Tiger Airways Australia Faces Suspension of Operations Throughout July

 - July 11, 2011, 9:15 AM
The expansion plans of Asia Pacific low-cost carrier Tiger Airways have been derailed by the sudden grounding of its Airbus A320 fleet in Australia over safety concerns about its operations. (Photo: Airbus)

Low-cost carrier Tiger Airways Australia has accepted that it could stay grounded throughout July as Australian safety inspectors continue to probe its operations. The grounding, which is costing the Singapore-based airline $1.6 million a week, claimed its first casualty with the announced departure of CEO Crawford Rix.

Tiger Airways Australia and sister airline Tiger Airways Singapore are subsidiaries of Tiger Airways Holdings, in which Singapore Airlines holds a 32.9-percent stake. The Australian carrier began service in November 2007 and operates 10 Airbus A320-200s. Its self-declared business model “involves scrutinizing every single aspect of the business to remove non-essential costs without compromising passenger safety, security or punctuality.”

Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) suspended the airline’s domestic operations on July 2 for five working days, citing “a serious and imminent risk to air safety” and a loss of confidence in its ability to address safety issues. CASA then petitioned the federal court in Melbourne to extend the suspension until August 1, if necessary to complete its investigation.

The suspension reportedly came down after an aircraft flew too low on approach to Melbourne Tullamarine Airport. But the present trouble with Tiger Airways Australia dates to a “show cause” notice issued by CASA in March. At that time, the agency imposed a number of conditions on the airline’s air operator certificate, requiring improvements to pilot proficiency, training and checking processes, changes to fatigue management, improvements to maintenance control and “ensuring appropriately qualified people fill management and operational positions.”

CASA has been closely monitoring the operations of Tiger Airways Australia throughout 2011, with surveillance undertaken at a range of locations. “Since Tiger Airways Australia was served the show-cause notice there have been further events raising concerns about the airline’s ability to continue to conduct operations safely,” said a statement by the agency.

Tiger Airways Australia cancelled domestic flights, originally until July 9, and said it was engaged in “ongoing and constructive” discussions with CASA to resume services. The Tiger Airways Holdings board of directors assigned group president and CEO Tony Davis to assist the carrier in resuming operations.

The company did not oppose CASA’s legal petition to extend the suspension, and is refunding fares to those passengers holding reservations through July 31. Rix will step down as Tiger Airways CEO at the end of the month. Chin Yau Seng, Tiger Airways Holdings executive director, has been named as acting CEO for Tiger Airways Holdings.