Posts Tagged ‘Air Asia’

Why Tiger Australia is so toothless

August 5, 2011

A couple of weeks ago I was contacted by a newspaper journalist seeking some comments on the troubles of low-cost airline Tiger Australia.

The reporter was specifically interested in the likely impact of the current grounding on the firm’s relations with its parent back in Singapore (with a particular focus on the cultural aspect of ‘losing face’).  I offered a few insights – that I couldn’t speak to any cultural dimension, but that HQ clearly was very worried given the group CEO was talking of basing himself in Australia presumably to kick some heads… and that the airline was clearly struggling well before pilots (allegedly) started flying a little recklessly.

These nuggets of wisdom never hit the papers, but I thought I should expand upon the latter point – namely why the firm hasn’t won the hearts or wallets of Aussie flyers.

Low-cost airlines have been a business revelation in the past decade or two.

Innovators like Ryanair and Easyjet, and copycats like Air Asia and Jetstar Asia have sliced enormous costs out of the process of offering international air travel.  This has both sliced into the market share of the older full-service airlines, and also expanded the pie considerably by bringing less wealthy passengers into the market (and also allowing greater frequency of short trips away).

In the typically moribund US domestic market (see Michael Porter’s excellent explanation of why US airlines are typically loss-making – from about the 2 min mark of this video), both Southwest Airlines and JetBlue have been very successful using a low-cost model.

Yet Tiger Australia has been a money pit since kicking off in late-2007. So what is Tiger doing so wrong?

It would seem this a combination of mis-reading the local environment and under delivering on customer value.

Air travel in Australia is an awkward exercise.  While there is little threat of substitutes due to the enormous distances between our major cities (other than Sydney-Canberra driving between mainland capitals takes >7 hours), the fact that there are single airports in pretty much every major city (other than Melbourne’s inconvenient Avalon option).

Low cost airlines typically seek to avoid the high landing costs (and associated parking costs etc for price-sensitive passengers) by using smaller second airports and secondary cities, especially to cross-subsidise those flights that must go through hubs.  In Australia that simply isn’t an option.  The two big local players have very stable and mutually beneficial arrangements with airport management, and upstarts like Tiger are burdened with either tin-shed outhouses or pricey general gates.

The concentration of Australia’s population into a small number of large cities, unlike the more dispersed US markets, has meant Tiger has developed no local monopolies, and struggled to find a niche of consumers willing to sacrifice certainty and convenience for the limited price savings on offer.

At an operational level the firm has also failed to deliver then minimum service required to develop any customer loyalty.  Too many flights are cancelled (and given the infrequent schedule, too long a wait ensues), and the airline is notorious for being close to uncontactable for assistance.

The current grounding of all flights could (and perhaps should) be the end of line for this failed business strategy.


A new Tune for Aussie accommodation market?

December 18, 2009

Low-cost expert Tony Fernandes (the man behind Air Asia) is launching his Tune discount hotel marque in Australia.

This is no-frills, low-cost at a pretty spectacular level. All you get is a clean room with a comfy bed (according to the firm) and shower. Every single extra (i.e. breakfast, a towel, hairdryer, toiletries, air-con, wi-fi) have a price, none of which seem exorbitant.

The company saves big expenses by not wasting space on gyms, lounges, restaurants, pool, or varied fitouts (i.e. suites etc), and on excessive and unwarranted laundry and other services, and the consumers shares in some of those cost savings.

As the article argues, other firms (such as Accor) are in this domain (e.g. Formule 1) but it strikes me that this slight tweaking of the model might work better. If the price point is a little lower (say $40-50 a night) and the locations satisfactory (i.e. very central), this offering may well bridge the gap between:

(i) the hostel market (which is highly idiosyncratic and uncertain for the customer),

(ii) the motel market (ditto, plus with very car-dependent locations), and

(ii) the low-end hotel chains (which often seem poor quality for the price)

You’d also think that South East Asian brand awareness might also assist in attracting customers in Australia (both from Malaysian, Indonesia and around plus other international travellers continuing on in their journeys).

In a business strategy sense, you could argue that the challenge for Tune is to capture as much of the tightar$e traveller niche (i.e. Focused Low Cost dominance), or alternatively shift the Willingness to Pay algorithm for a big chunk of the broad market (i.e. a Broad Low Cost play).

Blue Ocean proponents will no doubt view this as a creating new market space, on the ground of the bridging above, although the existence of the three current competitor groups should call that into doubt.

As an aside, I’m curious as to whether Aussie councils will allow such a garish paint job… and what Coke thinks of the logo…