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Bonza still working to restart flights as grounding extended

written by Jake Nelson | May 7, 2024

A Bonza 737 MAX 8, VH-UJT ‘Shazza’, lands in Mackay. (Image: Dave Parer)

Bonza’s administrators have said they are still fighting to get the airline back up and running as it stays grounded for a second week.

The airline, which entered voluntary administration after its fleet was abruptly seized last Tuesday, will not fly again until at least Wednesday 15 May, with its administrator saying the aircraft’s lessors are looking to move the fleet overseas and admitting in court on Tuesday they cannot prevent this.

“The administrators have been in discussions with the lessors of the aircraft in order to determine whether the grounded aircraft could become operational in the short term,” said Hall Chadwick in a statement.

“The administrators have regretfully been advised that the lessors will continue to enforce their rights under the termination notices and, subject to their own requirements and arrangements, seek to reposition the fleet elsewhere.”

Hall Chadwick said it is “reviewing all available options to allow the resumption of the company’s operations” despite the setback.

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“[The administrators] will continue in their efforts through various discussions with interested parties, potential investors, and other airlines. The administrators expect that additional time will be required in order to facilitate and finalise, if possible, these arrangements,” the statement read.

“As such, flights from 8 May 2024 up to and including 14 May 2024 will be cancelled. Customers with bookings during this period are advised not to travel to the airport unless they have alternative travel arrangements.

“The administrators must also extend the stand down of the company’s staff during this period.”

The news comes as Bonza’s parent company, Miami-based investment firm 777 Partners, remains silent about the airline’s future. Questions put to 777 Partners by Australian Aviation, including its intentions for Bonza, have gone unanswered.

A source with knowledge of the situation confirmed to Australian Aviation this week that it was 777 Partners, not Bonza itself, that was responsible for paying the leases on Bonza’s four 737 MAX 8 Aircraft; another two were dry leased from Canadian sister airline Flair, one of which is currently operating Flair flights in North America.

The fleet’s lessor, AIP Capital, was spun off from 777 Partners earlier this year, with 777’s 49 per cent minority stake believed to have been taken over by New York-based Advantage Capital Holdings (A-Cap), which serves as a lender to 777.

According to the source, 777 Partners was responsible for sourcing all of Bonza’s aircraft, which were leased at above-market rates.

Australian Aviation last week reported that 777 Partners paid the equivalent of $30.9 million to English Premier League club Everton FC hours after Bonza’s fleet was repossessed. 777 Partners has been attempting to buy Everton since at least September, but questions have repeatedly been raised about its ability to close the deal.

777 Partners, led by Joshua Wander and Steven Pasko, is also alleged to have borrowed funds from London-based asset management firm Leadenhall Capital secured against around $530 million of assets that it did not own, were promised to other parties, or in some cases, did not exist at all.

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