Rex deputy chairman John Sharp has shared his doubts that budget airline Bonza will be able to pull off its claimed launch in early 2022 – if at all.
Speaking at an online event on Wednesday, Sharp argued that Bonza is still in the process of obtaining its Air Operators Certificate from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority – a process that he says, often takes in excess of 12 months.
Bonza founder Tim Jordan told Australian Aviation earlier that CASA was first flagged of Bonza’s impending launch in October 2020, which, according to Sharp, means the new airline could fall short of its planned inaugural flight in Q2 2022.
“Bonza is claiming that they will be in operation early next year – that’s only three months away,” Sharp told the Future Flying forum.
“And yet to do that, they’ve got to get a high-capacity air operator certificate, and you won’t get that in under 12 months – if you can do it in that time. And so, their start date I don’t think is ever likely to occur.”
However, optimistic timeline aside, Sharp appeared unenthusiastic that Bonza will make it off the ground at all, in light of the fate of similar potential start-ups.
“I’ve been in this game a long time,” he said.
“And during that time, every couple of years, somebody would come forward. Usually, they’re former employees of an airline or they’re a group of pilots who come together who reckon they can run an airline better than the management team.
“So they come together, they put a plan together. It sounds great, they are very confident. They make lots of publicity, and then the reality of the situation dawns on them and they just quietly disappear.”
Like many who hear Bonza’s ambitious intentions to tap into underserved regional markets with its fleet of Boeing 737 MAX jets, Sharp questioned what routes Bonza could possibly be considering that the incumbent airlines don’t yet focus on, that can handle a 737, and that have adequate demand to sustain a new market entrant.
“That’s a mystery to us … what are those markets? If they are worth servicing, Qantas, Virgin or Rex would be in there doing it,” he said.
In response to public criticism about Bonza’s proposed business plan, including its choice to service regional routes on a 737, Jordan told Australian Aviation last month that he is far from worried.
“The most wonderful thing is that we live in a free market economy, whereby we can all have our own individual opinions which is fantastic,” he said of the backlash.
“In terms of Bonza, our major investment partner is 777 Partners, which is a private investment firm based in Miami, and they have assets under management of just under US$6 billion.
“777 Partners are not private equity – they invest for the long term. In fact, they have never exited one of their investments,” the Bonza CEO explained, adding that the investment firm has “got deep pockets”.
“So I think that puts us on a very firm footing in terms of what we’re executing in the market.”
“I think as people pull back the layers in terms of what we are about, in terms of our strategy, in terms of our owners, and in terms of our management team, I think people will have a better understanding of how positive this can and will be across Australia,” Jordan concluded.