The strange alliance of Thai Airways (THAI) and Tiger Airways is still on – it’s just being held up by Thai red tape, Tiger’s president Tony Davis has confirmed, denying reports that Tiger is dumping the co-operation.
The original contract between the two airlines was signed in August last year and has been renewed three times since then.
Davis said he was “not frustrated by the delays,” adding, “I’m pragmatic. I’ve lived in Asia for seven years.”
The alliance may at first sight seem an odd one. THAI already has its own budget subsidiary, Nok Air, in which it has a 39%. Nok will now face competition from its new sister airline, Thai Tiger Airways, in addition to the constant battering it gets from the very successful Thai AirAsia.
Not only that, Tiger’s biggest shareholder is THAI’s most formidable adversary, Singapore Airlines (SIA).
But pragmatism is the name of the game. Thai’s president, Piyasvasti Amranand, laid out the problem plainly. “Our market share used to be 82%. But as air travel [has grown] our share has diminished. Even with Nok Air, together our market share is now 50%,” he said.
Nok is a great deal smaller than Thai AirAsia; it has just five aircraft compared with Thai AirAsia’s 18.
Thai Tiger will be a much tougher nut for AirAsia to crack. Apart from its SIA connection, Tiger is also backed by RyanAsia Ltd, the regional offshoot of the highly successful European low-cost carrier (LCC) RyanAir, which now carries more international passenger than any other airline in the world.
Mr Davis would not be drawn into setting a date for the launch of Thai Tiger but did say that once the red tape is out of the way, the first flights could be launched relatively quickly – as early as the end of March.
Thai Tiger is expected to start with eight routes: from Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi Airport to Phuket, Chiang Mai, Kuala Lumpur, Penang, Macau, Chennai and Shenzhen, and between Phuket and Chiang Mai.