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Tiger Airways: Why treating customers like farm animals helps build their brand

In a recent trip to Melbourne, I thought I was taking advantage of Tiger Airways extremely low prices and landing myself a great deal on airfares. Sure the process seemed smooth enough (despite the extra wait time required at Sydney terminal before the flight at check in). The flight itself was straightforward and the extra fee we chose to pay to get seats in the exit row was worth it for my 6’4″frame.

Although once you add in charges for ‘extra’ luggage (above your included carry on allowance) and the ‘exit row’ suddenly the $25 ‘bargain’ tickets no longer look like such a bargain (Approaching, but not quite at VirginBlue or Jetstar rates for a comparable flight). This was not entirely a surprise, as there is always a catch somewhere, and we felt like taking a punt on a new airline “for the experience”.

What was a surprise though, was how Tiger Airways treat their customers once they arrive at their terminal (T4) at Melbourne Airport (Tullamarine).Tiger Airways Terminal Melbourne

The baggage claim area for Tiger Airways was essentially a tin shed with chicken wire walls on a concrete floor.

Tiger Airways Terminal Melbourne

The exit to the terminal/baggage claim area.

I couldn’t help but feel like I was being herded through the terminal like a cow to the slaughter by Tiger Airways. What was interesting on reflecting on the experience was that Melbourne Airport is Tiger Airways primary hub for operating in Australia. This struck me as odd that they would construct their premier hub in Australia in such a cheap and nasty way.

On further analysis though, it is entirely reasonable for a cut price operator in any industry to ‘dress’ the part. If the visual cues when flying Tiger are true to the sense that you are saving money, this reinforces the purchase decision and acts as a feedback loop to solidifying the perception that the customer has managed to purchase a ticket on the cheapest airline around.

Does this ‘build’ Tiger Airways brand? It certainly acts as an important differentiator to the other airlines offerings in Australia, that in itself is important in carving out a niche ¬†for the brand against a market that has two strong ‘value’ offerings in Virgin Blue and Jetstar. Being ‘value’ isn’t enough of a differentiator. But being ‘cheap’ is. I’d call it a success, though I’ll be flying another airline next time.