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BONZA AIRLINES: Cuts five routes. Oh dear, this does not augur well for a new six month old airline.

BONZA AIRLINES: Cuts five routes. Oh dear, this does not augur well for a new six month old airline.

Newly minted ultra-low-cost tourist route airline Bonza has cut five of its routes less than six months into its first year of operations, blaming lack of demand as well as reliability issues.

The routes to be cut

Effective from August, the following routes will be cut due to lack of demand:

  • Sunshine Coast to Coffs Harbour,
  • Sunshine Coast to Port Macquarie
  • Sunshine Coast to Tamworth
  • Cairns to Mackay
  • Toowoomba Wellcamp to the Whitsundays

Mechanical issues

It’s not just the non-performing routes that have been an issue for Bonza. It’s current fleet of 4 Boeing 737 MAX aircraft has suffered an alarming number of bird strikes – 10 in its under six months of operation, which have placed stress on its scheduling and pilot training plans.

Increased frequency

The cutting of the five routes will also allow Bonza to increase the frequency of service on some other routes:

  • Sunshine Coast to Albury
  • Sunshine Coast to Melbourne
  • Melbourne to Port Macquarie.

As well as the route cancellations, Bonza is reducing the frequency of service it offers on some other underperforming routes, in order to increase the the service on other routes

Spare aircraft

To help ensure fewer cancellations of flights, Bonza will service its current route map with three Boeing 737 MAX and use the fourth as a spare to jump in when other aircraft need maintenance, or are used for pilot training. It had expected to receive its fifth plane in the next month or two, but this was redirected to Canadian low cost operation Flair, which is also backed by Bonza’s backers, 777 Partners. Two aircraft in Bonza livery were also reported to be being used by a Polish low cost outfit, also backed by 777 Partners. So in that sense, Bonza has had its equipment challenges too.

Bonza announces staff uniforms
Staff Uniforms [Bonza]

2PAXfly Takeout

Although the cutting of routes affecting about 5,000 passengers, sounds like a bad thing in an airline start-up, it can be viewed more positively as an adaptation to market conditions, and available resources – in this case aircraft.

Bonza’s plan was to fly to part of Australia that were badly served, or not served at all by existing airlines. Starting in January 2024 it offered a high capacity, and ultra low cost sservice, taking the place of the now defuct Tigerair services offered by Virgin Australia. Tigerair bit the dust when Virgin Australia went into administration.

Bonza’s low cost model servicing tourist destinations has had some success in Europe and Asia, but it is questionable whether the size of Australia and its small population will make the airline model sustainable.

This route adjustment could just be what is required to make the airline successful, or more pessimistically, it augurs the end of the ultra low cost tourist route model in Australia. We shall see.

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