“Pay peanuts, get monkey”, this is just one of the many comments hot off the news that Singapore-based budget airline, Tiger Airways had canceled 40 flights out of Singapore’s Changi airport for the past four consecutive days, stranding passengers in airports throughout the region with no end in sight. Some of the comments go as far as to put down the passengers, saying they ‘had it coming’ because such things ‘are to be expected’ from booking flights with a low-cost carrier. In a statement released to state-run news channel Channel News Asia, the airline claims that the airline’s two Airbus A320s have been experiencing ‘technical issues’ over the past few weeks, and were being grounded for extended checks and maintenance. It says that one aircraft had electrical faults in the braking system and had to be sent back to Airbus in Toulouse, France while the other was experiencing fuel tank contamination.
According to Changi Airport, one aircraft DID leave for Toulouse but I’ve heard from too many sources who are familiar with the issue that there was absolutely no fuel tank contamination. If the ‘fuel tank contamination’ reason is true, it would hardly be an isolated incident; other airlines would have reported it because it’d be a sign of a greater problem with the fuel supply storage BUT that’s not the case.
The real reason, was reported two months ago:
Tiger Airways cancels flights on pilot shortage, say press reports
Tiger Airways Holdings canceled at least 10 flights in the four days to Aug. 18 because of a shortage of pilots, the Straits Times reported, without citing anyone. More than 20 Tiger Air pilots have resigned since June and the airline has tapped Indonesia’s Mandala Airlines for temporary help, the newspaper said.
Cancellations or rescheduling result from a number of factors including technical, weather, safety and security, and other operational matters, Charles Sng, a spokesman with the carrier, said by phone today. The company has already hired more pilots, he said when contacted by Bloomberg News.
… and obviously, the problem did not get solved because today,
Tiger cancels 40 flights
FOR four consecutive days, Tiger Airways cancelled several flights to Perth, Penang, Phuket and Bangkok without explanation.
Hundreds of disgruntled passengers were left stranded at the Budget Terminal while waiting for the airline to provide them with more information. Unfortunately, Tiger’s service standards failed to impress.
Passengers were made to wait in line for their turn before counter-staff would address their concerns and compensation issues. To make matters worse, some of these passengers had encountered the same problem the day before.
In a written response to RazorTV, a spokesperson from Tiger Airways said that the airline recently had two aircraft with technical issues that were grounded for extended checks & maintenance over the past few weeks. As a result, Tiger Airways had to reschedule or cancel flights in a way that minimised overall disruption.
However, many passengers did not buy the explanation, claiming they heard otherwise from ground staff.
Tiger Airways’ crew are among the lowest paid, even for a low-cost carrier but it was probably acceptable on some level. Then earlier in the year, the airline announced that the crew would be hired under new contracts which would see their low salary cut even further; especially in the face of the Initial Public Offering then in which the airline was readying itself for a cash injection by the public, would undoubtedly not be taken too keenly by the crew. In a region where the aviation industry is booming and there’s no shortage of higher-paying jos, with airlines, even Jetstar and AirAsia, all too ready to dangle the sweetest of carrots, there was no reason to stay and pilots and cabin crew began leaving Tiger in the masses. According to a reliable source, 65% of the airline’s labor force that even with the existing crew working maximum hours, the airline no longer has the ability to man even half the fleet! With an additional 3 Airbus A320s arriving fresh from the Airbus factory in Toulouse in the coming weeks, the planes, originally planned for launching new destinations such as Taipei, and increasing frequencies to existing ones, will end up be sitting ducks on the tarmacs of Changi if the crew shortage is not recovered soon, the future will look bleak for Tiger.
But the root of this problem is with the airline’s management. Tiger was brought to Asia by the people who own Ryanair and many of its policies, way of operations and how it conducts itself is adopted straight from the European low-cost pioneer. As an aviation enthusiast, I haven’t seen anything from Tiger Airways that Ryanair hasn’t already done, like creating publicity stunts such as suddenly announcing that the airline is planning to “remove all the seats, and passengers will fly standing up” even though planes today are not adapted in terms of safety, for that. Operationally for the pilots and cabin crew, it’s not one bit glamorous; cabin crew trainees have to pay for their own training (if they fail, they are not reimbursed at all, if they pass, some of it is reimbursed), purchase their own uniform and do their best to earn commission from onboard sales of duty free goods, food and drinks. Pilots don’t get it nice either, and really it reduces their role into nothing more than driving a bus. Other low-cost airlines are taking a more vested interest in fostering loyalty and inspiring service such as AirAsia while Jetstar Asia mostly hires cabin crew who have had prior experience, and taking it from there.
Yes, Ryanair is like Tiger too. But unlike Tiger, Ryanair is actually run by a rational, practical and ‘straight-talking’ management and has the figures to back them up. By passenger numbers, Ryanair is Europe’s 3rd largest airline carrying 65.9 million passengers, behind Lufthansa and Air France, and is the world’s largest airline by international passengers carried. Ryanair has a fleet of 250 aircraft. That makes Ryanair 2.5 times larger than AirAsia and almost 12 times larger than Tiger Airways! What I’m trying to say is that it is crucial for airlines to keep their costs low, and with so many factors like the rising prices of fuel, competition, inflation and labor, and being so easily exposed to external influences such as recession and natural disasters, it’s a massive task just to stay afloat. Tiger’s relentless sprint to continue to keep costs low has really burned it big time, and the airline may take months or a year to recover its reputation.
Flying low-cost doesn’t mean one should receive inferior service.
Just fly AirAsia, Jetstar or any other low-cost carrier – short of the lack of inflight entertainment and the fact that you have to purchase food and drinks instead of getting them for ‘free’, the service is impeccable. Sure, it’s no Cathay Pacific or Singapore Airlines but it’s decent at the very least. But more importantly, when things go wrong, unlike Tiger, these airlines don’t go into ‘hiding’. It is very disappointing that of all Singapore budget carriers, Tiger Airways is the one that’s conducting business so unethically. Being partially owned by Singapore Airlines which is renowned for its impeccable inflight service standards and customer service, it’s really a pity.