up new sales and distribution channels, it also helps drive awareness of the new-look Tigerair product and experience.”

Sharp adds that while the partnership with Flight Centre is an unorthodox one for a true low-cost model focused only on direct online bookings, it is reflective of the changes at Tigerair. “We are now working with a number of travel agents where it makes commercial sense,” he says.

The agency is equally appreciative of the new stance. Graham Turner, CEO, points out that Tigerair Australia has developed a solid presence in the market and its offering has become an attractive proposition for its leisure and corporate travel customers.

“All of the changes announced… will provide a better customer experience on the ground and in the air,” Sharp concludes.

(This article first appeared in Routes News – Issue 2, 2016)