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Axed Bonza route is service mocked by Rex’s John Sharp

written by Adam Thorn | July 13, 2023

Bonza launches its new route between the Sunshine Coast and Coffs Harbour

One of the routes set to be axed by Bonza is the service mocked by Rex’s John Sharp as unworkable.

In March, Rex’s deputy chairman quipped he “can’t imagine” why anyone would fly Bonza’s then-upcoming ‘point-to-point’ route between Coffs Harbour and the Sunshine Coast.

It comes after Bonza on Thursday announced it would axe five of its 27 routes just months after their launch in a move the airline said would reduce cancellations across its network.

Bonza is the first Australian operator to attempt to fly 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 initial 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.


Many in the industry, though, including Qantas’ CEO Alan Joyce, have suggested such a plan wouldn’t work with Australia’s smaller and more dispersed population.

Bonza’s strategy also contrasts strongly with Rex’s, which is flying traditional capital city routes with its new fleet of leased 737s.

Speaking to BOSS magazine earlier this year, John Sharp hinted Coffs Harbour and the Sunshine Coast – 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.”

Australian Aviation then revealed in April how Bonza dropped prices for the service to just $29 – despite previously pledging it would avoid “stunt fares”.

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”.

However, Bonza CEO Tim Jordan had hinted to Australian Aviation earlier this year he would have no hesitancy to remove underperforming routes.

“That’s what our industry should be doing,” he said. “Moreover, low-cost carriers are particularly nimble. They don’t sit and suffer silently for too long when it comes to routes. They do move if they have to.

“One of the things that infuriates me about this wonderful industry is we probably need to take advantage that our factory moves. If you’re in manufacturing and put a factory in a location, you’re stuck there.

“Our factories move, so if something’s not working, let’s move it. Let’s move our capacity somewhere else. And we don’t do that readily enough or quickly enough as an industry.”

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