Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Tiger Airways keen to fly to Sabah, Sarawak

SINGAPORE’S Tiger Airways is akin to a tiger on the prowl.

The pace of its expansion since inception over the past three years has been phenomenal.

A Tiger Airways aircraft lands at the Low-Cost Carrier Terminal at KL International Airport – Bernama

This tiger is not about to take a break. East Malaysia is the next destination to add to its network besides three more bases in Asia.

Group chief executive officer Tony Davis believes that the airline could provide alternative linkages to East Malaysia from Singapore and the rest of the world.

He said passengers flying Tiger from China to Australia were asking for access to East Malaysia and Tiger believes it can play a part to promote tourism in Sabah and Sarawak.

“People in East Malaysia have asked us many times to fly into East Malaysia, and so have those in Ipoh and Penang. We are a willing party but it really depends on the Government.

“We are in talks and hope to reach an agreement soon,” Davis told StarBiz in an interview recently.

»Now is the time for the market to operate freely« TONY DAVIS

To him, Malaysia is an important market for the Singapore-based carrier not just from the neighbourly perspective, but both cultural and commercial basis.

He said: “It makes sense for Tiger to be given more rights to fly more routes in Malaysia ahead of liberalisation.

“Travellers want more access and with Malaysia Airlines (MAS) recently announcing a fantastic set of financial results, I would say well done to MAS. But I would also like to say, now is time for the market to operate freely.

“We are ready to compete and they (MAS) should be ready to compete,’’ he said, adding that “for a country like Malaysia, the tourism sector should be more important than only a company.”

“It must be frustrating to fly to Malaysia because of restricted access and the tourism industry is missing out.

“People from Australia and China want to go to East Malaysia via Singapore, but as the fares are high and access from Singapore is limited, they are just bypassing Malaysia,” he added.

Tiger had requested for two daily flights for the KL-Singapore route, but obtained one. To Davis, it was a small feat compared with the “unlimited flights Tiger got for the Singapore-Thailand route”.

If Tiger wants more, Davis will just have to wait till December for the liberalisation of the Asean capital city air sector. Airlines will be able to mount unlimited flights.

Davis said: “Tiger is indeed planning for significant flights in December.”

He believes Malaysia will be Tiger’s biggest market over time and “that means any airport that can take a A320 will see us flying there and Malaysia will hugely appreciate the increase in its air traffic”.

Tiger is also eyeing to be a Pan-Asian carrier. For Davis, the Tiger brand is “not overtly Singaporean” but an Asian brand. The objective is to have operations in Asian countries and employ staff from all over Asia.

Since its maiden flight in September 2004, Tiger, which first operated from Singapore, has managed to set up a domestic low-cost airline in Australia.

It is in the final stages of operating a low-cost airline – Incheon Tiger Airways – with the South Korean city of Incheon.Over the next 12 to 18 months, another new base will be established.

Davis said talks were on going with three potential partners to set up three bases in Asia as ideally, Tiger would like to have six bases in the region.

”We would like to provide the Tiger connection from Vladivostok in Russia and all the way down to Tasmania, Australia.

“The areas we are going to cover is comparable to the landmass of the north and south poles, so we really like to be known as the pole-to-pole airline,” Davis said.

This means a passenger departing for Vladivostok will have to change flights on Tiger-operated routes along the way to reach Tasmania.

Tiger now flies 20 routes in Asia, and Brunei will be its next destination in April. By June, it will have flights to Bangalore, India.

In Australia, Tiger Airways Australia serves 12 destinations, and Alice Springs is its next route.

“Our geographic reach is the widest as we are in South-East Asia, India, China and even flying to Australia,” Davis said.

The cost of setting bases is “very modest” and given the airline's positive cashflow, funding its expansion plans will be via internal funds.

The airline has 70 planes with 58 new orders, and believes its cost is only second to AirAsia, whose cost is the lowest among all global LCCs.

To Davis, competition will be the mainstay of any business.

However, he said, incumbent airlines need not worry over competition because the markets will grow bigger and the airline that offers good products and attractive pricing would gain more than others.

Source : STAR
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