Bonza’s mid-year launch plans have not been heavily impacted by the shock departure of its chief operating officer as previously feared, according to CEO Tim Jordan.
Australian Aviation reported earlier this month Bonza’s co-founder and COO Peter McNally had left the start-up airline just five months after being appointed to the C-suite position.
Rumours swelled at that time that McNally’s exit could put Bonza’s mid-year launch plans in jeopardy, by slowing down the start-up’s ability to secure an Air Operator’s Certificate from Australia’s aviation regulator in time.
However, Bonza CEO Tim Jordan told Australian Aviation that these rumours have no weight.
“Everything is progressing as planned,” he said.
Despite this month’s shock exit, Jordan appears to hold no ill-will against his former business partner.
“One of Peter’s great legacies is that he put in place a fantastic post-holder team here at Bonza, and the team have continued with the work that they collectively started.
“In terms of the regulatory process, the onus is on us to deliver everything that the regulator requires, and in that regard, progress is continuing as expected.”
Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) has also confirmed that the departure of an airline’s COO “would not necessarily slow down an application for an AOC” as this “is not considered a key personnel position”.
The aviation regulator said the CEO or chief pilot could fulfil the obligations previously held by the COO under the application, and that this would “simply require them to amend certain documents”.
McNally, a former Virgin Blue alumnus, co-founded the budget airline alongside ex-colleague Tim Jordan in September 2021.
In October, McNally was formally appointed as COO of the upcoming airline, while Jordan and another Virgin Blue alumni Rick Howell were appointed as CEO and chairman, respectively.
The circumstances of McNally’s prompt exit from the airline remains unknown.
The move comes just months ahead of the airline’s planned launch of its first domestic routes, which Jordan anticipates will begin in mid-2022.
Last month, Bonza lifted the lid on its initial planned network, which then included 25 routes to 16 destinations, on its initial fleet of five 737 MAX 8s.
However, earlier this week, Bonza expanded its planned network to include the regional NSW town of Tamworth, announcing new flights connecting the town to its hubs in Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast.
Bonza will be the sole operator on both routes after its planned launch in mid-2022 and will conduct two return services per week on both Tamworth-Melbourne and Tamworth-Sunshine Coast.
Jordan told Australian Aviation that New England locals can now expect to save hundreds of dollars on airfares by avoiding transfers in Sydney and Brisbane and connecting directly to their city or seaside holiday destinations.
“You’re going to be able to go to Melbourne or the Sunny Coast in half the time and about one-third of the existing fares,” Jordan said. “So, that’s a game-changer.”
Jordan said Bonza’s team had been in communication with Tamworth Regional Council “for some time”, however, local elections took precedence over coming to an agreement in time for Bonza’s initial route announcement last month.
“A new council was actually just put in place at the end of January [in Tamworth]. So, keeping in mind due process … it took the appropriate amount of time for that to get across the line,” Jordan said.
When asked if Bonza will release additional routes to its growing network prior to its mid-year launch, the chief executive responded coyly saying, “There was a big first step on February the 15th. This is another good step. And I would be expecting additional steps in the future.”