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Bonza wins over Red Centre despite Top End turmoil

written by Jake Nelson | January 29, 2024

CEO Tim Jordan (centre) celebrates the arrival of Bonza’s first flight into Alice Springs. (Image: Bonza)

Bonza has been given a thumbs-up by locals for its route between Melbourne and Alice Springs despite its difficulties elsewhere in the Northern Territory.

Danial Rochford, the CEO of Tourism Central Australia, has lauded the low-cost carrier’s twice-weekly service, saying it had brought more airline competition to the Red Centre and is expected to carry significant numbers of tourists into Alice Springs.

“Bonza has now been running for six weeks and all services have operated and have been positively received from the Alice Springs community,” Rochford told the NT News.

“The community has been long calling for competition in and out of the town and Bonza has certainly delivered.

“Not only have these services impacted positively on the liveability of the town, but I have no doubt we will see a positive increase in tourism visitation to Central Australia in 2024 especially around our key events.”

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Bonza’s inaugural service from Melbourne arrived in Alice Springs on 12 December. Operating on Tuesdays and Sundays, it is expected to bring more than 38,000 seats to the Alice Springs region.

In a statement, Bonza CEO Tim Jordan said the airline is seeing “really positive demand” for flights between Melbourne and Alice Springs.

“It’s great to see the support from locals in both communities, and the success of this route also brings additional tourism opportunities that benefit both regions,” he told Australian Aviation.

Joel Bowden, then NT Tourism Minister, said last month that the arrival of Bonza was an “exciting day for Territorians”.

“Growing up in Alice I know how important connectivity and affordability is for those wanting to see loved ones,” he said.

“This significant development for the people of Alice Springs was only made possible through our recently launched Territory Aviation Attraction Scheme, which strongly underpins the Government’s commitment to accessible and affordable air services.”

Bonza announced its Darwin and Alice Springs services in September, with its first flight from the Sunshine Coast to Darwin touching down late at night on 29 November.

The smooth launch of the Melbourne-Alice Springs route, operated by Bonza’s own fleet of four 737 MAX 8 aircraft, stands in contrast to the carrier’s trouble in the Top End, with its service from the Gold Coast to Darwin delayed twice – first to 2 January and then to 19 March – owing to difficulties securing CASA approval for its wet-lease agreement with its Canadian sister airline, Flair.

The airline received the approval for the Flair-operated flights, which are necessary to establish its Gold Coast base, on 19 December, though the Gold Coast fiasco made Bonza the worst-performing airline in BITRE data for last month.

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