Virgin Australia names Merren McArthur as new Tigerair Australia chief executive

A file image of new Tigerair Australia chief executive Merren McArthur. (Virgin Australia)
A file image of new Tigerair Australia chief executive Merren McArthur. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia has named Merren McArthur as the chief executive of the airline group’s low-cost carrier (LCC) unit Tigerair Australia.

Currently, McArthur is group executive for Virgin Australia Regional Airlines (VARA) and Virgin Australia Cargo.

She will commence her new role on May 7 2018, Virgin Australia said in a statement on Wednesday.

Tigerair Australia executive manager flight operations Peter Wilson has been the LCC’s acting chief executive since June 30 2017, when Rob Sharp was called up to head office to run Virgin Australia airlines following the sudden departure of John Thomas.

Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti said McArthur brought a “wealth of experience” to the position.

“Merren has done an outstanding job in transforming and strengthening both the VARA and Cargo businesses and I am confident that she will make an invaluable contribution in this new role,” Borghetti said in a statement.

McArthur has been at Virgin Australia since 2008, when she joined the company as its general counsel and later as group executive for alliances, network planning and revenue management.

Tigerair Australia aircraft at Melbourne Airport. (Rob Finlayson)
Tigerair Australia aircraft at Melbourne Airport. (Rob Finlayson)

The veteran aviation executive will arrive at Tigerair Australia with LCC in the midst of a fleet replacement program where Airbus A320s are gradually being replaced by Boeing 737s being sourced from Virgin Australia.

The refleeting exercise was first announced in July 2016, with Virgin Australia saying at the time Tigerair Australia would become an all-Boeing 737 operator within three years.

Virgin Australia said in February Tigerair Australia had 14 A320s and three 737-800s in its fleet at December 31 2017. The fleet is unchanged from June 30 2017, according to Virgin Australia’s 2016/17 full year results presentation.

A summary of the Virgin Australia fleet at December 31 2017. (Virgin Australia)
A summary of the Virgin Australia fleet at December 31 2017. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia chief financial officer Geoff Smith told reporters in February the “primary focus” had been on the withdrawal of the airline’s Embraer E190 and ATR turboprops.

“Given that we have shown good progress on that, our intention is concurrently turning to the A320 program,” Smith said.

“Definitely it has already commenced and it will be continuing to the back end of that third year of the program and into the fourth.”

Tigerair Australia’s 14 A320s are leased aircraft.

There is also the question of whether Tigerair Australia will resume international operations.

The LCC started flights from Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth to Bali in March 2016 with three 737-800s that were painted in Tigerair Australia livery but operated by Virgin Australia pilots.

However, Tigerair Australia was forced to permanently withdraw from Bali in February 2017 after reaching an impasse with Indonesian regulators over its permits to serve the popular Indonesian tourist hotspot.

It was the airline’s only international destination.

Asked at the Routes Asia 2018 conference in Brisbane on Monday when Tigerair Australia would fly internationally, Sharp said “at the moment its focus is on bringing a big fleet change in”.

“For Tigerair this reinvestment stage over the next couple of years will reinvigorate its product, lower its cost base, increase its revenue and that’s its focus at the moment. It’s quite a complex program,” Sharp said.

“Tiger has nothing to announce in terms of international at the moment. It still does remain on the agenda, but for the moment it is really around that major fleet change.”

Separately, Virgin Australia said VARA head of flight operations Mark Davey would take on the role of VARA executive general manager.

A new cargo boss has not been named.

Comments

  1. Kitty says

    Lucas, only the second CEO in the VA history of the company over 4 years. 3rd Australian CEO in 11 years. When SIN owned it it was a shambles. Thou you can not associate the two together.

  2. Lucas says

    Kitty, not quite 4 years… Virgin’s 100% take over took place late 2014,
    past CEO’s/ Managing Directors
    Not including previous SIN management
    Tony Davies, Chin you Seng, Crawford Rix, Shelley Roberts, Chris Ward, Andrew David, then Tony Davies (again somewhere in between), Rob Sharp, and now Merren. This does not include all the interim CEOs like the likes of Peter Wilson, and Harry Holling.
    Happy to stand corrected, but in under 4 years Tiger has had 3 CEOs, just saying.

  3. Pete says

    I hope she does a better job @ Tiger than the schmozzle Virgin Cargo has become, including
    the messy, unreliable 146 operation run by Pionair/Skyforce.