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To fly high, Tiger's ready to change its stripes

Publication Date : 18-09-2012


Tiger Airways' new boss does not want the company to be labelled as simply a budget carrier.

For example, Koay Peng Yen told The Straits Times he has no objection to teaming up with other airlines to offer services such as baggage transfers - as long as it makes business sense and is what customers want.

This is a significant shift for Tiger, which has said from Day One that it will remain true to the budget model - flying people from A to B and nothing more.

The airline has already launched a mobile application. Soon, it will begin offering online check-in services, starting with Singapore passport holders departing from Changi Airport.

It is also planning its first tie-up with another airline, allowing customers to book flights on both carriers via a single website.

Koay, 46, did not name the airline, but The Straits Times has learnt that it is Scoot, a Singapore Airlines (SIA) subsidiary offering long-haul budget flights. SIA also owns about a third of Tiger Airways.

Asked whether extra services will drive up fares, he said it will be up to customers to decide. If all they want is a seat on a flight, that is all they will pay for.

Koay, who joined the airline as chief executive five weeks ago, told The Straits Times: "Going forward, I am less keen to hold on to any firm label... When we talk of business models, it is hard to see things in black or white."

What has worked for Tiger over the last seven years may not work as well today, he added.

"The past is really less important for me. What is more important is how we chart our path going forward.

"Our focus will be to try and see things from our customers' point of view... What works well for them, what does not."

Koay, a shipping veteran who was approached by the Tiger board to consider the chief executive post, has no immediate plans to expand the carrier's paw print. Instead, he plans to concentrate on what is already on its plate.

Tiger Airways has two airlines - one in Singapore and another in Australia - as well as a stake in Indonesia's Mandala Airlines. It has also finalised a deal to acquire a 40 per cent stake in South East Asian Airlines in the Philippines.

The group has a fleet of 38 aircraft - 19 in Singapore, 11 in Australia, five in the Philippines and three with Mandala. Five more planes will arrive by the end of March next year.

Koay said his top priority is to return Tiger Airways to profitability. The carrier has reported five straight quarterly losses due to challenges including high oil prices and disruptions to its Australian business.

"We want to reverse this as soon as possible," he said.

Businesswoman Sharon Seah gave Tiger's plans to offer customers more services and facilities the thumbs-up.

"As a consumer, I welcome it of course," said the 50-year-old. "Of course, convenience comes at a cost but... as long as the overall cost of travel is still reasonable, I'm fine with it."


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