Tigerair will not return to the skies in Australia, with the Virgin Australia Group confirming this week that it will discontinue the Tigerair brand.
Virgin Australia, which owns Tigerair, said the decision to axe the Tigerair brand is due to insufficient demand in the Australian domestic market to support two carriers at this time. When Virgin emerges from voluntary administration – hopefully, next month – it plans to simplify its fleet by removing the Tigerair A320s as well as Virgin’s Boeing 777s, Airbus A330s and ATR72s.
While it is unlikely that Virgin will ever relaunch its ultra-low-cost carrier, it has opted to retain Tigerair Australia’s Air Operator Certificate (AOC) for now. This would make it easier for Virgin Australia to optionally relaunch Tigerair in the future if it believed the domestic market had recovered sufficiently to support another low-cost carrier.
But with Qantas-owned budget carrier Jetstar dominating the low-cost market in Australia, and Regional Express (Rex) touting plans to also start flying between capital cities from March next year, it’s hard to imagine a place in the market for a defunct Tigerair in a post-COVID environment.
Tigerair suspended all flights in March 2020 as government travel restrictions started to take effect in Australia. Customers with cancelled Tigerair flights have been given travel credits to use on Virgin Australia flights, but not refunds.
Tigerair closing after 13 years
Tiger Airways began flying in Australia in November 2007 with a small fleet of Airbus A320s. It was originally owned by a consortium including Singapore Airlines, which held a 49% stake in the ultra-budget carrier.
Virgin Australia purchased a 60% stake in Tigerair in 2012, and famously purchased the remaining 40% of ownership in the airline, which at the time was riddled with debt, for $1 in 2014.
After taking over Tiger Airways, Virgin Australia rebranded the airline as Tigerair and worked hard to return it to profitability. Virgin had moderate success initially, but Tiger’s reputation has never fully recovered following the 2011 grounding by Australian regulators over safety concerns. Tigerair has not made a profit since 2016, and there had been speculation that the brand would be retired last year, even before COVID-19.
The Tiger Airways brand still lives on overseas. Tiger Airways Singapore merged with Scoot in 2017, and now flies under the Scoot brand. But Tigerair Taiwan is still flying today.