Airlines prepare for holidays as Bonza still waits for take-off

Airlines are bracing for an influx of domestic and international travellers.

Airlines are bracing for an influx of domestic and international travellers. Photo: TND, Getty

Airlines are bracing for an influx of domestic and international travellers as the peak holiday period fast approaches.

This will be the first Christmas since 2019 that Australians can travel without worrying about restrictions, new variants (for now) and testing.

With demand skyrocketing there’s quite a lot going on in the aviation space.

Let’s unpack some recent developments.

Qatar CEO slams Qantas

Since COVID-19 upended the aviation industry, Australian travellers have grown accustomed to shoddy service, long queues and record-high prices.

The problem is due to a lack of capacity, competition and soaring demand.

More competition would undoubtedly be good for the market, but it is reported that Qantas has sought to block a proposal that would allow Qatar Airways to double its access to Australian capital cities.

This week Qatar Airways’ CEO accused Qantas of putting its shareholders ahead of customers by trying to block the airline from adding more flights.

Talking to Sky News, Akbar Al Baker said Qantas was “doubling the price of fares to the Australian people” and asserted that he wants to be “the alternative” to Qantas in Australia.

“Why are we being stifled getting additional rights into Australia … the largest operator in Australia has cut its flights to 50 per cent of pre-COVID level, more than doubling the price of the fares to the Australian people, in the benefit of the shareholders,” Mr Al Baker said.

This comes as Qatar Airways is being sued by five Australian women who claim they were forcibly removed from aeroplanes at gunpoint and forced to undergo genital checks.

In October 2020, 13 Australian women on board planes at Doha were subjected to examinations as authorities tried to locate the mother of an abandoned baby at Hamad international airport.

The Guardian reported that the women who were examined said they were given no information by officials on why they were being forcibly examined, and did not have an opportunity to provide informed consent.

Everything’s just Bonza

Budget airline Bonza’s second 737 MAX touched down in Australia this week.

The newly christened Bazza will sit alongside the carrier’s other plane, Shazza, on the tarmac.

The airline also registered a third MAX aircraft, causing speculation that it may be closer to gaining approval to launch from the regulator.

Bonza announced in October 2021 that flights on the domestic low-cost carrier would begin in early 2022.

But more than a year later and passengers are yet to board a flight.

Bonza told TND that it was working towards building a fleet of eight aircraft in its first year of operation.

How can the carrier afford to expand its fleet when it is yet to raise any revenue from fares? It helps to have friends with deep pockets.

Bonza is owned by Miami-based private investment firm 777 Partners, which has $US3 billion ($4.6 billion) in assets.

The 777 Partners own stakes in 45 companies across the aviation, sport, commercial, finance and other sectors.

Back in 2021, 777 Partners scooped up a fleet of the 737 MAX at a good rate, giving Bonza access to new aircraft that it can operate at a relatively low cost.

Chair in transport and supply chain management at the University of Sydney, Professor Rico Merkert told TND that Bonza is able to use its relatively cheap assets to offer what’s known as a “ultra local services”.

“What they’re trying to do is offer routes that Virgin and Qantas are currently not sufficiently servicing, or sometimes they don’t service them at all … so they try to provide point-to-point services for those passengers for a very cheap fare,” he said.


Budget airline Bonza promises cheap flights between regional Australian cities. Photo: Bonza

Rex inks new deal with Delta

Jet setters bound for the United States will be able to enjoy a “streamlined travel experience” after regional airliner Rex launched a partnership with US carrier Delta Air Lines last week.

The move means Rex customers travelling to the US can connect seamlessly between domestic Rex flights and Delta international routes.

Travellers can book flights under one booking with a single bag drop where available.

Rex claims that passengers travelling to the US will have easy access to 40 cities.

At this stage, the agreement between the two carriers extends only to the streamlined travel experience, but Rex hasn’t discounted introducing other arrangements, such as reciprocal frequent flyer deals, in the future.

“Once our frequent flyer program is launched, there will be a raft of new possibilities as we formalise arrangements with new partners,” a Rex spokesperson told TND.

“Obviously, Delta would be right in the middle of this mix.”

Rex and Delta partnership good news for jet setters

Rex passengers travelling to the US will have easy access to 40 cities. Image: Rex Airlines

Pick a destination

The deal between Rex and Delta comes at an opportune moment, with ABS data showing Australia is a popular tourist destination for Americans – in August, 25,730 short-term visitors arrived from the US.

The US was the fourth most popular destination for Australian travellers in August, with 44,950 returning from an overseas visit to America.

And one year after the easing of international border restrictions, new data from Webjet reveals that trans-Tasman travel is as popular as ever, with New Zealand destinations making up almost half of all international bookings.

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