Tigerair is Australia’s smallest national airline, but it is flying way out in front of the others when it comes to complaints from its customers.
The 2014 report from the Federal Government-appointed Airline Customer Advocate (ACA) showed Tigerair received more than double the number of complaints than for all three other airlines combined.
Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin accounted for 65 million paying passengers; Tigerair carried just 3.3 million passengers last year.
Tigerair passengers were the most likely to complain about unsuccessful refund requests, flight delays and cancellations, unfair terms and conditions, unexpected fees and charges and substandard customer service at airports.
The airline’s head of communications, Vanessa Regan, said the company’s profile had improved.
“This report is actually for calendar year January to December 2014,” she said.
“It doesn’t highlight the number of improvements that we’ve put in place in recent times, which actually have improved not only our on-time performance but our customer satisfaction significantly.
“I think it’s important to note that we are a true low-cost carrier and what that means is we’re a non-refundable airline.
“This is one way that we’re able to pass on lower fares to our customers.”
Ms Regan said low-cost carriers were generally more likely to receive more refund request complaints than full service carriers.
“We’re all about putting the customer first and we don’t believe that low-cost should be mean low customer service,” she said.
“We have put in place a number of product enhancements, process improvements, and we’re really seeing a lot of significant up-swing in customer satisfaction over recent times.”
‘Ombudsman with teeth’ needed to regulate industry
While Tigerair promised it could do better, the ACA’s latest report cemented its position as Australia’s most complained about airline.
Not only has it led the field for the past three years, this year the complaints grew in number.
However, the report highlighted the entire sector was failing to keep travellers grievance-free.
Complaints to the airline ombudsman were up 13 per cent. Not only did it take longer for the airlines to deal with complaints, the number of complaints resolved to the customer’s satisfaction fell too.
The ACA has no power to direct carriers to resolve disputes, and therein lies the nub of the problem according to Tom Godfrey from consumer advocacy organisation Choice.
“I think for consumers what this is signalling is that we do not have a strong ombudsman in the airline industry,” he said.
“What we need is a ombudsman with teeth who can actually call these airlines to account.”