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King first heard of Bonza groundings from media

written by Adam Thorn | April 30, 2024

Bonza’s 737 MAX 8, VH-UJT “Shazza”, touches down in Alice Springs for the first time. (Image: Bonza)

Transport Minister Catherine King has revealed the federal government first heard that Bonza was suspending its flights from the media.

Speaking to radio station 3AW, King also revealed she believed the airline itself was unaware of the truth of reports that a financial consultancy was quietly appointed to look over the airline’s accounts weeks ago.

“Well, we’ve been speaking to Bonza since those articles appeared last week,” she said.

“I think they also came as a surprise to Bonza because there were articles stating that the owners, the investors, had requested KordaMentha to come in, and that was not something that Bonza itself had been aware of.”

Bonza strongly denied the speculation at the time, insisting KordaMentha had nothing to do with the airline.


The interview with King came shortly after it was revealed Bonza entered voluntary administration on Tuesday afternoon and following an admission that its fleet had been repossessed by an aircraft lessor at 3am.

“We’ve been speaking to them and obviously understood that there were some discussions taking place in terms of the investors,” she said.

“They obviously lease their planes as well and have lease payments that were coming due. And it’s been an evolving situation throughout the week.

“But I think it’s fair to say this morning we were first made aware that the flights were being cancelled and planes were not able to fly from the media.”

Bonza owners 777 Partners earlier this year faced legal action from aircraft lessors over three Flair 737 MAX 8s and one 737-800 that were repossessed last March over unpaid fees.

There has also been speculation surrounding 777’s ability to complete a takeover of English Premier League football club Everton.

The airline also last week cut back on services from its third base at the Gold Coast, with some to fly as infrequently as one per week.

Bonza is currently flying its own aircraft from the Gold Coast, with both its planes leased from Canadian sister airline Flair otherwise occupied.

The two wet-leased Flair 737 MAX 8s, C-FLKC and C-FLHI or ‘Matilda’ and ‘Bruce’ respectively, are shifting to a dry-lease arrangement and will be operated by local crews from the Gold Coast.

Matilda has temporarily returned to North America to operate Flair flights, while FlightRadar data shows Bruce has not flown commercially since the end of February as it awaits recertification by CASA to fly under an Australian registration number.

Bonza had difficulties launching numerous routes from its Gold Coast base late last year, with delays in CASA approval for its wet-lease agreement with Canadian sister airline Flair pushing back the start date to 19 December, though some services using Bonza’s own planes had commenced in November.

Speaking to the Australian Aviation Podcast shortly after the airline’s first anniversary of its inaugural flight on 31 January, Jordan said Bonza was “not so far away” from breaking even and aimed to be “well on the way” to profitability this year.

“We know that we wouldn’t exist without our investors. They absolutely jumped in,” he said.

“I spent 12 years looking for Australian investors, and we have an investor who can see the opportunity, but ultimately, they want to go on a journey towards a return on their investment, and 2024 is significant in that regard. So we’ve got to go on that journey because it’s important for us to do so.”

According to Jordan, “many people” could see the opportunity Bonza presented, though the airline had turned to overseas investors such as 777 Partners because locals were wary of the challenges posed by the Qantas-Virgin duopoly.

“Australia was the only market without an independent low cost carrier for the last decade, and of the 15 largest markets, Australia was the only one which didn’t have an independent low-cost operator, so they could see the big-picture strategic imperative for that,” he said.

“However, because of the lack of competition, the duopoly which effectively exists in Australia, many people said, ‘you will not be allowed to survive, let alone thrive, by incumbents’.”

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