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Exclusive: Bonza defies doubters as peak capacity tops 90%

written by Jake Nelson | September 26, 2023

Bonza’s 737 MAX, VH-UIK, launches the service between the Sunshine Coast and Avalon.

Bonza is seeing load factors above 90 per cent during peak periods in a vindication for the low-cost carrier’s business model.

Speaking exclusively to Australian Aviation, Bonza chief commercial officer Carly Povey said that during holiday periods, routes such as Albury to Sunshine Coast are 100 per cent full on most days while average load factors in off-peak periods are in the 70s.

The airline’s “point-to-point” model, which largely eschews major capital city airports in favour of connecting regional destinations, was rubbished by industry figures prior to its launch, with former Qantas CEO Alan Joyce, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka, and Rex deputy chairman John Sharp all doubting its viability.

“On certain routes, even in the off-peak – Albury to Sunshine Coast, Avalon to Sunshine Coast are good examples – we’re seeing load factors consistently above 90 per cent,” said Povey.

“That’s despite additional demand and capacity that has been added on those routes. So we’re really pleased with where it’s at.”


Bonza saw 30,000 passengers across its network in the first 10 days of the school holiday period, or around 3,000 passengers per day – the equivalent of around 160 full flights on its 737 MAX 8 aircraft across the 10 days. The carrier currently operates 116 flights per week.

The airline says its most popular routes during these holidays have been Bundaberg–Melbourne, Newcastle–Whitsundays, Albury–Sunshine Coast, Melbourne–Mackay, and Cairns–Sunshine Coast, in no particular order, while its most popular destinations for the holidays have been the Whitsundays/Mackay, Melbourne, the Sunshine Coast and Mildura.

According to Povey, forward bookings for the new Gold Coast base – set to see its first flight on 15 November – as well as for the Christmas and New Year period are promising.

“Gold Coast is selling really well. We’re delighted with how it’s selling so far. Our most popular route from the Gold Coast is Albury, followed by Launceston, which we announced a few weeks ago, followed by the Whitsundays. So, people are travelling far and wide just to get new experiences,” she said.

“We’re seeing significant bookings coming in for that December–January period, and we’re also benefiting from longer lead time. You may remember that we received our AOC and went on sale on the 27th of January and our first flight from the Sunshine Coast was the 31st of January.

“That was a pretty short lead time for bookings. But now having more capacity on sale sooner, we’re seeing the loads go up nicely.”

Povey attributes the strong figures to several factors, including low ticket prices as well as the convenience of being able to fly previously unavailable point-to-point routes.

“We meet a lot of people that are flying with us that were either in the car for incredibly long periods of time or just didn’t get to see their relatives as often as they’d like to,” she said.

“I think it’s pent-up demand, it’s the ability to travel in a way that saves time and money and also new destinations. A lot of the destinations we serve across regional Australia, Bonza is really the first to open these destinations up to leisure tourism.

“I think it’s a combination of all of those things, and I don’t think the demand is dropping at all. I think the need for people to have more money in their own pocket is definitely rising.”

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