Boss takes Tiger by the tail and rebrands with note of caution
The renamed budget airline Tigerair Australia has highlighted a "sense of caution" in domestic travel among consumers, due to economic and political uncertainty.
Almost a day to the second anniversary of its forced grounding in Australia, the airline has changed its name from Tiger Airways to Tigerair and ditched the "leaping tiger" from its logo.
As it tries to resurrect its brand and operations here, Tigerair will take delivery of another Airbus A320 in the second half of this year, which will boost its fleet to 12 planes.
Tigerair Australia chief executive Rob Sharp said local airlines still faced short-term challenges, including a volatile currency and uncertainty about the economy and federal politics.
"There is still a sense of caution in the market," he said. "The volatility of the currency is something that is keeping me awake at night - that can drive costs up."
Mr Sharp, a former Qantas executive who began his new role in May, cast the rebranding as the start of a revival for an airline that has chalked up losses of more than $226 million in Australia since 2007.
"It really is a bit of a revival. It doesn't mean we are turning into a Qantas or Virgin, but we believe that providing some more flexibility and convenience will go down well with the public," he said.
Mr Sharp was reluctant to spell out his longer-term plans for Tigerair's route network, preferring to "keep our powder dry for competitive reasons".
Analysts have speculated that Tigerair will redeploy the bulk of its capacity from the so-called "golden triangle" of Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane to routes focused more on leisure travel.
Mr Sharp said there would be synergies between the networks of Tigerair and its new bedfellow, Virgin, but he emphasised that it would not result in wholesale changes.
"We will be looking at markets that are under-served," he said.
The airline has launched several new routes in recent months including Melbourne-Coffs Harbour and Melbourne-Sydney-Alice Springs. Passenger loads had been consistent with growth, he said.
Morgan Stanley analysts believe Tigerair's biggest challenge will be to restore its reputation.
The rebranding will be rolled out across the airline's operations in Australia and Asia.
Once Virgin completes its purchase of a 60 per cent stake in Tigerair Australia within the next week, Mr Sharp and his executives will present their long-term strategy to the board.