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Exclusive: Bonza’s final 737 MAX on its way to leave Australia

written by Adam Thorn | June 5, 2024

Dave Parer shot Bonza’s 737 MAX 8, VH-UJK ‘Sheila’, on the ground in Townsville.

Bonza’s final aircraft is on its way to leave Australia in a blow to the carrier’s hopes of being able to quickly restart operations if it finds a buyer.

The 737 MAX, VH-UJK, known as ‘Sheila’, departed from the Gold Coast at 9:20am on Wednesday and is set to lay over at Port Hedland before flying to Kuala Lumpur.

Bonza entered voluntary administration in April after its lessors seized its fleet of four Boeing 737 MAX 8s, forcing it to cancel all flights.

If the company were to find a purchaser, it would likely need to acquire an aircraft of a similar size to fulfil previously purchased tickets.

However, a global lack of aircraft post-COVID-19 means either purchasing or leasing larger planes could prove difficult, with Virgin Australia separately facing severe delays in its purchase of new MAXs.


The situation is complicated by the FAA’s recent announcement that it would continue to limit the number of aircraft Boeing can manufacture following the Alaska Airlines door plug incident.

In total, Bonza owes money to around 60,000 people and companies. The debts include $5 million owed to 323 staff and close to $16 million owed to trade creditors.

The carrier’s fleet also included VH-UJT, better known as ‘Shazza’, VH-UIK, ‘Bazza’, and C-FLHI ‘Bruce’.

However, despite its issues, administrator Hall Chadwick seemingly remains confident it can rescue the company after successfully arguing for an extension to its appointment until the end of July.

In the Federal Court last week, Hall Chadwick argued that while around 300 employees remain in a “period of uncertainty” as they are stood down without pay and cannot claim certain benefits until the company is wound up, it and other creditors would be better off if the airline is sold.

Barrister James Hutton told Justice Ian Jackman that the airline’s most valuable asset is its Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC), which is more likely to be cancelled if Bonza is liquidated.

“Given the nature of the uplift that can be expected if the business is sold as a going concern and the value of the AOC is able to be realised, Your Honour could reasonably anticipate that extension of the administration or the convening period so as to enable an extension of the administration has the very real prospect of significantly improving the position of creditors, including employee creditors,” he said.

“[Employees] have the possibility of receiving a greater recovery than they would receive under the [Fair Entitlements Guarantee], and that possibility is enhanced if the competing period is extended, and secondly, they have the possibility of continuing employment with Bonza, which is not a possibility that will be open in the event that the company goes into liquidation.”

Justice Jackman accepted Hall Chadwick’s arguments, granting a two-month extension to the appointment – which was to end on 29 May – until 29 July.

Hall Chadwick indicated last month that it was speaking with around 20 interested parties, including investors, airlines and travel companies. Six were “very interested,” though one potential buyer, Vietnamese low-cost carrier VietJet, has since walked away.

Details of other interested parties are currently under a non-publication order.

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Comment (1)

  • Very sad to see but it is now time to drop the curtain and move on. I do feel however that a deal of questions regarding the commercial establishment of this failed outfit need to be asked; – not a good look and certainly not a good advert for private equity. I wonder who will be next?

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