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CASA close to decision on granting Bonza licence to fly

written by Adam Thorn | January 6, 2023

Bonza 737 MAX, VH-UJT

CASA has given its strongest hint yet that it will soon decide when Bonza can begin commercial operations.

The airline was hoping to start flying in September but is unable to do so until it receives the crucial Air Operators Certificate.

However, on Thursday, CASA told The Australian it would make a “final decision” once its test flights have been completed in “early January”.

All three of Bonza’s 737 MAXs have been flying without passengers, with its second, VH-UIK, in the air just yesterday between the Sunshine Coast and Townsville.

The ‘proving flights’ allow inspectors to test processes and demonstrate the airline’s ability to start commercial operations safely.


Bonza initially planned to launch with a fleet of two to three MAXs before increasing its ambitions to target eight.

Nonetheless, its current fleet of three would likely be enough for it to begin operating some of its planned 27 routes in a staggered start.

When Bonza does begin commercial operations, it will fly so-called ‘point-to-point’ leisure services not serviced by the capital city-focused Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin, and Rex.

Bonza said 93 per cent of its 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. Flights are expected to cost around $50 for each hour of the flight.

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

Bonza has also quietly registered a fourth 737 MAX with CASA, VH-UJZ, likely to be based in Melbourne next year.

A ‘fifth’ aircraft, VH-UBI, has now been removed from the register but is now thought to be in Tucson in Arizona.

In May, Bonza hired Virgin Australia’s former GM of operations planning to lead the negotiations with CASA.

The business said Young’s remit would also include flight and cabin crew, engineering, ground services, and on-time performance.

He’ll also be helping lead the recruitment of 200 cabin crew and pilots.

The appointment of a big hitter will be seen as a coup, given his six years in a similar position at Virgin and Tiger.

Destinations on Bonza’s initial route map include Melbourne, Avalon, Sunshine Coast, Mildura, Albury, Cairns, Coffs Harbour, Mackay, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Rockhampton, Tamworth, Townsville, Whitsunday Coast, Bundaberg, Gladstone, and Toowoomba.

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