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Exclusive: Bonza was close to a sale before grounding, its MRO says

written by Jake Nelson | May 2, 2024

Victor Pody shot Bonza’s 737 MAX 8, VH-UIK ‘Bazza’, at Melbourne Airport.

Bonza was close to attracting a local buyer before its aircraft were suddenly grounded on Tuesday, the company’s maintenance partner has claimed.

Speaking exclusively to Australian Aviation, Bradley Davren, CEO of AVCRO, which has provided MRO services to Bonza since the airline’s inception, said that the stricken low-cost carrier was a viable business before entering voluntary administration on Tuesday afternoon due to a lack of aircraft.

Davren’s claims come as Bonza’s administrator, Hall Chadwick, is understood to be still searching for new backers for the low-cost carrier, with Bonza flights now grounded until at least next Tuesday. It is the first time a company this intimately connected to Bonza has spoken on the record about the airline’s situation.

Davren told Australian Aviation that, in his understanding, a “very serious commitment” had been made by the unnamed local backer before the aircraft were taken.

“They were in a position where ultimately the current owner could have just shifted that liability away from themselves and the airline would have kept moving fat, dumb and happy without issue,” he said.


“To the best of my interaction with Bonza, a new investor would have simply shifted liability from 777 Partners to another entity and Bonza would have continued trading with the four MAX 8s still leased by AIP under the fiduciary responsibility and control of local investors.

“The lead backer, to my understanding, is very well-known and would absolutely do wonders for multiple reasons. Yet to be seen if that eventuates, but had that outcome come to fruition, I suspect you would have seen Bonza kick into overdrive.”

According to Davren, Bonza’s business model was working and it was not in financial trouble before the abrupt seizure of its fleet, which was carried out by AVCRO on behalf of the repossessors.

“The airline was trading with absolutely no credit issues. Obviously, we would be one of their largest creditors. They were never on stop credit with us. They never even appeared to be trending in that direction, and in fact, it’s unfair to the employees if this is wound up, to suggest that this is the reason why,” he said.

“Reading a lot of the articles that suggest there are 300 insolvent airline operations in the country, it’s quite disingenuous to put this one in that same category.

“Their load factors are fantastic. Their model works brilliantly, the aircraft are not too big. In my personal opinion, I think they should charge more for what they’re doing, but that’s neither here nor there. That’s a commercial decision on their behalf. And ultimately, there’s no reason that they would be insolvent outside of not having aircraft. That’s never happened in Australia, ever.”

Davren told Australian Aviation his understanding was that Bonza’s problem, far from being a lack of money, was solely the lack of aircraft after its four operating 737 MAX 8s were grounded.

“Effectively, [Bonza] was a carrier without aircraft. Without access to aircraft, of course they’re naturally going to be insolvent from that day onwards,” he said.

“That’s the next logical step – without an opportunity for revenue, obviously, payroll alone is going to be in enormous burden for you. So absolutely, they were not insolvent and it’s quite disingenuous to consider or suggest that they were.”

Davren’s assertion that Bonza was performing well appears to back up an internal email to Bonza’s 300 staff seen by The Australian on Wednesday, in which chief operating officer Michael Young said the airline was doing its best to get back in the air.

“I cannot say much at this stage but suffice to say we are fighting this,” wrote Young.

“I realise the uncertainty is gnawing away at everyone, this is natural. But we have an AOC which is valuable, we are safe and we have a product and network that ­people like and want.”

AVCRO has provided maintenance services to Bonza aircraft in all three of the airline’s bases at the Sunshine Coast, Melbourne and the Gold Coast, and was preparing to provide MRO to the airline in Cairns when the voluntary administration was announced.

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