‘Bonza is finished’: Grim update as airline enters administration

Celebrations as Bonza's first plane touches down

Source: Bonza

The outlook for budget airline Bonza appears bleak amid reports its planes have been repossessed, the airline has stopped taking future bookings and it has entered voluntary administration.

Flights across the nation were unexpectedly suspended on Tuesday amid discussions about the business’s viability.

Travellers were left stranded at airports and Bonza crew who turned up to work were told they would not be flying.

Chief executive Tim Jordan said in a brief statement that flights had been “temporarily” suspended.

“Discussions are currently underway regarding the ongoing viability of the business,” he said on Tuesday.

“We apologise to our customers who are impacted by this and we’re working as quickly as possible to determine a way forward that ensures there is ongoing competition in the Australian domestic aviation market.”

The Australian reports that the chaos was triggered when Bonza’s small fleet of Boeing 373 Max 8s was repossessed by AIP Capital.

The “sudden move” on Tuesday reportedly took Bonza by surprise. Crew were already on board one flight in Melbourne when the order came through to remain grounded, reports The Australian.

Bookings for future flights could no longer be made on the Bonza app on Tuesday. The app is the only method of securing a seat.

Flights suspended on Tuesday included those to or from Melbourne, Sunshine Coast, Gold Coast, Launceston, Alice Springs and others.

A Sunshine Coast man whose wife works for the airline told the ABC about 20 cabin crew were called into a meeting early Tuesday.

“There were two crews there – they were just basically told that Bonza has finished,” he said.

“They’ve been told that they’re not flying until further notice.

“They’ve all been told that the bottom line is that Bonza will no longer be flying.”

“They’re pretty devastated. It’s their job. She’s been in it from day one. It’s a bit of a blow for Maroochydore and the Sunshine Coast (where the budget airline has its base),” he said.

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King said a hotline had been set up for stranded passengers. Its number is 1800 069 244, and it will operate until 10pm Tuesday (AEST).

“My department has reached out to Bonza and our expectation is that they keep passengers informed of their options and their consumer rights,” King said.

Virgin Australia, Qantas and Jetstar offered on Tuesday to fly Bonza passengers free of charge to airports closest to their destination.

Bonza has not said whether flights will resume. Photo: AAP

Jamie Taylor, her husband and three young children found out their flight from the Gold Coast to Launceston was cancelled only when they had reached the gate on Tuesday morning.

She said the family of five had since spent more than $3000 to find a new way home.

They drove a hire car to Brisbane to catch a new flight to Sydney. They had a night in a hotel booked in Sydney, before finally flying back home on Wednesday.

“I’ve been in tears a couple of times,” Taylor said.

“My kids are missing an extra day of school than we planned.”

Passenger Glenn Stacey left his accommodation at 4.30am to catch a flight from Launceston to the Gold Coast and had just two hours’ notice his journey had been cancelled due to “operational requirements”.

He was meant to work on Tuesday afternoon but wouldn’t make his shift as the only flight he could secure was scheduled to leave at 5.30pm and cost him $500.

“I’ve now got to sit around at the airport all day,” Stacey said.

Sunshine Coast-based Bonza was unveiled in October 2021 and flew its first flight in January 2023. It originally had 27 routes to 17 destinations but started cutting services during its first six months.

Bonza flies Boeing 737 Max 8 planes and is backed by 777 Partners, an investment group based in Miami, Florida.

Earlier in April, the Australian Financial Review newspaper reported advisory firm KordaMentha had been called in to help the company. Bonza denied that.

The company’s LinkedIn profile states it has between 51 and 200 employees.

The airline operates flights from select airports on Australia’s east coast but has none from Sydney and Brisbane.

It flies to many regional destinations, including Albury, Mildura, Mount Isa, Tamworth and Port Macquarie.

The Transport Workers Union said Bonza’s uncertain future pointed to a “broader issue of instability in aviation” and repeated calls for greater regulation of the industry.

National secretary Michael Kaine said it was an extremely distressing time for passengers and workers.

“Bonza must ensure staff are prioritised and informed as this process plays out,” he said.

777 Partners and KordaMentha have been contacted for comment.

-with AAP

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