Tigerair, the low cost subsidiary of Singapore Airlines (SIA), has been operating in India for past eight years and has gradually built quite a profile covering five South Indian destinations with a frequency of 37 weekly flights. In an exclusive conversation with TourismFirst, Teh Yik Chuan, Director, Sales & Marketing says that the airline’s possible expansion in the Indian market would trigger from its analysis of demand pattern from other Indian cities. He also touches on the issue of arrival of Vistara in the game (SIA is a partner) and its possible implication for Tigerair’s future strategy in India.
Let me begin with a simple question – how would you explain your seven year old journey in the Indian market?
Our journey in India since 2007 has been a great one. We initially commenced our India operations in Chennai. In these seven years, we have expanded our footprint in India to five destinations: Bangalore, Kochi, Tiruchirappalli, Chennai and Hyderabad, in South India and connecting to over 54 destinations across Asia Pacific on Tigerair as well as our partner Scoot. We recently introduced two additional weekly flights on the Chennai-Singapore route owing to the increasing market demand. All our destinations in South India have witnessed a tremendous growth in the load factors. This rapid growth and expansion is proof of our success in the Indian market. We have also engaged with our customers through contests and promotional fare offerings that have enabled us to connect with them even more. Overall, these seven years have been a great learning experience for Tigerair in India and we aim to apply all our learnings in the years to come.
Connecting five Indian cities in the South and operating a weekly frequency of 37 flights – is it the optimum which you could have achieved within your given resources since inception?
We have been very clear about our initial focus, which is to consolidate and strengthen our existing operations in India rather than focus on further route additions. We believe that we are successful since we have swiftly achieved our goal by operating 37 weekly flights across five Indian destinations and enjoy healthy load factors across all of them. We will look at expansion although it will be subject to market demand and regulatory approvals.
Among all the international destinations you are flying today – 38 to be precise, how would you explain the strategic importance of the Indian market? What is the average load factor you have registered on your Indian operations?
Tigerair views India as a significant part of its global operations. The Indian market holds a lot of opportunities for us due to the huge unexplored potential of the Indian aviation sector. There is a growth in the middle income group – who are increasingly choosing international destinations such as Singapore for their vacations and the youth – who are enthusiastic about overseas travel. We aim to tap into this huge traveller base. In fact, we are constantly on the lookout for opportunities to strengthen our Indian network. Moreover, we have launched several innovative fare offers for our Indian customers in order to make travel affordable to them. This shows the immense commitment we have towards the Indian market, which is being reciprocated through a healthy load factor that we are witnessing across our India operations.
How would you explain the profile of Indian travellers who are using your services today?
Our travellers mainly comprise of those looking at exploring international short haul destinations at affordable prices without having to compromise on quality and safety. These include the middle income group families, who are increasingly looking at short haul international destination for their holidays as well as youth, who look forward to explore unexplored international locations at pocket friendly prices. These segments benefit from our value for money offerings.
Your Tigerconnect Programme – has it also become popular among your Indian customers?
The Tigerconnect programme that has been crafted keeping in mind our international travellers has gained a lot of popularity. Tigerconnect is a fantastic product which offers a seamless transfer facility for travel beyond Singapore without having to clear immigration or retrieve baggage. For flight connections under 8 hours, baggage transfer has been incorporated in the flight purchase for hassle-free travel experience. Tigerconnect passengers transiting in Singapore and have at least five hours to spare before their connecting flight can register for a free 2-hour sightseeing tour of Singapore – with a choice of a Colonial Tour or Cultural Tour. This means that Indian passengers can explore two destinations in one, without any additional visa cost. (Transit visa is at the discretion of Immigrations and Checkpoints Authority of Singapore). The convenience and pleasant travel experience that Tigerconnect offers has garnered a positive response for the programme.
Would you like to add more destinations going ahead in India touching some vibrant destinations in other parts of the country or alternatively bringing in more destinations in the southern market under your fold?
We are constantly looking out for opportunities to expand our footprint in the Indian market and give travellers across India a chance to experience our value for money offerings. This will also help us explore the untapped potential of the Indian market. However, any further expansions will be subject to market demands and regulatory approvals.
What was the rationale behind breaking off your inter-line agreement with SpiceJet?
The numbers were not what we had expected and the number of connecting passengers was not as much as we had originally hoped for. Therefore, we decided not to continue with the agreement. Since such agreements have an attached cost factor. It was not viable for us to continue with it.
With Vistara emerging on the horizon now where your parental firm is a partner, can we expect a similar kind of arrangement being forged between you and the new entity in the time to come?
As of now, our focus in on strengthening our existing operations and our existing network.
The significant drop in oil prices could be a double edged sword. While it could provide relief to the airline companies in the near run, it could also be indicative of a larger global slowdown. How seriously you are viewing the latter proposition?
Oil prices seem to have bounced back from a low point of late. We have not felt the impact of any slowdown due to price movement but we are always keeping ourselves nimble for changes in the market.
Finally what are the specific targets you have in mind for the Indian market in the next two years?
Our target in the Indian market is to further strengthen our existing network by increasing frequency on our current routes. We are also keen on adding new routes and expanding our network in India but this will be subject to regulatory approvals and market demand. Additionally, our goal is to keep delivering on our proposition of value for money services by offering unique fares through collaborations such as the tie-ups with HDFC Bank, Axis Bank and ICICI Bank that we have done in the past and deepening our connect with the Indian travellers by engaging with them through innovative contests.
By Ritwik Sinha