Australia’s newest low-cost startup Bonza has obtained an Air Operator’s Certificate (AOC) from the country’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA) and will soon be selling tickets.
The AOC, which was granted to the newcomer on January 12, 2023, allows Bonza to use its aircraft for commercial passenger flights across the country.
“We are thrilled to announce Bonza has achieved its Air Operator Certificate from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA). We’re now preparing to go on sale for the first time with our Sunshine Coast base,” the airline announced in a recent statement.
“With the approval from CASA, 2023 is set to be an even bigger year for domestic tourism. We can’t wait to connect communities and in turn, stimulate new markets for Australia’s domestic tourism industry,” the startup carrier concluded.
Highly anticipated launch
Backed by Miami-based private investment company 777 Partners, Bonza is set to become the only independent LCC company in Australia’s domestic market. Bonza’s main low-cost competitor, Melbourne-based Jetstar Airways, which has been serving Aussies since 2003, is a wholly owned subsidiary of the country’s largest airline, Qantas Airways.
To encourage leisure air travel, Bonza will attempt to compete with the larger and more dominant Australian carriers by offering ultra-low fares for direct services across several destinations in the country. The focus will be on point-to-point travel, rather than flying with a stop in major Australian cities, a business model favored by other Australian airlines.
Bonza will avoid flying to leisure destinations such as Sydney (SYD), Melbourne (MEL), or Brisbane (BNE), and focus on flying to under-utilized regions in Australia. Currently, the startup carrier plans to offer passenger flights on a total of 27 routes across 17 destinations in New South Wales, Queensland, and Victoria from its bases at Melbourne (MEL) and Sunshine Coast (MCY).
The launch of Bonza, which was founded in 2021 by Tim Jordan, the former administrator of Virgin Australia’s low-cost ancestor, Virgin Blue, is one of the most highly anticipated events to take place in the domestic Australian aviation market. Initially scheduled to take place in October 2022, its inauguration was postponed to 2023.
What does Bonza’s aircraft fleet look like?
According to data from Planespotters.com, Bonza’s fleet currently consists of three Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft, which can fly 186 passengers on board, the 3.7-year-old VH-UIK, the 3.7-year-old VH-UJK, and the 3.3-year-old VH-UJT. All three aircraft were delivered to the startup carrier between July and December of 2022 and were previously operating routes for Poland’s flag carrier LOT Polish Airlines.
However, 777 Partners is considering expanding the newcomer’s fleet with additional leased Boeing MAX family planes as soon as the carrier has established itself within the sector.
In early December 2021, Boeing confirmed that 777 Partners had ordered an additional 30 737 MAX jets, bringing its commercial aircraft portfolio to a total of 68 aircraft of the type.
Valued at $3.7 billion at list prices, the order is expected to help 777 Partners to expand 737 MAX operations across the fleet of its affiliated global low-cost carriers. These include Canada’s first ultra-low-cost carrier Flair Airlines, and, of course, Bonza.
At least six Boeing 737 MAX 8s are expected to join the budget airline shortly and have already received the airline’s registration VH-.
According to Planespotters.com, VH-UDV, VH-UKH, and VH-UMQ were previously owned by LOT and VH-UNN, VH-UQI and VH-UQP had previously flown with Russian carrier NordStar.
Once launched, Bonza will become the first new Australian startup airline since Tiger Airways Australia, a former subsidiary of Virgin Australia Holdings, which ceased operations in March 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.