Bonza has had a meteoric trajectory in the past year, spreading its wings across the east coast of Australia from its Sunshine Coast Airport headquarters. And like any successful fledgling business, the nation’s only independent, low-cost airline is learning lessons and owning its mistakes.
Almost five months after Bonza’s official take-off, chief commercial officer Carly Povey has revealed startling Coast passenger numbers, the most popular route and the real reason behind some of the airline’s recent cancellations.
Bonza began its rollout of 27 routes to 17 destinations on January 31 when 186 passengers on Flight AB777 left Sunshine Coast Airport to the Whitsundays aboard the new Boeing 737 MAX, nicknamed “Bazza”. It was wheels up on the first Australian airline launch in nearly 17 years. Saturday, May 6, saw the last of the initial Bonza routes take flight from its home base: Tamworth to the Sunshine Coast. Melbourne to Mackay was the final route launch on May 23.
Ms Povey admits there is still much work to be done and the journey is a “marathon not a sprint”.
Having delivered its promise to better serve domestic and regional routes (93 per cent of which were not covered by any airline until now), Bonza is in a “stabilising phase”, she says.
That involves “tweaking the basics” – continually improving customer service and operations – and “finding our stride”.
Speaking from Melbourne – the airline’s “second home”, Ms Povey proudly announces that Bonza has flown 125,770 people in and out of Sunshine Coast Airport. Half of that number alone are inbound to the Sunshine Coast.
“The message here is, we are seeing strong support for the difference that we bring in terms of destinations and price,” Ms Povey says. “We’ve seen strong benefit for many of the destinations we fly to from the Sunshine Coast. But we’re also seeing really strong inbound demand for the Sunshine Coast.”
With southern states rugging up against icy winter cold, Ms Povey reveals that Bonza’s current most-popular route is the Murray River border town of Albury, NSW, to the Sunshine Coast.
“We absolutely believed in (Albury), clearly due to the launch, but I’ll be honest with you, it’s been a beautiful surprise just the scale of demand.
“Through to the end of this month, we have very few flights as we go into school holidays that aren’t 100 per cent full on that route.
“It’s just a beautiful story all round of truly creating new leisure demand.”
But it hasn’t been all smooth skies. The airline has had its teething problems, with social media comments and complaints circling around delays and cancellations.
Ms Povey revealed pure “bad luck” was behind some of the most recent cancellations. Up to 10 bird strikes in the past eight weeks had grounded multiple aircraft at different regional airports – for more than four days, in some cases.
Ms Povey says Bonza’s on-time performance also is critical but something as simple as unavailability of stairs for its Sunshine Coast-based aircraft is having a major effect on arrival and departure delays, due to single boarding at the front.