Thursday, July 31, 2008

Tiger hunts Asia, wants fleet of four to be 30

TIGER Airways Australia will lobby the Federal Government to allow it to fly internationally, with its sights set on Malaysia.

Speaking at the Asia Pacific Aviation Summit in Sydney, Tiger's new managing director, Shelley Roberts, said she would make representations to the Federal Government as part of its white paper on aviation policy.

While Tiger's international group flies in and out of Perth and Darwin, Commonwealth legislation states that domestic carriers must have majority Australian ownership to fly internationally.

"I am a bit perplexed that while my competitors are able to expand overseas … I am denied from growing my airline," Ms Roberts said.

"I can't see how it is in the interest of Australia to not allow Tiger to expand while others are reducing their capacity."

Ms Roberts and Tiger Airways Group chief executive Tony Davis said budget carriers were able to prosper during difficult times in the aviation industry because of their low cost base.

Ms Roberts said Tiger would embark on a swift growth strategy, and planned to have 30 aircraft in Australia within five years.

Last week Tiger announced that three new aircraft would be added to its Australian fleet of four by the end of the year.

Ms Roberts said the routes that those aircraft would fly and the location of Tiger's second Australian base would be announced "imminently".

Mr Davis told the summit that Malaysia would be one of the key destinations for Tiger if the Government granted it rights to fly internationally.

"Low-cost carriers have to grow, have to expand and now is the best time," he said.

"History has shown that our model is more resilient during times like this."

That has not proved to be the case, though, with Ryanair, which pioneered the low-cost airline on which Tiger is closely modelled.

The first-quarter profit for Europe's largest discount airline has plummeted 85% due to the high cost of fuel.

Net income dropped to €21 million ($A34.5 million) for the quarter ended June 30 from €138.9 million during the same period last year.

Ms Roberts said Tiger would soon announce a bottom-line profit for the group for last financial year.

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