Newcastle Airport is putting itself forward as a potential NSW base for Bonza following the completion of the airline’s initial 27-route rollout.
Bonza currently flies four times per week between Newcastle and its main base on the Sunshine Coast, as well as twice per week between Newcastle and the Whitsundays. The airline, which specialises in “point-to-point” travel between regional destinations, first flew to Newcastle in March.
Newcastle Airport CEO Dr Peter Cock (pictured) said the airport, located around two hours north of Sydney, would make an excellent third hub for the low-cost carrier, which has a second base at Melbourne (Tullamarine).
“Industry experts are saying that because of our population size, because of the way our region likes to travel, because of the facilities we’ve got at this airport, we are a natural base for someone like Bonza,” he told NBN News, adding that he would like to see more routes to destinations like WA and Tasmania.
A Newcastle Airport spokesperson told Australian Aviation, “Newcastle Airport is a progressive, growing airport, as NSW’s second international gateway and we welcome any conversation around establishing airline bases at our airport.
“Our relationship with Bonza is strong, and the existing routes, the Whitsunday Coast and the Sunshine Coast are performing well. We look forward to supporting Bonza to grow, and we will welcome conversations to form a strategic partnership when the time comes.
“This goes for all airlines, we know airlines are growing their fleets, and we are confident our airport is a perfect place to add a base.”
Bonza has already indicated its interest in a third base after wrapping up the launch of its first 27 routes earlier this month, with chief commercial officer Carly Povey saying the airline has “earned the right to grow”.
“Our focus now is firmly on improving our operations, earning the respect of customers and then, we will continue to add new routes and a third base to continue our mission of connecting communities across Australia,” she said.
The airline has been coy about the specific location for such a base, however, with Povey indicating Bonza would have more to say about another hub and the launch of more routes “when the time is right”.
“From here, our focus is on bedding down our operations and earning the respect of Australian travellers,” she said in a statement.
“We are seeing really positive demand for flights between Newcastle and the Sunshine Coast and Whitsunday Coast. The load factors are where we’d expect them to be at this early stage.”
CEO Tim Jordan has previously noted opportunities in flying from Sydney Airport, but expressed frustration with the bigger airport’s slot management.
“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,” he said.
Newcastle Airport is currently in the process of upgrading its terminal and runway facilities to handle longer international flights on wide-body jets. The airport secured $121 million in federal government grant funding ahead of the 2022 election, with both major parties pledging the $55 million terminal upgrade to follow on from the $66 million runway upgrade, and has also signed a $240 million financing deal with the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) for capital projects not covered by the grants.
The works coincide with upgrades by the RAAF, which owns the airstrip, meaning if the airport had not secured the money in time it would have had to wait until the next scheduled upgrades in approximately 2040.