Qantas boss Alan Joyce has said his airline is prepared to “defend our turf” against new market entrant Bonza.
Joyce said while the airline would operate within the ACCC’s framework, it didn’t mean his business wouldn’t actively take on Australia’s newest airline. “This is the most competitive market in the world,” he said.
Bonza broke cover in October to reveal a plan to fly “point to point” leisure routes not serviced by Qantas, Virgin and Rex with a fleet of two to three new 737 MAXs.
Speaking at today’s CAPA aviation conference, Joyce said, “I think the ACCC are one of the most effective competition authorities in the world.
“But at the same time, it doesn’t mean you can’t be competitive, of course you can.
“And are we going to be competitive, to defend our turf, and make sure that we offer the most competitive product and service and airfares? Of course, we are.
“I’m sure Bonza assumes that [given that] this is the most competitive market in the world.”
Joyce noted that Qantas has continued to expand its network into new markets, particularly new regional routes, over the last 18 months and sees little routes left that are currently untouched by existing carriers – as Bonza claims.
“We’ve started nearly 50 new domestic routes. So I would have thought we have most of them covered, but maybe we don’t.
“So that’s great if they find a unique value proposition that they can make money on. Fantastic, fill your boots up on it, and shame on us if we’ve missed it.”
Bonza announced its plans to launch next year in October, and later that month founder Tim Jordan told the Australian Aviation Podcast that 30 airports had already “responded positively” to a request to launch routes.
Jordan said, “On the morning we made the announcement, we actually sent out request for interest to about 45 different airports across the country, saying, ‘Would you like to be our airport partners? If you’d like new routes, probably not offered currently by existing airlines, put your hand up and let us know how you can incentivise us to do that, and we will bring you many more customers.’
“And I have to say, we’ve been very positively received by those airport partners. I think the last time I looked, more than 30 airports had responded positively already.”
Joyce was not the only one to play down the new airline’s chances. Last month, Rex deputy chairman John Sharp shared his doubts the business would be able to pull off its claimed launch in early 2022 – if at all.
Sharp argued that Bonza was 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.