Budget airline Bonza eyes Melbourne base as first flight takes off

Budget airline Bonza eyes Melbourne base as first flight takes off

Budget airline Bonza hopes to launch its Melbourne base within weeks after successfully flying its first passenger flight on Tuesday.

Key Points: Bonza is the first airline to launch in Australia in 15 years. The budget service currently offers flights to 11 destinations CEO Tim Jordan is keen to get the Melbourne base up and running soon.

Bonza flight AB777 took off from its Sunshine Coast base on Tuesday morning, bound for the Whitsunday Coast.

The low-cost service, which will fly between mostly regional destinations, is the first new airline to launch in Australia in 15 years.

CEO Tim Jordan said he hopes to make air travel cheaper and easier for people by flying new routes.

“I think in any industry anywhere in the world, additional competition is positive for downward pressure [on prices],” he said.

Bonza’s initial schedule includes flights from the Sunshine Coast to 11 destinations including Cairns, Rockhampton, Coffs Harbor and Mildura.

The first regional Queensland flight for Bonza Airlines over the Sunshine Coast.(ABC Sunshine Coast: Josh Dye)Melbourne soon, Sydney too expensive

Mr Jordan said he was keen to start the Melbourne operations, where Bonza’s other aircraft would be based.

“We are taking down two additional aircraft, one next month [and] one a month after that,” he said.

“We look forward to doing that and putting those routes up for sale in the coming weeks.”

Mr Jordan said Sydney was not a viable destination for the low-cost carrier at the airport’s current fees.

“They’re not as eager to come to the table … or maybe they don’t see the opportunity,” he said.

“We’re quite enthusiastic about Sydney, but it has to be at the right price.”

A spokesperson for Sydney Airport said it would be “delighted” to have Bonza working there.

“The unfortunate reality is that Sydney airport is the most restricted and regulated airport in the world, which means we have very limited capacity during peak times,” a spokesperson said.

“Peak demand is also very high and this, combined with inefficiencies in the way the current system operates, makes it difficult for new entrants to gain access to slots.”

The maiden flight, which departed about 30 minutes late, was mostly filled with government, media and tourism personnel.

Passengers arrive at Whitsunday Coast Airport in Proserpine. (ABC Tropical North: Melissa Maddison)

There were two paying passengers among the 160 people on board, which equates to a load factor of 88 percent based on the plane’s 186 seats.

Bonza said more than 10,000 tickets have been sold since flights went on sale Friday.

The airline serves reusable cups on board, and its menu is only available through a mobile app.

Tourism benefits ‘phenomenal’

Sunshine Coast Airport chief executive Andrew Brodie said Bonza would be “phenomenal” for the local economy and would bring 50 per cent more passengers through the airport.

“We’re going to bring high-value tourism directly into this region, and that’s what’s really exciting,” he said.

Queensland Treasurer Cameron Dick said having an airline on the Sunshine Coast was a coup for the region, but also for other regional Queensland towns that would be served.

“The sound of Bonza’s jet engines is the sound of Queensland’s tourism economy … coming back to life from the pandemic.”

Space to play or pause, M to mute, left and right arrows to search, up and down arrows for volume. Bonza takes to the skies in its first commercial flight.

Mr Jordan has ruled out a loyalty program for the airline, which is trying to differentiate itself from other airlines such as Qantas, Virgin and Rex.

“Some of those bells and whistles that are associated with business, they’re not for us,” he said.

“If anything adds cost to our business, it’s somebody’s airfare going up – we don’t want to do that.”

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