The lengthy standoff between Tigerair Australia and the Indonesian government over flights to Bali has thrown the plans of tens of thousands of holidaymakers into chaos and is getting more expensive for Tigerair and more irritating for its passengers by the day.
Ticket sales between Bali and Australia are reported to have been suspended until late March. Yesterday the airline announced that two Virgin Australia planes would fly passengers back from Denpasar to Melbourne, via Brisbane, early this morning (Tuesday 17 January).
This will involve Tigerair’s parent, Virgin Australia, flying an empty B737-800 twice to Denpasar to pick up Tigerair passengers. It will cost the airline plenty.
The first service departed Denpasar International Airport at 12.10am this morning, arriving in Brisbane about 6am, with connecting flights arranged so passengers can return to Melbourne, Perth or Adelaide.
A notice on Tigerair’s website said the airline continued to “work with the Indonesian Government in order to start flying to Bali again as soon as possible”.
“Tigerair sincerely apologises for the inconvenience this issue has caused our customers. We understand this is a busy period during school holidays and we are doing our best to rectify this situation as soon as possible.
“The Tigerair website will continue to be updated with the latest information about the status of Tigerair’s scheduled Bali flights, Virgin Australia’s replacement flights and reaccommodation options.”
The following Tigerair flights will NOT operate today:
- TT10 Denpasar- Adelaide
- TT24 Denpasar- Perth
- TT2 Denpasar- Melbourne
Tigerair said it would contact all customers due to travel from Bali today (17 January) via SMS and email before 1900 AEDT “to provide updates on their travel arrangements”.
“Tigerair’s flights from Bali to Australia from Wednesday 18 January onwards remain under review,” the airline advised.
Flights from Bali to Australia tomorrow (Wednesday) and services from Australia to Bali up to and including Friday 20 January 2017 are cancelled.
Tigerair said it has supported Australians still in Bali with accommodation costs and has been issuing full refunds to those who have been unable to fly to Bali.
The Tigerair website yesterday showed no flights to Bali available until 25 March 2017 from Melbourne, Adelaide or Perth. Flights should be on sale after that date.
As Ben Sandilands pointed out in his Plane Talking blog on Crikey.com.au yesterday: “Indonesia will win the dispute with Virgin on its terms because it holds all the cards.”
Sandilands speculated that Tigerair might eventually opt to serve other, less troublesome and potentially more lucrative, routes.
The dispute reportedly involves the deal with Indonesia that lets Tigerair lease crewed planes (wet-lease) from parent Virgin Australia to fly to Bali from Perth, Adelaide and Melbourne.
Tigerair is currently working with the Indonesian Government and is considering:
- Working through the new administrative requirements, so it can commence operations again per its normal schedule; or
- Using a different type of aircraft to operate Bali flights (its own A320s instead of wet-leased Virgin B737-800s), pending regulatory approval.
Tigerair is not allowed to sell one-way tickets from Bali to Australia and it denies having done so, though the Indonesians apparently believe it has been selling one-ways on the route through a website.
“If Tigerair insists it is innocent we’ll let them prove it, and whether they deliberately broke the rules, that will be investigated,” a spokesman for Indonesia’s Director General of Civil Aviation (DGCA), Agoes Soebagio, told ABC News.
Meanwhile, time is on Indonesia’s side, not on the side of Tigerair customers.
Written by Peter Needham