Bali has never been kind to Tigers

Virgin Australia hasn’t said anything yet about the cost of doing the right thing by stranded Tigerair Australia customers in Bali, but it must be getting painful.

Tomorrow (Tuesday), as the parent of the low cost operation, Virgin will fly an empty 737-800 twice to Denpasar to pick up Tigerair passengers who have been, or might otherwise have become, the collateral damage in its continuing disagreement with Jakarta’s aviation regulators over the no longer working arrangements for Tiger’s services between the holiday island and Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.

That hurts in many ways. Virgin Australia loses the earning opportunities represented by a 737 on its higher fare full service network for a day, as well as being hit by the costs of continuing to fly it empty to Denpasar to honour the obligation it fulsomely accepted for the displaced Tigerair travellers.

And in what do seem like prolonged discussions with the Indonesian regulator, it cannot possibly resolve the issues that have arisen over Tigerair’s Balinese services without spending even more money getting the arrangements to continue flying right.

Assuming it wants to continue with Tigerair to and from Bali anyhow. The statements so far made by Tiger and Virgin do not unequivocally commit the budget carrier to continuing to serve the destination in the future.

There are other destinations Tigerair could be keen to develop or grow in Australia and in less fraught overseas possibilities in New Zealand, or other South Pacific leisure spots where its low cost format may be a better fit for those markets than the higher quality Virgin Australia services they now have.

Indonesia will win the dispute with Virgin on its terms because it holds all the cards. It is just a matter of working out whether that victory sees Tigerair quit the routes in question, or how many costly burning hoops it has to jump through to put its house in regulatory order according to whatever is acceptable to Jakarta, and nothing less.

Maybe Tigerair really isn’t a good name for the airline after all. Australia’s last surviving ‘tiger’ the Tasmanian thylacine, died in captivity in Hobart in 1936, almost exactly a year before the last Balinese tiger was shot by hunters.

As a species, Tigers are being hounded to the brink of extinction everywhere they still cling to life, and naming an airline after them might be seen in retrospect as fateful.

This is what Tigerair Australia said this afternoon.

Tigerair Australia continues to work with the Indonesian Government in order to start flying to Bali again as soon as possible and we are progressing on options to resume services as soon as possible this week.
In order to provide notice and certainty to customers, we confirm that Virgin Australia will be operating two flights from Bali tomorrow, Tuesday 17 January, in order to bring passengers who were scheduled to travel with Tigerair on that date back to Australia. Tigerair’s flights from Bali to Australia from Wednesday 18 January onwards remain under review and flights from Australia to Bali up to and including Friday 20 January remain cancelled.
Discussions with the Indonesian Government relate to the way Tigerair’s Bali flights are classified by the Indonesian authorities, which involves new administrative requirements.
We are working with the Indonesian Government on a number of options and their associated requirements to resume flights to and from Bali, including:
–        Working through the new administrative requirements, so we can commence operations again per our normal schedule;  or
–        Using a different type of aircraft (Tigerair’s existing Airbus A320 aircraft) to operate Bali flights, pending regulatory approval.
Tigerair sincerely apologises for the inconvenience this issue has caused our customers. We have supported Australians still in Bali with accommodation costs and we have been giving full refunds to those who have been unable to fly to Bali.
We understand this is a busy period during school holidays and we are doing our best to rectify this situation as soon as possible.
The Tigerair website will continue to be updated with the latest information about the status of Tigerair’s scheduled Bali flights, Virgin Australia’s replacement flights and re-accommodation options.

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