While CASA’s application to extend its grounding of Tiger Airways to at least August 1  means it regards the airline as a continuing unacceptable risk to public safety, will its owners find continuing with the venture an unacceptable cost?

Singapore Airlines has made some appalling calls in its effort to diversify out of the confines of being a high quality full service carrier, and Tiger is nowhere near to being the calamity that befell its foray into Air New Zealand/Ansett  which ended in the return to majority government ownership of the former and the collapse of the latter in 2001.

But Tiger Airways’ mismanagement in Australia tarnishes the reputation of Singapore Airlines, even though it has sold down its stake from 49 per cent to less than 33 per cent.

Having appointed one of its senior executives, Chin Yau Seng, to effectively relieve Tiger Holdings President and CEO Tony Davis, of his duties in Singapore, how much longer will it tolerate what is a crisis that was so simple to avoid?

All Singapore Airlines and the other investors in Tiger Airways Australia had to do was to instruct its management  to obey the law. What part of the binding obligations to safety and procedure that are included in the Tiger Airways AOC or licence to fly didn’t they, or Tiger’s management, understand?

Tiger’s management in this country was so derelict in its duty that by early June CASA drew up special conditions to its AOC requiring it to have all of its pilots requalify for their instrument ratings and pass proficiency tests in a flight simulator between the middle of June and the end of July.

This was because Tiger has neglected its obligation to recurrent training and checking.  The seriousness of this failure by Tiger management was too much for CASA after what is believed to have been the same Captain made a dangerously low approach to Avalon Airport on June 30 as he had to Melbourne Airport on June 7.

That Avalon incident was very, very serious. CASA had to act. It was faced with bad airmanship and a management that had lacked the will or competency to adhere fully to Australia’s air safety regulations for many months.

This ignorance of or indifference to the laws that it was bound to obey in Australia was illustrated this week by Tiger’s persisting, until early this morning, with selling tickets for flights after this Saturday contrary to warnings from the ACCC, and contrary to a civil aviation regulation that now prohibits the sale of fares by an operator that no longer holds a valid AOC.

In fact Tiger’s contempt for Australian consumer laws goes back to its illegal and insulting ANZAC Day promotion in 2009.

While that was insulting, its behaviour in recent months has been dangerous.

Given the depth of CASA’s concerns, and their previous rejection by Tony Davis, the question as to how retrievable Tiger Australia is, and at what cost, must be exercising the minds of its owners.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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