Tigerair at Alice Springs: James Morgan photo

Tigerair is joining the Sydney-Perth route from 19 December with up to six return  A320 flights a week as part of an ‘under wraps’ but big expansion program that will mostly take effect in 2014.

Like all air fare offers, including the full service ones, it pays to study the fine print and conditions on its booking site, starting at midday eastern time today when the new route goes live, but this is an important competitive development for price driven travellers in the peak summer holiday season.

The Virgin Australia controlled low fare brand already flies up to three times daily on the Melbourne-Perth route.

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But this is about more than Tigerair challenging Jetstar. In the air fare jungle that is Australia this is about every possible combination of one way fares on offer between Jetstar, Qantas, Virgin Australia and Tigerair in an environment where the full service brands can sometimes be found selling fares for less than their respective low fare brands once all the components of checked luggage, refreshments and a more comfortable seat are taken into account.

(Yes, there are more comfortable seats near at the front of the 180 seat configured A320s as well as in the exit rows for those who pay a supplementary fee.)

Qantas and Jetstar would have been expecting Tigerair to make a move on Sydney-Perth.  But what comes next? When Tigerair decided to fly Sydney-Coffs Harbour earlier this year it served notice on Qantaslink that a full service (free snack and checked bag) flight on a slower bumpier turbo-prop won’t really cut it against one on a faster, smoother, cheaper, but just as tightly packed low fare format A320.

Which means those new extra all economy Boeing 717 services for Qantaslink that keep being promised for next year for routes yet to be announced might well be all about meeting the Virgin Tiger ‘menace’ with a jet rather than a Dash-8.

If a guessing game is legitimate at this stage, Tigerair to Canberra from Launceston and the Gold Coast and Adelaide might be part of the strategy.

The schools and cultural travel market segment interested in visiting the War Memorial, Old and New Parliament House, and the  National Museum of Australia and more is well overdue for a workout.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
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