Can Leather Seats Give Tiger a Boost?

I’m not normally moved when airlines boast they are installing leather seats, but Tiger Airways’ announcement that it plans to do just that has got me jumpy.


Ask me one bad thing about Tiger and I would respond: it feels like a low-cost carrier.

Well gee wiz, you say, it is one.

True. But when customers fly on a low-cost airline, the only bit of the “low-cost” part they want is the ticket–a cheap ticket. They’d like everything else to be full-service.

Tiger’s low-cost feel is immediately apparent upon walking on board:

Tiger Interior.jpg(All photos: author)

As you can see, the cabin interior is simple–cheap in the minds of passengers who are used to comparatively sleek interiors from Jetstar (a LCC that prices above Tiger):

Jetstar Cabin.jpgand Virgin Blue (a quasi-LCC that prices above Jetstar but below Qantas):

DJ Interior.jpgJetstar and Virgin Blue’s interiors are relatively simple: leather seats with a bit of colour. On Jetstar, there is also an orange stripe below the overhead bins.

I’ve heard passengers make snide remarks about Tiger’s interiors, and sometimes those remarks go on to frame their entire perception of Tiger. While the low-cost shed (“terminal”) at Melbourne is no Changi and requires a decent walk out to aircraft, it is the aircraft customers have the longest experience with.

I wonder how something simple like leather seats might boost Tiger’s profile, if at all. Tiger spokeswoman Vanessa Regan told me:

The key message about leather seats is they save us operating costs (last longer, cheaper to maintain).

Better looking and more comfortable interiors for customers and lower costs for an airline? Win. My only retort is why Tiger didn’t do this from the get-go.

There’s also talk, which Regan couldn’t yet confirm, that the carrier will install mood lighting. If it does, that gimmick could seriously shake up customer perception. Consider the strides Virgin America has made with its snazzy but simple interior. [Update 10 February: Regan says mood lighting "isn't a key consideration as we focus on short haul flights".]

The leather seats will be introduced on new deliveries after February this year. Tiger doesn’t know yet if the first aircraft with the seats will go to its Singapore or Australian division, Regan says. She adds Tiger has yet to decide if it will retrofit existing aircraft during overhaul.

I’ll throw it out to Tiger I’d like to see some creative, but low-cost, interior details. Maybe some tasteful orange tiger stripes or paw prints somewhere in the cabin? Purrrrr-lease?

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