Tigerair has apologised and offered a refund to a distressed woman who was prevented from boarding a flight on Friday because she was three minutes late to the check-in counter.
Lenny, 27, who asked that her surname be withheld, booked the last-minute flight on Friday after learning her sister had been hit by a truck in Sydney and might have her legs amputated.
When contacted by The New Daily on Saturday, the budget airline refused to apologise (see the full statement below), saying their strict policy allowed them to offer low prices.
But after significant national media attention, Tigerair contacted the woman on Monday to offer a refund.
After being unable to check-in using the airline’s website, Lenny (who has requested her surname not be used) was told Tigerair would not allow her onto the flight, despite it not taking off for 42 minutes.
“I could barely speak because I was crying so much, but all the [Tiger employee] said was: ‘Do you want to pay $92 for the next flight?’,” Lenny told to The New Daily.
A spokeswoman for the airline on Saturday said its policy was unwavering.
“We aim to be efficient and cut complexity in the right areas in order to pass on the most competitive fares to our customers,” she said.
‘It was ice-cold’
Lenny, a 27-year-old who lives and works in Melbourne, said she was very distressed by the time she arrived at the airport.
“The website wouldn’t let me to check-in online, so I had called Tiger on the way and they said I would have to do check-in when I got there,” she said.
But upon reaching the Tiger desk, Lenny was told she was three minutes too late and the system had locked her out.
“I was getting more and more upset and worrying about what was happening in Sydney,” said Lenny, who only knew that her sister had gone into emergency surgery.
“I said my sister had been in an accident and I was trying to get to Sydney, but [the employee] wouldn’t even acknowledge what I was saying.”
“She just kept asking if I wanted to get on a later flight.”
Lenny said three employees within earshot also didn’t acknowledge her story.
By the time Lenny had paid the $92 fee and gone through security, her original flight still hadn’t boarded.
Ironically, she said the first person to ask her if she was OK was a security guard who noticed her crying, and asked whether she was “saying goodbye to family”.
‘On time performance is important to us’
A representative for the airline, which in the past four years received more complaints than any other carrier, said she could not explain why online check-in had not worked for Lenny.
She said the strict check-in policy allowed Tiger to offer its low airfares and was similar to the policies of other Australian airlines.
“If you’re late to check in for your flight or board our aircraft we can’t wait, because it delays all the passengers who were on time and has a knock-on impact throughout the day,” she said.
“Our check-in desks close strictly 45 minutes before departure.
“We encourage customers aim to arrive 90 minutes before their flight to provide ample time to check-in and to allow for unforeseen delays on the journey to the airport.”
Qantas did not respond to a request for their check-in policy in the event of a similar family tragedy.
Read Tigerair’s full original statement below:
Tigerair Australia’s philosophy is similar to many low cost airlines the world over. We aim to be efficient and cut complexity in the right areas in order to pass on the most competitive fares to our customers. Low cost travel enables people to fly when it was never before financially possible for some. Tigerair has one main aim of providing great value fares to the people of Australia with consistent delivery of affordable and reliable air travel with great service.
It is our role to set expectation around our product, making it clear through all passenger communications what we do and what we don’t do (for example Tigerair check in always closes check-in desks strictly 45 minutes before a flight and we don’t wait if people are late).
On time performance is important to us, because it’s important to our customers. If you’re late to check in for your flight or board our aircraft we can’t wait, because it delays all the passengers who were on time and has a knock-on impact throughout the day. Our check-in desks close strictly 45 minutes before departure. We encourage customers aim to arrive 90 minutes before their flight to provide ample time to check-in and to allow for unforeseen delays on the journey to the airport.
Tigerair customers can also web check in online up to 60 minutes before their domestic flight and head straight to the boarding gate 30 minutes before the flight if they only have carry on luggage. Checked in luggage does need to be checked in before the 45 minutes prior to departure check in closure.
On the rare occasion that a customer does miss their flight, we offer a set fee of $85 to move to the next available flight. Tigerair Australia has also recently launched a new product called “move me” which, for a small fee, gives customers who arrive early or late to the airport the option of transferring to another service on the same day without any additional fees.
Tigerair Australia is proud to be the most on time low cost carrier in Australia (since January 2015) with the lowest cancellation rate of all the major domestic airlines since January 2015 also.