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Virgin Blue alumni’s new budget airline won’t fly Golden Triangle

written by Adam Thorn | October 12, 2021
Proposed budget airline Bonza with its ‘thumbs up’ livery.

Two former executives at Virgin Blue have broken cover to announce they plan to launch a new budget airline in Australia next year – but it won’t fly major capital city routes.

Rick Howell and Tim Jordan have said ‘Bonza’ is backed by US investment firm 777 Partners, who have already poured cash into Canadian low-cost carrier Flair.

The business said fares will be up to 40 per cent lower than its competitors and would focus on launching routes in regional centres capable of landing a 737. Its initial fleet will comprise just two or three of the Boeing narrowbody aircraft.

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“Of the 15 largest domestic aviation markets in the world, Australia is the only one with just one low-cost carrier, being Jetstar, so that doesn’t sit right,” said Jordan.

Unlike rivals Virgin, Qantas, Jetstar and Rex, the new airline will focus on routes not currently served by existing operators, and would be limited to “two, three or four services a week”.

Bonza said its executives are currently negotiating with airports in order to develop a network while keeping prices low.

Howell was previously Virgin Blue’s general manager of flight operations, while Jordan was its chief commercial officer, who subsequently became the architect of Kazakhstan airline FlyArystan.

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777 Partners is an experienced aviation investor and has also invested in a regional airline alliance in APAC called Value Alliance.

The managing partner of 777 Partners, Josh Wander, said, “There is a huge opportunity to both do good and do well by democratising air travel through lower costs. We want to increase consumer choice and make travel more affordable and more accessible for all Australians.”

Jetstar currently has the budget market to itself after Virgin closed subsidiary Tigerair during its administration last year.

Bonza’s announcement comes after Rex announced in May last year that it would rival Qantas and Virgin to take on domestic routes between capital cities, and in November confirmed it had secured a $150 million investment.

It has subsequently launched routes including flights to Canberra, the Gold Coast and Adelaide, as well as Sydney and Melbourne.

Both Rex and Virgin are pursuing a ‘hybrid’ pricing strategy that sees them sit between Qantas and Jetstar. However, in August, Virgin announced it would launch a new cheap ticket that doesn’t include a baggage allowance.

The airline said almost one in three customers don’t require check-in baggage on domestic routes, with this number increasing on the country’s busiest Golden Triangle routes between Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.

“Every customer is unique and has different needs and budgets, and we want to welcome all of them onboard to experience our award-winning service, in the way that best suits them,” a Virgin spokesperson said. On top of the three-tier economy booking system, Virgin will also continue to offer Economy X and business class fares.

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10 Comments

  • Harrison

    says:

    Just bring back Virgin Blue instead

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    I find it amazing that “private equity” partners who, I understand don’t have any money, they use other peoples, always seem to rise somewhere to satisfy someone’s dream which in this case is another domestic airline which, with the greatest of respect is not a bonza idea in this country with is population base numbers. Seriously, the kindest thing that should happen for all concerned with this dream is that an A.O.C should not be granted. The industry has enough problems at the moment we sure a hell don’t want to exacerbate the issue further.

  • Raymond

    says:

    Let’s see how long it lasts.

    Many have ‘started up’, then failed due to the simple reason we don’t have the population to support numerous airlines’.

    Companies’ realise, thanks to covid, it’s cheaper to teleconference business meetings’, so the need for their employees’ to fly interstate is not as great as it once was.

    At least they’re not making the stupid mistake that Rex’s Sharp did in flying the ‘golden triangle’, thus losing huge amounts’ of $$$$.

  • Brian

    says:

    Well, many have tried and failed, and failed, and failed. How many will this make?

  • Douglas Hendry

    says:

    I wish them well; but history will likely dictate the outcome! The runways of Australia are littered with the carcasses of airlines that tried to take on QF – Compass I & II, Nopulse, etc. Once you poke the bear, be prepared for it to show no mercy!

  • Tony

    says:

    Bonza will fly into regional centres capable of handling a 737:

    Interesting, considering 74% of all regional airports in NSW, VIC and QLD are Code 3C or less, meaning a 737 would not be able to meet MTOW and runway distance required. Regional NSW airports above Code 3C are Dubbo, Orange, Tamworth, Wagga-Wagga, Newcastle, Ballina, Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Norfolk Island. That’s it.

    Bonza will operate into these destinations 2-4 times per day:

    Interesting, as all the destinations above already have multiple daily options and are not monopolized. Except for Norfolk Island flown by Air New Zealand.

    Bonza will fly to destinations currently not serviced by any airline:.

    Interesting, as there are none as mentioned above.

    I wish Bonza all the best.

  • Mark

    says:

    Australia approximates Canada rather than UK or USA with most people living in a few large urban areas. Allegiant or Wizz model just wouldn’t work here. If you don’t build your model around Perth , Sydney , Melbourne or Brisbane there just isn’t the traffic.

  • Paul

    says:

    I believe Bonza have said 2-4 times per week, not per day

  • Nicholas

    says:

    “There is a huge opportunity to both do good and do well by democratising air travel through lower costs”

    That quote is the funniest thing that I’ve read all week, and coming from a merchant Banker it’s elevated to the hilarious…..

    • Warwick

      says:

      ……maybe it’s all gobbledegook!

      Translation: ‘we hope like hell we don’t lose money’.

      Now that’s hilarious, in the circs!

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