Australia’s biggest low-cost carrier Jetstar has lost its long-held mantle as the most reliable budget carrier to its smaller rival, Tigerair. As the Qantas subsidiary used to do to Tigerair regularly, Jetstar has been trounced in the latest month’s on-time performance figures for June 2016.
And it’s no one-off result. Jetstar now lags the field by a considerable margin in who is likely to get you to your destination on time, even though Australia, with its relatively benign year-round weather, leads the world for airline punctuality.
In June, just 73.4 per cent of Jetstar’s flights arrived on time and even fewer, 70.9 per cent, departed on time, which is defined as less than 15 minutes after the scheduled time.
It’s the airline’s worst performance since December 2015, when only 68 per cent of Jetstar’s flights arrived on-time. Those are the sort of numbers that Tigerair use to rack up before it was taken over by the Virgin Australia group in October 2014.
However, since the takeover, Tigerair – grounded in 2011 for safety breaches – is not only making money for the first time under new boss Rob Sharp, but is defying gravity for a budget carrier by contending with and sometimes leading the full-service carriers in punctuality.
In June, 80 per cent of Tigerair flights arrived on time – nearly seven percentage points clear of Jetstar, its major rival for cheap holiday flying and no-frills interstate air travel.
Overall in June, Virgin was Australia’s most reliable airline, shading Qantas 85.4 per cent to 84.8 per cent for on-time arrivals.
“We don’t shy away from the fact our punctuality hasn’t been up to scratch in recent months,” a Jetstar spokesman says.
“While we have had some poor months, for the first five months of the year our on-time arrivals were running at around 80 per cent.
“We know it’s critically important to our customers and we’re working hard behind the scenes to improve our performance.”
One of the reasons Tigerair is still so small in Australia is that it developed a poor reputation for reliability in the years before the Virgin takeover, when it was controlled by Singaporean interests.
Tigerair Singapore is now part of the Singapore Airlines (SIA) group and has a new lease on life as the main feeder carrier for SIA low-cost subsidiary Scoot, which flies a fleet of Boeing 787 widebody jets, mostly around Asia and soon to Europe.
Tigerair Australia has a fleet of just 17 narrowbody jets (14 A320s and three 737s used to fly longer routes to Bali from Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth), compared with Jetstar’s fleet of around 70 planes, including 11 787s.
The Virgin group announced earlier this month that Tigerair would transition to an all-737 fleet as part of strategy of simplifying its fleet. Virgin has around 80 737s in Australia and no A320s apart from those operated by Tigerair.