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Exclusive: Sunshine Coast set for dramatic post-Bonza hit

written by Adam Thorn | June 22, 2024

Bonza’s second 737 MAX, VH-UIK, touches down on the Sunshine Coast.

Sunshine Coast Airport is set for a dramatic reduction in passenger numbers following Bonza’s collapse, new government data has confirmed.

BITRE figures released by the Department of Transport on Friday show that the airport’s passenger numbers in March hit 159,000 – 65 per cent larger than the same month in pre-pandemic 2019.

Bonza only launched last year but entered voluntary administration in April 2024 after all its planes were seized by lessor AIP Capital.

However, the Sunshine Coast was the carrier’s major base, with the airline operating flights to Albury, Avalon, Cairns, Darwin, Launceston, Melbourne, Mackay, Mildura, Newcastle and Whitsunday Coast.

Post-Bonza, the airport’s network dramatically dwindled to include only Sydney, Melbourne, Adelaide, Brisbane, and Auckland.

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The March figures cover Bonza’s last full month of operation, while the data also reveals the Sunshine Coast’s passenger numbers surpassed 180,000 in January – an all-time high.

The news comes after the Sunshine Coast’s mayor warned that Bonza’s collapse could cost the region more than $100 million.

Mayor Rosanna Natoli wrote to Queensland Premier Steven Miles asking for help from the state government, saying the Sunshine Coast had benefited considerably from Bonza’s presence since its launch in January 2023. Sunshine Coast Airport was the carrier’s first of three hubs.

According to Natoli, Bonza had accounted for more than 20 per cent of the airport’s activity since its first flight, bringing in more than 490,000 additional passengers.

“Its presence, along with the other major airlines, helped achieve a record number of interstate visitors last year. I have written to the Premier of Queensland to explain what this loss means to our region,” she said.

“I’ve requested an opportunity to discuss options and talk through how we can work in partnership with the Queensland Government to recover from Bonza’s sudden and disappointing collapse.”

According to the mayor, an estimated 150 Bonza jobs – around half the total employees – were based in the region, while local businesses, including suppliers, cleaning, catering and support services, as well as the Sunshine Coast’s tourism industry, will be impacted by the collapse.

“Many of these businesses will now be joining the reported 60,000 creditors in a lengthy process with the hope of recouping some of their losses,” she said.

“The number of indirect jobs affected by the sudden closure is also likely to be significant with dozens of businesses impacted. The majority of products sold on board Bonza were supplied by 11 SEQ-based suppliers.

“Whilst we are hopeful a solution might be found to allow Bonza to resume operations, the likelihood of this outcome now appears remote – which is why we need Queensland Government support now to mitigate the impacts on our community.”

Bonza’s administrator, Hall Chadwick, last week sacked all Bonza staff and cancelled future flights after failing to find a buyer for the grounded airline, though it says there may still be a chance a third party could propose a Deed of Company Arrangement proposal to resume operations.

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