Tiger Airways grounded over safety concerns
Tiger Airways is endangered.
All Australian domestic flights operated by Singapore Airline’s carrier have been grounded until July 31 due to safety concerns. The troubled airline’s future is uncertain after its most recent breach of safety standards.
The Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) successfully sought orders from the Federal Court yesterday to extend the grounding. The carrier stands to lose up to an estimated AU$1 miilion a day -- the longer it remains on the ground, the less likely its return.
Crawford Rix, the Australian chief executive of Tiger, has resigned. Tony Davis, international chief executive of Tiger Airways, has been having crisis talks with CASA in Melbourne.
The “last straw” came last Thursday night when a Tiger Airways Airbus A320 from Sydney to Tullamarine (Melbourne) breached minimum altitude levels -- first on a failed landing attempt and then a second time as it grappled with a tailwind.
The plane was 15 kilometers from the tarmac at about 500 meters altitude, well below the 750 meters stipulated by the aviation authority.
But the writing was already on the wall. CASA gave the airline a “show cause” order as to why their license shouldn’t be revoked in March, citing deficiencies with pilot training and maintenance procedures.
“(CASA) has lost confidence in Tiger’s ability to manage safety appropriately,” CASA spokesperson Peter Gibson said. “The last thing CASA wants to do is put airlines on the ground and inconvenience the traveling public, but safety has to come first.”
Tiger has a busy month ahead in reassuring safety regulators that it can comply with standards.
In a statement on its website, Tiger said it desired to “resolve the concerns (CASA has) raised and aim to resume our services as quickly as possible."
The airline is refunding all booked tickets, including bookings it optimistically took this week as CASA sought to extend the grounding.
The grounding is unprecedented in Australian aviation history, although a partial suspension was applied to the Australian-owned Ansett Airlines, shortly before its collapse in September 2001.
Tiger’s downfall is other airlines’ gain
Tiger Airways began service in Australia in 2007 with a fleet of five aircraft then swiftly doubled its size.
Singapore Airlines began with a 49 percent share in the budget carrier, but has reduced its share to 33 percent.
Tiger Airways has lost AU$7.1 million in the last year and its share price has crashed on the Singapore stock exchange, while Singapore Airlines shares continue to grow.
Qantas and Virgin have both put on extra services to accommodate travelers affected by the Tiger grounding. Qantas engineers called off a strike that was set to roll out across the country this week.
With a tarnished brand and mounting losses, the question remains how long Tiger Airways -- even if it is given flight approval by CASA –- will remain in Australian skies.
Local obituaries for the budget carrier are already being written.