Just yesterday, Australia’s new budget airline Bonza took to the skies for the first time out of its Queensland HQ on the Sunshine Coast, raising questions regarding if or when the carrier will set up camp in other parts of the country, such as Sydney.
Tuesday’s flight from Maroochydore to Proserpine marked the beginning of the carrier’s Phase 1 rollout, which sees Bonza run 27 routes to 17 destinations.
The airline is also set to launch an additional 9 routes out of Melbourne and will expand its fleet over the next few months, receiving several more Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from its proprietary backer, 777 partners.
With everything on the way for Bonza, questions are now being asked as to what is next for the purple-thumbed airline.
With its focus on providing cheap travel and catering to regional parts of the country that would require extensive hours of driving to arrive to and from, further expansion to other travel hubs such as Sydney or on the western side of the country do indeed fit the carrier’s business model.
When asked about an expansion into Sydney Airport, Bonza CEO and Tim Jordan expressed there had been difficulties despite an obvious market.
“From an availability perspective, Sydney is no different [to Melbourne]. In the fact that Melbourne saw an opportunity, nine new routes out of Melbourne, seven of them not operated by any other airline, there are similar opportunities in and out of Sydney undoubtedly. However, the issue is we need a cost base which allows us to stimulate the marketplace,” said Jordan, who himself is based in Coffs Harbour, NSW.
“There is an issue in terms of slots in Sydney and getting access to slots at the right time of day. And that is an issue that is more burdensome in Sydney than in many other locations.
“So those two factors cost the Sydney Airport and the slot environment for Sydney are certainly all key components inputs for us in terms of expansion.”
Jordan went on to comment on the slot program at Sydney airport, pointing out that the airport’s slot management system has its flaws.
“I think we’ve just gone through some of the worst on-time performance in the history of aviation in the country since records began, not too many months ago. And even at that time, the number of cancellations in the market wouldn’t have triggered anyone to give up slots in Sydney,” he added.
“That tells you something may be wrong with regard to the background of the slot program and usage program in Sydney. If you’ve just gone through the worst situation in history, and yet, nobody’s losing any slots because they’re not operating cancelled flights, that’s not normal. So, I think there’s a scarce resource in Sydney Airport slots, and it’s not being maximised to the full extent possible for the benefit of the travelling public.”
Bonza has also considered setting up in Western Australia, catering to an even greater number of untapped communities.
“Western Australia was clearly of appeal to us. But a similar point to Sydney Airport, we really need good engagement from the key airport in WA there,” said Jordan.
“There are a number of other regional airports in WA who [sic] are approaching us now directly. So that may allow us the past to actually enter into the WA market when we’re ready to do so.”