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Let me tell you a true story of a couple trying to fly to the Gold Coast for a holiday. Trying to fly Tiger.
Our journey started from the suburbs, and required a train ride (of approximately one hour) to Melbourne and Southern Cross train station. Plenty of time was allocated for the train and subsequent SkyBus trip from Southern Cross to the airport. We can discuss the merits of a rail link to Tullamarine another time.
Due to some unforeseen delays and a rush of people for the Sky Bus, we arrived at Tullamarine close to the cut off point for the flight. Obviously the two of us planned to arrive at the terminal earlier. Much earlier. Unfortunately there’s not much one can do while travelling on public transport.
We entered Tiger’s terminal and looked at the two queues. One was long, and the other had one group that was being checked in. We saw the sign that indicated the Gold Coast flight travellers were supposed to walk down the short queue. So we did. When we walked down to the front, we were greeted by a man called John, who asked if he could help us.
“Yes please, we’re flying to the Gold Coast!”
“No worries, just hang on a moment.”
The time was 6:44. The flight was departing at 7:30. Remember this, as it’s important.
So John walked around to sit behind the check in desk and said “Sorry, the system has closed off, we can’t take you on board our flight.”
We were outraged! The time had hit 6:45 when John was sitting at his desk. I asked them to confirm the time on the Tiger system, and they had the exact same time as my iPhone.
John said that there was nothing they could do once the system automatically closed off. This is proven incorrect later in our dealings with Tiger.
John said that he would be at the desk until 10:30pm, and that we could try and fly with other airlines and come back to rearrange a flight with Tiger free of charge.
My partner and I then spoke to the other airlines and were unable to get a reasonable flight that night. So we returned to Tiger to speak to John.
Of course, John was nowhere to be found. Completely disappeared. Not only was John initially extraordinarily unhelpful, dismissive and apparently a liar – but he had disappeared entirely, leaving us in the lurch.
To quickly boil down the rest of our eventful evening, we were told by a supervisor that we would be charged an additional $85 dollars each to reschedule a flight for Sunday. We begrudgingly paid up. Tiger demanded an additional $7.50 fee for using a credit card – the alternative was cash. Who has $170 in cash just sitting in their wallets?
While at the counter being swindled, I threw a question at the Tiger employee (Alex). What would happen if a couple of groups arrived slightly before the cut off time? Does your system stay open to let them through – considering they were here on time? Unsurprisingly, the answer was that the system would remain open after the cut off time.
We then had to make the long trek back to suburbia.
Needless to say, we arrived very early for our flight to the Gold Coast on Sunday, and arrived early for our departure on the Wednesday as well.
Here are some quick mathematics for you wonderful readers. Tiger only opens check in for boarding two hours before the flight departs – and closes check in 45 minutes before departure. This means there is one hour and fifteen minutes (or 75 minutes) to check in everyone. On our flight, there were approximately 30 rows of six seats. That means there is about 180 people on each flight. Therefore, Tiger must check in 180 people in 75 minutes – or significantly more than two people every minute. Does that seem likely in Tiger’s system with minimal staff?
To top it off, while we were waiting at Gold Coast airport, we observed about half of all people checking in to Tiger were being charged extra fees. These included the weighing of hand luggage (one gentleman was 500 grams over and charged $75) as well as additional bags (of course, $75) and several people were a couple of minutes late. One wonders how much additional revenue is ripped from customers with these exorbitant fees. The banks were forced to abandon excessive fees – perhaps the airlines will be next.
So if you’re interested in spending a full day in the airport just to ensure that Tiger doesn’t ruin your holiday, then go for it. But I’d recommend spending slightly more and getting better value elsewhere. That’s what I’ll be doing next time.