3 Jul 2011

Thousands caught by Australian airline grounding

12:45 pm on 3 July 2011

Australia's major airlines have added extra services to help people stranded by the cancellation of Tiger Airways flights.

All Tiger domestic flights in Australia are on hold for a week because of concerns about pilot training and two cases of planes flying below the lowest safe altitude.

The chief executive of the airline, Tony Davis, has rejected the decision by the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), saying he does not accept that there are any immediate risks.

The Australian Licensed Aircraft Engineers Association says however it could be some time before the airline is flying again.

The union's federal secretary, Steve Purvinas, says: "They have quite a way to go before they can satisfy the regulator that their aircraft are going to be in a fit state to fly."

The ABC is reporting that CASA may go to the federal court to extend the suspension.

Refunds until next Saturday

It's estimated at least 35,000 passengers will be affected by CASA's decision, with scenes of dismay at airports across the country on Saturday as passengers unaware of the suspension arrived for flights.

Other airlines are offering discounted fares to affected passengers, and Tiger is offering to refund customers with bookings for flights until next Saturday.

It is the first time CASA has grounded an entire airline. Tiger's international flights are still flying, however, because they are operated by a separate business.