Tiger’s tough fight in airlines jungle


TIGER Airways has lost its second chief financial officer in less than two years, amid speculation that the Singapore Airlines-backed low-cost carrier is also struggling to retain staff in Australia, only four months after it launched services out of Melbourne.

The airline confirmed on Friday that its Melbourne-born CFO, Peter Negline, had resigned because he wanted to “do his own thing” after eight months in the job.

“Perhaps he found that this was not the job for him and he wants to try something different,” a Tiger spokesman told Singapore’s Business Times.

The move has also raised questions of whether there are serious differences between Tiger chief executive Tony Davis and his management team over the airline’s direction.

There are also questions over whether Tiger has stretched its relatively small fleet of 12 Airbus A320 jets too thinly across its 31 destinations in Australia, South East Asia, India and China.

The state of credit markets has also raised speculation about aircraft lessors and whether they will be willing to lease more planes to an airline that wants to pursue aggressive expansion in Australia and Korea, where it will almost certainly encounter heavy losses.

Mr Negline, JP Morgan’s former head of transport research in Asia, last July replaced Evelyn Tan, who left to “pursue personal interests” after a year in the job.

The departure of Mr Negline, comes amid talk that Tiger staff in Australia are being targeted by higher pay offers from Qantas and Jetstar.

This has been interpreted by some in the aviation industry as an attempt by Qantas and Jetstar to destabilise the fledgling airline. It is understood Jetstar recently offered jobs to Tiger’s core team of management pilots in Australia.

In the scenario of Tiger losing all its management pilots, the airline would lose its Air Operators Certificate and would be unable to fly until it found new chief pilots.

Jetstar denied the rumours that it was deliberately targeting Tiger pilots and crew in an attempt to undermine the competitor that began its services out of Melbourne in November.

“Jetstar is a meritocracy and we’ve been actively recruiting pilots across the board to support our growth,” Jetstar spokesman Simon Westaway told BusinessDay. Mr Westaway said Jetstar had up to 89 planes on order. “That requires us to recruit more pilots,” he said.

It is believed that at least one Tiger management pilot has already had a job interview with Jetstar, but decided to turn down the job. Tiger failed to comment on speculation that as many as half of its cabin crew recently had job interviews for long-haul positions at Qantas.

It is rumoured that around one quarter, or 20, of its flight attendants ended up taking jobs at Qantas.

Qantas is in the process of recruiting 500 long-haul cabin crew in the lead up to the delivery of its first Airbus A380 later this year.

As part of its recent enterprise bargaining agreement with the Flight Attendants Association, Qantas has been given the green light to hire up to 2000 cabin crew through a subsidiary, QF Cabin Crew Australia, on lower pay conditions than its existing long-haul crews.