Bonza is axing five of its 27 routes just months after their launch in a move the airline said would reduce cancellations across its network.
Chief customer officer Carly Povey admitted to Australian Aviation the decision to cut back services had been made earlier than Bonza would have liked, and added the company was compelled to take out routes where there wasn’t “sustainable demand at present”.
As of 1 August, Bonza will stop flights from Sunshine Coast to Coffs Harbour, Sunshine Coast to Port Macquarie, Sunshine Coast to Tamworth, Cairns to Mackay and Toowoomba to Whitsunday Coast, while other routes will have services reduced by one flight per week on days with less demand.
Three strongly-performing routes, however – Sunshine Coast to Albury, Sunshine Coast to Avalon, and Melbourne to Port Macquarie – will each have their frequency increased by one flight per week.
This is the first time Bonza has adjusted its frequency and routes since it completed its initial 27-route rollout in May. One of the routes removed, Tamworth to Sunshine Coast, only launched on 6 May, suggesting it was significantly underperforming.
“When we look at that demand, when we look at the converse of really strong demand on other routes, and we see the reality of some of our reliability challenges and know that we need to solve for that within our four aircraft, it really just accelerates something that likely may not have changed, but is a decision we’ve taken a bit sooner than we would have expected we’d need to,” said Povey.
She added that 22 routes would remain and, where there is strong demand, the airline would start to add in additional flights, which she said was “very positive” at this stage of Bonza’s life.
In an open letter to customers, Povey said that “airlines the world over often tweak their schedules” and that the low-cost carrier is making the changes to improve its reliability on routes with higher demand.
“By removing some flying from our schedule, and going where there is demand, we are achieving two things. Firstly, the changes will allow us to build in additional spare capacity within our current fleet of four aircraft, so we have a buffer when things don’t go to plan (and they will by virtue of being an airline),” she said.
“Secondly, by focusing on routes that are performing very well, we’re also taking decisive action by going where the demand is and in turn, setting Bonza up for the long haul – because competition in the airline industry is a good thing and the demand for Bonza is clear.”
The move also comes after CEO Tim Jordan 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.”
Customers on impacted routes from 1 August to 28 October will receive full refunds or alternate flights with Bonza, which is also preparing to announce its late October to April 2024 schedule.
“We’re also working to establish a third base, and with that will come new job opportunities and new routes to existing and new destinations. With that growth will come additional aircraft,” said Povey.
“We are learning quickly and looking to the future. Our sole mission is maintaining a safe, sensible and sustainable airline that Aussies can enjoy and trust for years to come.”
The news comes two weeks after Bonza apologised to customers for cancelling four per cent of its flights since January, saying the industry talent shortage was to blame alongside mechanical issues that prevented new pilot training.
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 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.