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Half of Aussies say government should back low-cost carriers

written by Jake Nelson | June 25, 2024

Jetstar, Alliance, Virgin and Bonza aircraft on the ramp at Townsville. (Image: Dave Parer)

Half of Australians believe the federal government should support low-cost airlines in the wake of Bonza’s collapse, according to new YouGov data.

In a survey of 1,500 people conducted between 31 May and 4 June, 50 per cent said government should support low-cost carriers to “enable a competitive market and to keep air travel accessible to more Australians”, with 27 per cent opposed and 23 per cent undecided.

Support was highest among Greens voters, with 57 per cent in favour, followed by Labor voters at 53 per cent, while Coalition voters recorded only 45 per cent support – though this was still a plurality in favour, with only 34 per cent of Coalition voters opposed and 21 per cent undecided.

According to YouGov, Bonza – which went into administration at the end of April after its planes were seized by lessor AIP Capital, before sacking all its staff in June – is one of around 300 Australian airlines that have gone defunct in the last century.

“Within the past five years, along with Bonza, other well-known airlines have closed their terminals, such as Tigerair, Fly Corporate and Pacific Air Express. 23 per cent of Australians have flown via one of these airlines in the past five years, 14 per cent on Tigerair alone,” YouGov said.

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“77 per cent of Australians have also stated that cost is in their top two most important factors when flying, making it clear that the population think cost-effective flights need to be here to stay. 50 per cent of Australians even ranked cost as the number one most important factor.

“After price, 18 per cent ranked reputation as top-most important. This was followed by landing and departure time, ranked top by 13 per cent, tied with the preference for an Australian airline.”

The survey’s release comes after Australian Aviation reported that Sunshine Coast Airport, Bonza’s main base, is set for a dramatic reduction in passenger numbers following the airline’s collapse.

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 operated flights from the Sunshine Coast 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.

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.

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