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Tiger Airways - Is it Worth the Lower Price?

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by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (subscribe)
Freelance writer exploring Melbourne and beyond. If you enjoy the following article click on the Like button, Facebook it to your friends or subscribe. I'll update you with yummy and often free events. Like my photos? I instagram @redbagwilltravel
Published April 23rd 2018
Staircase to board a Tigerair flight

Tiger turned 10 in 2017. I know this because it was announced in the rather tatty copy of their airline magazine, Tiger Tales, that was in my seat pocket during my flight to Perth in January.

According to the story, Tiger's first flight occurred on November 2007 between Melbourne and the Gold Coast. Since then, it has flown 26 million passengers more than the current population of Australia. The majority of these travellers have paid less than $100 for their flights.

This has opened up travel possibilities for the majority of Australians and the low prices have also helped keep the cost of the other local airlines down as well.

My recent flight on Tiger to Perth was seamless. The plane left on time and even arrived in Perth early. And if I had any issues, they were of my own making.

The problems had much to do with my history of flying on Tiger. In fact, my initial Tiger was roughly about 10 years ago.

The plan was to fly from Queensland to Melbourne but when we arrived at the airport, our flight had been cancelled. All hell broke out with shouting passengers once the word came down that there were no more Tiger flights that day.

I had to get back to Melbourne for work, so I did what all marooned passengers perhaps should do rather than shout. That is to stop, look and listen. Someone always finds a way out of the pickle.

I overhead another Melbourne-bound passenger request to board a flight to Adelaide as they figured that at least it was closer to Melbourne and there would be transport options from there.

'Good thinking' and we followed suit. Except I should have checked our escape route more carefully. When we arrived in Adelaide, all trains and buses to Melbourne were fully booked as it was the end of the school holidays.

We ended up hiring a car from Adelaide airport. With two kids in tow, this meant a night's accommodation along the way by pulling up into a cheap motel. The motel was so bad with the sounds of rumbling trucks going around a bend on the highway that I don't think I have stayed at a motel since.

And that little exercise in booking a cheap Tiger flight cost us an additional $600 in car hire fees, petrol and accommodation.

In retrospect, I realise that Tiger at that stage only owned a couple of planes so therefore, when one of their planes had issues, the whole network collapsed.

So, I swore off Tiger. But they get you every time. A few years later came the lure of an incredibly cheap flight to Sydney.

To keep it that cheap I decided to take only carry on luggage. The small suitcase was the right dimensions but I didn't realise they would weigh it when you were boarding the plane. I was a couple of kilos over and was charged about $40 which was more than the cost of the flight.

Again, I swore off Tiger.

But in booking this flight to Perth, there didn't seem any other reasonably priced options. I left it too late to book really cheap fares. And with dread I watched all the airline prices climb over a $100 over one weekend.

Tiger wasn't that cheap either but a lot better than what some of the others were asking. And surprisingly Tiger offered one of the best time to leave - 3 pm which meant one didn't have to arrive at the airport at the crack of the dawn and with the WA time difference, it meant not arriving at lodgings after midnight.

And I figured that after two long stints of travelling overseas with just 7kg carry on, I had the hand luggage packing down to a fine art.

how to pack when you travel
The secret is to roll clothes not fold them

I do tend to treat a cheap flight as a cheap flight and avoid all add-ons including paying for luggage and food. For me, it's the principle. And that principle is probably my downfall.

It usually means wearing a multi-layers of clothes on board and a coat even in the middle of summer. And my pockets are stuffed with electronics such as portable chargers, cameras and cords. The stuff that really weighs luggage down.

This time, when they weighed my luggage in the departure lounge I was a smidge over (probably the difference between our scales) but they waved me through. Even though they probably wondered if they were letting the Michelin Man onboard.

As mentioned, the flight was smooth even seamless. Except for the fact that in order to make this a cheap flight, I had bought some sandwiches and water at a stand at the airport rather than buying food onboard.

In my rush to take my coat off once on board (I was boiling!) I accidentally left my food supplies in the overhead locker and ended up having a window seat. There was no way I could get out as it meant turfing out a lovely young boy who had brought his own huge game console and the guy with tatts next to me who fell asleep as soon as he sat down and didn't look like the kind of person who would have taken kindly to being disturbed.

Way blocked. I had to just sit there.

Across the way, I could see someone tucking into Tiger's fancy chicken sangas with sun-dried tomatoes and salad and avocado aioli on fresh rye bread. At $8, it suddenly didn't seem that expensive. So it seemed I had miscast Tiger on the price of their food as well.

But without in-flight entertainment to take my mind off things, I was reduced to thirst and starvation and reading every word of the tempting menu and tatty Tiger Tales twice. In fact, I got so bored that I typed up most of this story on my iPhone.

Despite an unsettling start, the rest of my holiday spent in Margaret River was a treat and in some ways more economical than usual as with limited luggage, it meant I couldn't buy heaps of foodstuffs and wine to take home to family. Instead, I had to consume them myself. A bit of a bonus really.

The only quandary came when I took a great gin-blending course at Margaret River Distillery. Hadn't quite realised that the course would end with participants being given their bottle of bespoke gin to take home.

Margaret River Distillery.
Too heavy to take home!

I had put a lot of love into creating that bottle of $75 gin but there was no way I could have downed the whole bottle before I left, so instead I gave it to a local charity saying they might like to auction it off.

Then would you believe it? I caught the red-eye back at midnight and Tiger did not have staff at the Perth end weighing passenger's hand luggage. Foiled again. Or I could even now be drinking that wonderful bottle of gin with friends and family.

Tiger has definitely improved since those early days. They now have a fleet I believe rather than just a couple of planes and their flights seem to operate like clock-work.

There are also fewer hassles because Tiger customers have learnt to accept the Draconian rules in order to get cheap airfares. It is the price we pay. We know that we will have an endless walk out to the tarmac and up steep steel stairs to the cabin. (Not easy when wearing a Michelin Man coat!)

We now tow the line by booking early, buying a luggage allowance or packing lightly or cleverly.

As I travel quite a bit and I can't swear off cheap airlines because it is one way to stretch the travel dollar further.

But tell me, what are your recent experiences of travelling on Tiger?
How do you go about packing and organising yourself for the cheap airlines?

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My husband and I travelled with Tiger from Brisbane to Sydney return and we were extremely happy with their service throughout. My husband uses a wheelchair for mobility and we could not fault the staff for their care. An added bonus was they allowed him to stay in his own chair until just before boarding when he transferred to a narrow chair to access the plane. Other airlines transfer you for 1-2 hours before departure and the chairs are very low, narrow and uncomfortable. We wouldn't hesitate to fly Tiger again.
by cbroo (score: 1|16) 1190 days ago
Nearly 9 years ago I booked a flight with Tiger from Perth for myself and 2 children as my partner was in Melbourne for work. The flight was delayed and he knew in Melbourne before we did. We got there 1 and 1/2 hours late. We had a lovely weekend and on going home our flight (4 of us) was delayed 4 or 5 times, until all the other airlines had shut their desks in the airport when they announced the flight was cancelled. There was possibly no flights until the next day in the afternoon via Adelaide. I could get us home for $1000 more with Qantas the next morning and because we didn’t fly with them they wouldn’t give us accommodation. We spent the night with many others on the floor of Melbourne airport. Needless to say I have never flown anywhere with them since and doubt I ever will.
by Paoli (score: 1|14) 1189 days ago
Thank You Nadine, however I have to tell you Tiger must still be short of planes. We booked a 6.40am flight from Brisbane to Melbourne, due to leave on Monday 19th March - Return Thursday 22nd March.2018. Our flight was cancelled, while on way to Airport!!!! To our shock, we were told no other planes, so were placed on the last flight of night on Virgin. We are Seniors, and finally got to bed at 1.30am Tuesday!!! Our plans were in tatters, as we lost 1 whole day in Melbourne!!! Return flight left quite late, and yes they did weigh all carry on baggage, we were safe, what a relief. After all these years of service, I can understand and accept a delay, but did not think they could "take away a whole day" like happened to us.!!! Pat & Tricia Brisbane.
by patpa (score: 1|11) 1189 days ago
Tiger is more than fine. If you're a frequent traveller (I go between Melb and Syd), and don't need extras (I sure don't need on-board food when better food is available at the airports, with greater variety, and the 7kg on-board luggage allowance does me fine). And Tiger is far more reliable than Jetstar. Tiger has saved me a fortune, and regularly got me to where I was going, with minimal hassles. I too used to shudder at the thought of Tiger - absolutely no issues now - it's a cheap service (which is what I need due to frequent flying) that doesn't pretend to be anything else - but its inexpensive and reliable.
by sprou (score: 1|15) 1193 days ago
I read your article with interest. But I still refuse to fly tiger.
My $360 airport charge for luggage that I could not purchase online for $45 and the call centre wouldn’t answer the phone left a very sour taste in my mouth and it looks like my “principles” are stronger than yours.

For 7 years Tiger have missed out on my 7-10 flights a year.
You couldn’t have taken your gin on board as you wouldn’t have got it past security. For under $20 you could have posted it home.
by 42ess (score: 1|57) 1190 days ago
Nadine, my answer is no. I too swore off using Tiger Air after a rather unpleasant experience from Brisbane to Melbourne a couple of years ago.
by May Cross (score: 3|7972) 1195 days ago
Still waiting for a refund from Tiger Airlines after more than four years
by heath54 (score: 1|25) 1190 days ago
Never had a problem. Everytime I have seen a problem with Tiger it has been because the customer turns up late. It specifically tells you the time. The problem shouldn't be Tigers nor should people complain. If you want a cheaper flight then the least you can do is work with the company rules.
by dalec (score: 0|8) 1189 days ago
Nadine, delays, poor service, the horrid tin shed and it was kilometres from any thing else (I thought we were a couple of postcodes away from the airport proper!). May
by May Cross (score: 3|7972) 1194 days ago
Hi Pat & Tricia,
Gosh, and that is so recent so there are still issues with lack of planes it seems. And to lose a whole day of your holidays seems an awful penalty to pay for a cheap flight. When I flew to Perth as mentioned, I didn't have a problem, but I was so worried I would have that I both local travel insurance. I think it cost me about $17 and a bit of piece of mind. Not sure if such would have helped me if I had a situation like yours, but maybe one can get refunds on things like prepaid hotels if this is the case. Thank you for your useful comment about such a recent experience. This is really helpful for other. Cheers, Nadine.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|6051) 1189 days ago
Pasting in this excellent and reasoned response by 42ess as it wasn't showing up in the list of comments.


There have been a lot of comments both positive and negative about Tiger.

Here are the facts from the aviation regulator.

Tiger has the highest percentage of delays and cancellations.

Travel insurance is a must have but usually doesnt help too much when a flight is delayed or cancelled as there are too many people to fit in available services.

Also the later in the day the more problems Tiger has and the less options available.

There are many tips to reduce your risks/unconvience my personal one is avoid Tiger and if you do choose Tiger dont go for the first or last flight of the day as these are the most likely to have problems.
by Nadine Cresswell-Myatt (score: 3|6051) 1188 days ago

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