Coffs aviation a casualty of a wider company downturn
AIRLINE passengers have reacted angrily to the news that Tigerair's regional air services, including flights between Coffs Harbour, Sydney and Melbourne will be cut in two month's time.
Tigerair Australia will end its Melbourne and Sydney services from Coffs Harbour on April 27, it was announced this morning.
The news came to light as it was revealed that Tigerair will close its Brisbane base and dramatically slash its operations.
Tigerair parent company Virgin Australia continues to cut costs following a $99-million loss in the first half of the year.
Virgin Australia Group chief executive officer Paul Scurrah told staff this morning that network capacity would be reduced by 3 per cent in the next four months and five of Tigerair's loss-making routes would be cut.
He also revealed the group was "proposing to close Tigerair's Brisbane and Sydney bases".
"Unfortunately a number of our team members will be impacted as a result and we have commenced formal consultation with pilot and cabin crew representatives," he said.
How many staff will be affected and what operations will change is not yet known.
Coffs Harbour City Council, as operators of the Coffs Harbour Regional Airport, have this afternoon responded to the news.
"It's obviously very disappointing to learn that we will no longer be able to offer Tigerair services from Coffs Harbour Airport," the council said a statement.
"It is particularly unfortunate that we will no longer have a direct route to Melbourne - a route that has been performing very well in terms of passenger bookings.
"We do understand that the airline industry is going through a difficult period currently due to a number of factors, including the coronavirus epidemic, which is having a direct financial impact on all major carriers.
"Coffs Harbour Airport always maintains an open and continuous dialogue with our airline partners and we will be discussing future options - particularly any possible options for a direct service to Melbourne - with Virgin Australia and Qantas," the council said in its statement.
Member for Coffs Harbour Gurmesh Singh echoed the sentiment.
"I'm extremely disappointed with Tigerair Australia's decision to withdraw its Coffs Harbour services in April," Mr Singh said.
"This announcement flies in the face of the continuing growth being experienced at Coffs Harbour Airport, and the strength of our local economy.
"I know many Coffs Coast air travellers wanting to access capital cities have enjoyed the increased affordability provided by carriers like Tiger, and our local tourism industry has benefited greatly from the direct flights from Sydney and Melbourne.
"I'm writing to both Virgin Australia and Qantas Airways management to see what plans they have in place for the future enhancement of services at Coffs Harbour Airport."
Virgin, as Australia's second largest carrier announced today a statutory loss of $99.9 million for the first half of this financial year, a blowout from a $55 million loss for the same period one year ago.
A 1.5 per cent revenue increase was not enough to offset higer fuel costs, labour agreements and leasing costs.
The company has also blamed the loss on one-off costs associated with the purchase of the remaining stake in the Velocity Frequent Flyer business.
Despite the result the number of passengers travelling with Virgin Australia Group increased 2.1 per cent.
To trim costs, the company also announced it would remove seven A320 aircraft from Tigerair by October and transfer two Boeing 737s into the budget carrier, reducing Tigerair's fleet from 13 to eight aircraft.