Aussies desperate for a cheap holiday next year will have another airline to get them from A to B as the brand new Bonza prepares for launch.
Bonza describes itself as a budget airline that plans to offer low-cost fares in cities and regional centres across Australia that have been starved of regular, large-scale flights.
Bonza CEO Tim Jordan, who has worked in the aviation industry for more than 20 years and has been behind some of the world’s most successful budget airlines, told news.com.au the company was about “doing things differently”.
Mr Jordan said Bonza wasn’t looking to take business from the already successful and well-established airlines in Australia, including Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar, but was instead gearing up to fill a gap in the market.
“There are lots of airlines in Australia very much focused on the business traveller, and they do that very well, but we’re about bringing more choice to Aussies from a leisure perspective,” he told news.com.au.
Mr Jordan said “more than half” of the routes Bonza plans to offer will be uncharted territory for Australian airlines.
“This isn’t about stealing traffic from business carriers. They’re already doing their job very well. We want to stimulate new travel to new destinations. We will absolutely serve and represent the whole country,” he said.
Australia is ranked in the top 15 domestic flying markets in the world but is the only one in that top 15 to have one low cost carrier.
“Every other country has at least two,” Mr Jordan said.
“(Bonza) brings back that extra choice to everybody and will hopefully bring a lot more routes and destination choices for Aussies.”
The death of TigerAir last year, Virgin’s low-cost carrier, served as a lesson to Mr Jordan and Bonza.
“Whatever business you’re in, if you look at a typical high street or a shopping centre and you’ve got three or four bakeries then that’s going to cause pressure on all of those bakeries, if you have one or two then that will create less financial stress,” he said.
“We’re not looking to do the same thing as existing incumbent airlines, we won’t be flying the golden triangle (Sydney, Brisbane and Melbourne), the existing operators already do that so well.
“If you have too many businesses doing the same thing, that obviously causes financial pressure and potentially failure.”
Bonza is yet to reveal exactly which gaps or routes it plans to fill but Mr Jordan said there were dozens of potential options.
Bonza sent out expressions of interest to 45 airports today, sprawled across Australia, asking them if they’d be interested in welcoming Bonza in 2022.
“Airport costs are an incredibly large part of the cost base (of airlines) and we are hoping that some of these airports, or all, say ‘we would love you to fly here and we will do you some special deals to fly to our place first’,” Mr Jordan said.
“If they do that, we’ll put them at the front of the queue.”
Bonza is awaiting regulation from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA), Australia’s regulatory body, but hopes to start selling flights in the first quarter of 2022.
Depending on the CASA approvals, Mr Jordan said it was “not unreasonable” Bonza could be taking to the skies from April next year.
Mr Jordan is also working to recognise “where there’s pent up demand”.
“There are significant parts of Australia that haven’t been exposed to low cost fares for a very long time.” he said.
“If you’re in Melbourne, Sydney or Brisbane, chances are you’ll find a cheap flight but sometimes you’ll still have to connect or change flights.
“That’s painful. We want to make it easier for people to travel, to travel non-stop to go and see their relatives or friends for a three or four day break or a weekend.
“Flying is what we do to get somewhere, (flying) is not necessarily the destination and it’s important we make that part as easy as possible.”
Mr Jordan said Bonza planned to offer “sustainable” low prices but admitted the airline would offer some “headline grabbing” fares from time to time.
The airline will get fares low by flying on a lower frequency basis, with Mr Jordan suggesting their 737s could visit regional centres two, three or four times a week.
“Instead of costing $200 to get on an aircraft in a region, it’ll be somewhere between $50 and $100 to get on an aircraft,” he said.
“This won’t be about stunt fares, we’ve all seen $29 and $19 fares, they’re very easy to do but what generally happens in those circumstances is you upset quite a few people because not everybody gets them and people miss out and that isn’t a great way to treat a customer.
“And while I’m sure we’ll have some headline grabbing fares, it’s about sustainable, lower, average fares. We will be offering much lower fares across the country than is currently happening.”
Bonza will operate like other low-cost carriers with extra costs for things like baggage and food.
“We are very much about user choice, we don’t believe one customer should subsidise another.”
Mr Jordan emphasised Bonza as an airline “for everyone”.
“We are about the teachers, tradies, kids and carers,” he said.
“I think (Bonza) is really just here to compliment the existing aviation market because we believe there’s a gap.”
While some Aussies are rightfully apprehensive about the introduction of another budget airline, following the death of TigerAir last year, Mr Jordan said Bonza would be here to stay.
Bonza is backed by 777 Partners, a massive private investment firm based in North America with assets under management of more than $US6 billion.
Aviation is one of the company’s business cornerstones and 777 Partners has already successfully launched Flair Airlines, a low-cost carrier based in Canada.
“(777 Partners) saw the opportunity in Australia and Bonza is coming and here to stay for the long term,” Mr Jordan said.
“We have a very big investor behind us and they’re not private equity looking to exit in three or four years.
“They’ve got deep pockets and they are a serious aviation investor.”
Bonza will acquire a number of brand new Boeing 737-8’s through 777 Partners, which owns an aviation leasing company, valued at $160 million each.
“They’re brand new, which is really quite unique for a new entrant to start with brand new aircraft,” Mr Jordan said.
“We have some unique advantages with (777 Partners), the fact they have an aircraft leasing company will let us grow quite fast if the regulator allows it.”
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