Tigerair Taiwan to axe flights to Singapore, Kota Kinabalu

From January, Tigerair Taiwan will no longer fly to Singapore and Kota Kinabalu, its move intensifying concerns about the future of the loss-making budget airline.

Bangkok and Chiang Mai will be the only two South-east Asian cities the airline will continue flying to.

The airline said that it is pulling out of Singapore and Malaysia to achieve "network efficiency", even as it takes delivery of its 10th Airbus 320 aircraft. At the same time, it will add more services to Macau, Tokyo, Okinawa and Naha.

Tigerair Taiwan's pullout will leave five airlines - Singapore Airlines, Scoot, Jetstar, China Airlines and EVA Air - flying the Singapore-Taipei route.

The low-cost carrier, a joint venture between China Airlines and Tigerair Singapore, began operations in 2014, with its first service to Singapore.

But it is facing turbulent times, with media reports saying that it has racked up losses of NT$1.8 billion (S$78.4 million) in the past two years.

China Airlines chairman Ho Nuan-hsuan told reporters yesterday that if the airline continues to be in the red, he might pull out of the partnership. A decision will be made by the end of the year, he added.

The Taiwanese national carrier has a 90 per cent stake in the budget carrier, with Tigerair Singapore holding the remaining 10 per cent.

Mr Ho said recently that he is unhappy with the current joint-venture agreement, which gives its Singapore partner the power to veto any major decision, including the possibility of closing down the carrier.

Yesterday, he said that he has reached out to Tigerair Singapore, and talks to re-look the partnership are ongoing.

Taiwan's Transport and Communications Minister Hochen Tan said yesterday his ministry hopes that China Airlines will "do everything in its power to protect investors".

The ministry hopes to develop Taiwan as a hub for budget air carriers, he added.

Tigerair Taiwan is now the only domestic budget airline after its other competitor, V Air, ceased all flight operations on Saturday.

According to the Central News Agency, Mr Tan declined to say whether the government would provide incentives for local budget air carriers. He added aviation is a highly competitive global industry and the government did not want to intervene "unless absolutely necessary".

This article was first published on Oct 06, 2016.
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