LESS than a year after Tigerair launched its first international flights to Bali, the low cost carrier has been forced to cancel the service.
After weeks of to-ing and fro-ing with Indonesian authorities over regulatory approvals, an impasse has been reached leaving Tigerair with no choice but to cease flights immediately.
The decision has thrown thousands of Australians' holiday plans into chaos.
Tigerair had been due to resume its services today following a dispute with the Indonesian authorities, but in a statement posted on Tigerair's website late last night, the airline revealed it would not operates flights today as had previously been planned.
But this afternoon, the airline announced Indonesian authorities had informed it that they required an alternative regulatory solution for Tigerair's operations to Bali.
Tigerair CEO Rob Sharp said the solution would take at least six months to implement and would compromise the airline's ability to offer low-cost fares to passengers.
"As a result of this development, Tigerair Australia has today made the difficult decision to withdraw from flying between Australia and Bali permanently, effective immediately," he said.
"We understand the impact that this situation will have on passengers booked to travel to and from Bali with Tigerair, and we sincerely apologise to all affected passengers.
"We have been advised by Indonesian authorities that in order to continue operating our flights to Bali, we would have to transfer to a new operating model that would take at least six months to implement and would compromise our ability to offer low-cost airfares to Australians.
"Providing a reliable, low-cost service is critical for Tigerair Australia and our customers, and therefore our only option is to withdraw from flying to Bali altogether. We will continue to work with Virgin Australia to support any passengers still in Bali and needing to travel home to Australia. We will also provide full refunds to customers who were booked to travel to and from Bali with us.
"Again, we sincerely apologise to our customers who have been caught up in this and we will continue to work around the clock to support them as best we can."
Mr Sharp said the airline would work with Virgin Australia to support any passengers still in Bali and needing to travel home to Australia.
"We will also provide full refunds to customers who were booked to travel to and from Bali with us," he said.
The news comes the same day Virgin Australia announced a quarterly before-tax profit of $45.9 million.
It remains unclear if Virgin Australia will takeover the Tigerair services it gave up for the low cost carrier in March last year.
They include non-stop flights from Melbourne, Adelaide and Perth to Denpasar.
The services were initially beset with issues when the Indonesian Government refused to let Tigerair sell one-way fares from Bali to Australia.
Mr Sharp said the experience would not deter Tigerair from taking on other international routes.
"Tigerair Australia's ambition to have a short-haul international network remains and we will now work towards alternative opportunities," he said.
A Tigerair spokeswoman said no jobs would be impacted by the decision
The Tigerair call centre last night went into meltdown over the flight cancellations.
Furious customers have taken to social media to vent their outrage at the airline.
"20 emails later, assured youd fly on the 3rd. Drove 500km to Adelaide after being told its a go ahead. Text at midnight to cancel. Pathetic," wrote one disappointed traveller on Tigerair's Facebook page.
"You most likely knew this would happen yet wait to alert customers at midnight. Most customers affected by this are probably asleep and will wake up excited for their holiday only to see the bad news ... Your 'sincere apologies' aren't enough to make up for ruined holidays," wrote another.
Refunds for payments made via debit and credit cards would be automatically processed within 24-48 hours, while payments made using third party providers such as travel agents and other forms of payment including POLi, PayPal, Velocity Frequent Flyer and Latitude Interest Free payment would be automatically processed within four business days, the airline said.
What affected travellers can do:
Travel and money expert at comparison site finder.com.au, Bessie Hassan, says the Tigerair troubles show the importance of travel insurance - and knowing what you're covered for.
"As this is an airline issue, travel insurance won't cover the cancelled flights. However, your insurance policy may cover your cancelled accommodation and tour costs, provided you purchased travel insurance before flights were suspended," she says.
"If you are planning on booking a trip, it's best to book in your travel insurance sooner rather than later. Travel insurance will only help if you've purchased it before an incident or issue crops up.
"Airline operating disputes are often contentious but there are a few areas where insurers may cover some expenses as a result of cancellations, delays or scheduling issues."
Consumer group CHOICE has used the Tigerair example to highlight the limited rights of Australian travellers. If it had occurred in Europe, Tigerair would have been required by law to re-book people on another airline to get them to their destination. The group has been campaigning for the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission to look into airline delays, cancellations and unfair fees.
CHOICE advises air travellers who experience a problem to register their complaint with the airline. If you don't like the airline's response or don't receive one, you can the issue to the Airline Customer Advocate, an industry-funded service designed to help resolve airline complaints.
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