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Bonza proves Joyce wrong to sell 10,000 seats in 3 days

written by Adam Thorn | January 31, 2023

Bonza’s second 737 MAX, Bazza, touches down on the Sunshine Coast

Bonza appears to have proved its unique business model of cutting out capital cities can work after revealing it’s sold 10,000 seats in just three days.

It comes despite Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce and other senior figures in the industry publicly doubting there would be demand for such a service in Australia.

Bonza is the first Australian operator to attempt to fly so-called “point-to-point” leisure services that skip out major cities and allow consumers to fly direct from holiday destination to holiday destination.

The business has said 93 per cent of its final network — 25 out of its 27 routes — are not currently flown by any other airline, while 96 per cent are not served by any other low-cost carrier.


However, in 2021, Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce cast doubts on whether such a model could work.

“We’ve started nearly 50 new domestic routes,” said Joyce.

“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.”

He added his airline would “defend our turf” against the new entrant and labelled the Australian domestic industry as the “most competitive market in the world”.

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka was also sceptical about Bonza’s business model.

“If you’re connecting two cities that have never seen a connection before, if you’re flying it twice a week, it’s very hard to build an underlying presence in that marketplace,” Hrdlicka told The Australian.

“The way that’s done in Europe and in the US and Canada, it’s a huge market with millions and millions of people, and you can approach that with group tours and things like that which don’t really exist in the same way in Australia.”

Ultimately, Hrdlicka called Bonza’s strategy an “interesting idea” and “a different approach”.

Rex deputy chairman John Sharp similarly questioned which routes Bonza could introduce that would both be profitable and unserved by its rivals.

“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,” Sharp said.

The announcement came on the day the airline prepares to launch its first commercial flight from the Sunshine Coast to Whitsundays, which will also mark the first time a local carrier has operated the 737 MAX.

The airline was hoping to begin flying last winter but waited far longer than expected to receive its crucial licence to fly from CASA, which came through earlier this month.

Bonza said routes from its second base in Melbourne would go on sale “in a matter of weeks”.

It currently has a fleet of three MAXs to service its early network, but plans to expand that to target eight as it services more destinations.

Its first aircraft, VH-UJT, was named Shazza; its second, VH-UIKBazza; and its third, VH-UJK, Sheila.

You can listen to our exclusive podcast interview with CEO Tim Jordan, above, and premium content subscribers can read our exclusive look inside the launch of the airline here.

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