Rex’s deputy chairman, John Sharp, has quipped he “can’t imagine” why anyone would fly Bonza’s upcoming ‘point-to-point’ route between Coffs Harbour and the Sunshine Coast.
Speaking to BOSS magazine, Sharp hinted the two holiday destinations are too similar to make business sense.
“Coffs Harbour is a great place [with a] great hinterland, nice beaches, lovely climate,” he said. “Maroochydore [in the Sunshine Coast] has nice beaches and a nice climate.
“Coffs Harbour is in NSW, and people have their business and professional connections in Sydney. There is a small market from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane, but I can’t imagine anyone wants to go from Coffs Harbour to Maroochydore.”
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.
The strategy contrasts strongly with Rex’s, which is flying traditional capital city routes with its new fleet of leased 737s.
Sharp’s doubting of Bonza follows similar comments by Qantas CEO Alan Joyce and Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
“We’ve started nearly 50 new domestic routes,” said Joyce in 2021. “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’s Sharp is well known in the industry for his droll putdowns of rivals and told Australian Aviation last year he has had “tremendous fun” making his retorts.
Sharp added his business “loves the fight” but said he is only defending Rex so strongly because it’s a “featherweight in the heavyweight section” battling to “stay in the ring”.
The former politician has been involved in a longstanding war of words with Qantas CEO Joyce over the Flying Kangaroo’s decision to launch services on previously Rex-exclusive regional routes. Sharp has previously said of Joyce that he doesn’t know how he can “look at himself in the mirror some mornings”.
Bonza, meanwhile, 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 in early January.
The airline launched its first route on 31 January and will begin its service between the Sunshine Coast and Coffs Harbour on 20 April.