Tigerair Earns Its Stripes

14 October 2013

By Ching M. Alano

Singapore-based Tiger Airways Holdings is committed to infuse 25 new planes in its network in three to five years. It will soon fly to Naga, Tagbilaran, Cagayan De Oro, Zamboanga, General Santos, and Tawi Tawi.

MANILA, Philippines - It’s an awesome, roaring year for Tigerair Philippines as it earns its stripes by offering some of the lowest budget fares, the newest fleet of aircraft, and the most competent pilots in the industry.

And did you know that of all the budget airlines, Tigerair has the biggest hand-carry baggage allowance?  While other airlines allow only seven kilos, Tigerair gives passengers 10 kilos free of charge. For check-in baggage, passengers pay from 15 kilos up (about P250-300 per kilo).

A roaring good year

Fact is, Tigerair has a lot to roar about. This year, Tigerair Philippines plans to increase its revenue forecast to P5 billion, three times more than last year. Tigerair is bullish that there will be more travelers from wider segments of society, what with the increased tourism targets of the Department of Tourism.

Of course, who’s not attracted to low fares? I’m sure there are places you dream of going to without having to pay a price that will give you a nightmare. “Yes, we can afford to lower our prices because we can balance the prices with the load factor,” says Olive Ramos, president/CEO of Tigerair Philippines and the first female CEO of Seair (Southeast Asian Airlines, whose parent company is Tiger Airways). “If you lower your price, it can be offset by the increase in load factor. We’re still in the investment mode; this is the best time to take Tigerair because we’re just introducing the brand to the market. Which is why investors are willing to sell fares at the lowest prices and take some losses.”

Flying high: “Budget airlines connect families and loved ones. We’re really here to serve Filipinos — now, they have a choice,” asserts Olive Ramos, Tigerair Philippines president/CEO, with Joey Laurente, VP for commercial. Photo by JUN MENDOZA

Low prices, high quality

Olive asserts that it is Tigerair’s dream to make traveling more affordable to Filipinos while providing them with a quality airline with excellent standards of safety, security, and reliability — a caring and highly trained cabin crew, the most experienced pilots (there’s an American pilot, a British pilot, and Filipino pilots from the Air Force, aged 30 years old and up, with a minimum of 3,000 flying hours), and an aircraft fleet made in Toulouse, France, and no older than three years old (plus a new set of bigger aircraft — three Airbus A320s and two Airbus A319s — that can fly to key cities).

The highs of flying low-cost

This peripatetic lady CEO who lives a high-flying (literally speaking) lifestyle gets us sold on why we should take a low-cost carrier. Olive points out: “If you take a budget airline, you can leave at 12 midnight. If you’re going to Singapore, for instance, you’re there before 5 a.m. If you take the 6 a.m. flight, you’re there by 9 a.m. You don’t need to book a hotel; you can leave on the same day. You save on a hotel and you can maximize your time.”

And, of course, you save on the fare. On non-budget airlines, a round-trip ticket to Singapore easily costs P25K while on budget airlines, it’s only P14K, two-way. You also save on the terminal fee, which is half the price at midnight.

She hastens to add, “With non-budget airlines, food is included in the fare and they won’t reimburse it if you don’t eat your food. Who really likes to eat airline food?”

On Tigerair, a packaged meal, which is not included in the fare, costs P350.

As if she hasn’t convinced us enough, Olive asks,  “Why choose a full-service airline when you can have a budget airline where the seats are few and you can be taken care of better?”

Associated with the strengths of the Singapore-based Tigerair brand, this ferocious airline aims to give passengers a seamless, value-for-money travel experience.

Its Airbus A320s and Airbus A319s, the newest in the low-cost carrier segment, are configured to carry less seats and passengers to give them wider legroom.

Now flying to Phuket

Tigerair Philippines currently flies to Singapore, Bangkok, Hong Kong, and local destinations such as Clark, Laoag, Bacolod, Kalibo, Cebu, Iloilo, Tacloban, and Puerto Princesa. It hopes to open up more tourist and commuter routes to Naga, Bohol, Cagayan De Oro, Zamboanga, General Santos, and Tawi Tawi.  Tigerair now also flies from Singapore to Kalibo, making it the only carrier to directly fly this route. It will soon fly to Phuket from Manila.

Visibly excited about their new Thai destination, Olive personally recommends Phuket, especially for the WTAs (women who travel alone), as Thailand offers an amazingly different culture. And, of course, shopping is cheaper in Phuket than Bangkok (how low can you get!).

Olive shares more soaring good news: “Singaporean Tiger Airways Holdings (which owns 40 percent of Tigerair Philippines) plans to infuse 25 new places in its network in three to five years, allowing us to service more routes and passengers.”

Tigerair is the only airline flying out of Clark (for its international flights). “Clark fuel has no tax, which is why we can bring our prices down. “One of my priorities is to lobby for our international flights out of Terminal 4,” Olive declares. “I have already touched base with the government agencies that can assist us on this, and I hope this becomes a reality soon.”

Meanwhile, there’s a bus that goes to Clark International Airport that you can take from either TriNoma or SM North on North Avenue, Quezon City.  Bus fare is P200 and the bus comes every half hour.

New name, new business model

Why the change of name (from Seair to Tigerair)? “We’re using a different business model now,” explains Joey Laurente, Tigerair Philippines VP for commercial, who counts years and years of experience in the travel industry. “Seair caters to what’s called ‘missionary routes’ like Batanes, Coron, Busuanga, Caticlan — specialized destinations where not too many carriers can fly because you need a smaller aircraft. We’re now flying the Airbus A320, which is bigger than the Dornier they were using and we fly to key cities now — domestically we go to Cebu, Bacolod, Iloilo, Kalibo, Tacloban. We changed our destinations, we changed our market type, so we really had to rebrand.”

He adds, “Seair will be starting again; they will be flying to their usual routes like Boracay, which is not competing with us because we don’t fly there anyway.”

Tigerair is looking at new international destinations as well, like Narita and Osaka in Japan and even China.

Coffee, Tea or Tee?

“Our market mix includes tourists, business travelers, as well as our kababayan overseas Filipino workers who fly back to visit their relatives,” Joey enumerates. “From Bangkok and Singapore, we get a lot of golfers who go to play in Clark (Mimosa) and go trekking. We noticed there are a lot of tourists who go to the northern part of the Philippines because they’ve been to the south. They want to explore the northern part, which is really fantastic so at least we don’t crowd ourselves in the south. We should really focus on up north because it’s really a nice destination as well; some people go to Pinatubo.”

Indeed, Tigerair attracts all market types. However, its main thrust is leisure travelers. “And very much the young travelers, 18 to 30 years old, because we give competitive prices,” Joey stresses. “The young ones are the bulk of our market. As far as selling is concerned, we distribute our tickets through the Internet and the young ones are really the ones who are Internet-savvy. We have promo prices that can go from zero fare to P1,000, that’s why you have to like us on Facebook. The promos come every week. And we’re tying up with the tour operators to help us with the land arrangements. We have family packages as well.”

Joey sees Filipino travelers today as very price-sensitive and more demanding; they want to make the most of their hard-earned money. They are more mature, they want to travel, see places.

Joey shares some valuable tips with first-time travelers: Choose a budget airline (like Tigerair), be more adventurous, learn as much as you can, adapt to change. He remembers the time he drove to Iloilo (you have to take the Roro, check the schedule, you can leave after work), with his wife, daughter, son, two brothers-in-law, and his mother-in-law. It took them a week to get to Iloilo, stopping to enjoy the view in Mindoro.

Olive notes, “Most Filipinos now travel a lot, they want to see their own country.  And now, with budget airlines, they can visit their families. Budget airlines connect families and loved ones. It’s now easy for our OFWs to see their loved ones. So, we improve people’s lives. We’re really here to serve Filipinos — now, they have a choice.”

Now, we can all roar with the Tiger.

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