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Virgin Australia gets green light for Tigerair Australia resume international flights

written by australianaviation.com.au | December 11, 2018
Rob Sharp says both Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia will fly out of Western Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)
Rob Sharp says both Virgin Australia and Tigerair Australia will fly out of Western Sydney Airport. (Seth Jaworski)

Virgin Australia has moved one step closer to potentially deploying its low-cost carrier unit Tigerair Australia on international flights.

Australia’s International Air Services Commission (IASC) has approved Virgin Australia’s application to vary a number of its traffic rights agreements to include a condition permitting Tigerair Australia to utilise the allocated capacity.

The applications, made in August, covered Virgin Australia’s traffic rights for the Cook Islands, New Zealand, the Solomon Islands, Tonga and Vanuatu.

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At the time, the company said the applications were “part of streamlining the economic regulatory arrangements underpinning our international operations”.

The IASC approved the request requests on November 30, noting in its decisions there was “public benefit arising from the proposed use of the capacity” by Tigerair Australia on the above routes.

“The Commission has come to the view that Tiger International is reasonably capable of obtaining any licences, permits or other approvals required to operate on and service the route; and of using the capacity allocated under the determination,” the IASC said.

TIGERAIR AUSTRALIA LAST FLEW INTERNATIONALLY IN 2017

Tigerair Australia previously operated international flights in 2016 and 2017.

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In March 2016, the airline started flights to Bali from Adelaide, Melbourne and Perth with Boeing 737-800s, taking over flights previously operated by Virgin Australia.

Less than a year later, in February 2017, Tigerair Australia was forced to withdraw from Bali after after reaching an impasse with Indonesian regulators over its operating permits to serve the popular Indonesian tourist destination.

Since then, its focus has been on expanding in the Australian domestic market and pressing ahead with a fleet transition from Airbus A320s to Boeing 737-800s.

A file image of a Tigerair Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-VUB at Melbourne Airport. (Brian Wilkes)
A file image of a Tigerair Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-VUB at Melbourne Airport. (Brian Wilkes)

VIRGIN AUSTRALIA RAISED TASMAN ROLE FOR TIGERAIR AUSTRALIA FOLLOWING END OF AIR NEW ZEALAND-VIRGIN AUSTRALIA

Virgin Australia raised the prospect of Tigerair Australia being deployed on trans-Tasman routes after Air New Zealand announced it was walking away from its alliance with the Australian carrier in favour of going it alone in the trans-Tasman market.

Air New Zealand said it April one of the reasons for terminating the seven-year joint-venture, which officially ended on October 28 2018, was to deliver a more consistent customer experience with its own aircraft.

Since then, it has signed a codeshare agreement with Qantas for access to Australian domestic destinations it does not fly to. There was no codesharing or coordination on trans-Tasman services and the arrangement did not require regulator approval on either side of the Tasman.

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has scheduled new flights to Auckland, Queenstown and Wellington – including a seasonal Newcastle-Auckland service – while Air New Zealand has boosted its schedule to Brisbane, the Gold Coast, Melbourne and Sydney.

A file image of Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-YIR at Auckland Airport. (G B_NZ/Wikimedia Commons)
A file image of Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 VH-YIR at Auckland Airport. (G B_NZ/Wikimedia Commons)

Freed from the shackles of the alliance with Air New Zealand that required an alignment of on-board products and services, Virgin Australia was offering economy class passengers travelling between Australia and New Zealand a 23kg checkin allowance with every ticket, in addition to what the airline has described as a “substantial meal and drink”.

The airline has also announced a streamlined premium passenger lounge network for its international flights out of Australia and New Zealand for eligible members of its Velocity frequent flyer program.

Despite Tigerair Australia being one step closer to expanding its network beyond Australia, it should be noted both Virgin Australia chief executive John Borghetti and Tigerair Australia chief executive Merren McArthur have cautioned not to expect that move any time soon.

“When the alliance was terminated, I said at the time it would free us up to do some things that we would not otherwise do such as potentially putting Tiger on the Tasman, potentially upgrading our product, opening lounges et cetera,” Borghetti told reporters after the company’s annual general meeting on November 7.

That’s what we are doing. I mean, we are not doing all of those things now, but the product and the schedules and everything else we are.”

Similarly, McArthur said at the CAPA – Centre for Aviation Australia Pacific aviation and corporate travel summit in Sydney in August her focus was on the airline’s operational performance and the domestic market.

“Right now, I’m just focused on optimising our domestic network, plenty of opportunities there,” McArthur said.

“I think we will continually assess that market as it moves through these changes and if there’s an opportunity down the track we will assess it and it might be an opportunity for Tiger but nothing in plan at the moment.

“The airline has been through a massive amount of change over the last 18 months and that’s impacted the business performance so my focus is actually get it back to basics, back focused on its operational performance.”


VIDEO: A look at Virgin Australia’s wifi offering from the its YouTube channel. The airline is rolling out wifi across its fleet, including on the Boeing 737-800s that are flown on its trans-Tasman services

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11 Comments

  • Harrison

    says:

    I Will Booking The First Flight Don’t Care Where In New Zealand It Is This Is Great News

  • John

    says:

    Tiger should probably fly thin routes to NZ like BNE/DUD & NTL/AKL plus a few years ago Virgin announced they were flying to Invercargill(IVC), then quickly changed it’s mind. IVC is closest alternate to Queenstown by far by road, even though roughly same distance as crow flies from DUD.

    Other tested routes like SYD/ROT & BNE/HLZ & flights to PMR could all work with lower cost Tiger on a low frequency basis, even if back of clock.

    • Chris

      says:

      I agree with you. Invercargill terminal has been rebuilt and includes customer/immigration capability plus the airport is B737/A320 capable. Hamilton Airport (HLZ) airport company have said they are in talks with ‘some’ airlines. The airport’s terminal already has a dedicated biosecurity/immigration/customs area, that can be reactivated at any time. Hamilton is NZ’s 4th largest city and growing, is 2 hours drive from Auckland, has up to 13 daily bus/coach services between Hamilton and Auckland, 6 daily bus/coach services to Rotorua and 3 daily bus/coach services to Tauranga, is 1.5 hours drive to Tauranga ( NZ’s 6th largest city) and 1.5hrs drive to Rotorua making a large population catchment for Tigerair. Hamilton has 8 daily week day flights and 4 daily weekend Air NZ regional flights to Wellington, Auckland and Palmerston North. Hamilton airport fees are way cheaper than Auckland Airport. I would see Tigerair operating BNE/SYD/MEL to HLZ, BNE/IVC and NTL/AKL. Not sure about Tigerair services to/from Palmerston North (PMR) but could do so, as the there is a growing in the catchment regions. With regards to Rotorua, I am not sure unless there a subsidy by Rotorua. Whilst Rotorua is B737/A320 compatible, the cost of bio-security, customs and immigration processing would be expensive, if there only 3 or 4 flights per week.

      • Mark

        says:

        IVC is obvious as they have customs/immigration officers just few kms down the road at sea port. Also Queenstown airport gets very congested at certain times of day & weather closes Queenstown often. Doubt if IVC would have the same weather issues & they have a much longer runway capable of taking some widebodies.

  • Tom

    says:

    For me it will come down to what aircraft I could comfortably travel in for 6 or 7 hours. No it wont be a 737 or similar!

  • Harrison

    says:

    New Zealand Is 3 Hours From Most Of Australia

    • David

      says:

      Cook Islands(RAR)/SYD is 7 hours in an Air NZ 777-200. 6 hours the other way. Auckland/Perth about the same. Christchurch/Perth a little less.

      It might mean Queenstown/Perth nonstop will be viable maybe twice a week ?

  • Tom

    says:

    Cook Islands and Tonga are 6 or 7 hours direct , even 3 hours is pushing my limits in a 737. Thats why Emirates is first choice for me when crossing the Tasman or Qantas if I can get on an A330 or the AirNZ 777 or 787

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    I can understand airline operators looking for new destinations with maybe their LCC equipment, it is all about profit, fine BUT, if you think that you will retain customers if all you can offer them is an A320-200 with 29ins pitch be it for whatever period of travel time then I have news for you. New airlines optg in the international arena need to empathize with the customer comfort needs and be aware of what your competitor is offering, if you can’t at least match them, then forget it. Tiger may well have or be in the process of obtaining international approvals but that will be an ambit authority allowing them to be more specific with the route being applied for. One port that comes to mind is BNE NLK and SYD NLK. I believe that at the moment the Oz Govt pays NZ a subsidy for their ops, maybe worth a look but not if its only 29ins. Get real chaps

    • David

      says:

      You don’t seem to understand that seat pitch is not a measure of legroom. …it all depends on the actusl seat design. Some aircraft with 29 inch pitch can have more legroom than othrr swats at 31 inch pitch. Slimline seats provide much more legroom thsn older style seats

      • Rod Pickin

        says:

        Your reply is acknowledged and your comments noted

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