Grounded for good: Bonza planes ‘unlikely’ to return to our skies

Bonza is “unlikely” to get back off the ground, the transport minister has conceded, as voluntary administrators have been appointed in an attempt to rescue the airline.

May 01, 2024, updated May 01, 2024
Bonza has cancelled flights across the country as it temporarily suspends operations.(Josh Dye, ABC Sunshine Coast)

Bonza has cancelled flights across the country as it temporarily suspends operations.(Josh Dye, ABC Sunshine Coast)

Travellers were left stranded in airports across Australia on Tuesday, following urgent talks about the future of the airline.

The company has appointed external administrators Hall Chadwick, who say the move will allow “an independent insolvency practitioner to take control of the company”, during which creditors’ claims will be put on hold.

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King said a hotline had been set up for affected passengers but admitted the chances of Bonza resuming operations was small.

“We have been speaking to the (administrators) overnight, they’re trying to get the airline back up and running, I think they have got to look at the books a fair bit. It’s unlikely that will happen,” she told ABC TV.

“Planes are certainly cancelled until May 2 at the very least, and then customers will need to get on to the Bonza website or on to the administrators to find out what the next steps are.”

Concerns remained about passengers who had been stranded following the airline’s financial woes, Ms King said.

Rival airlines Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar have offered to fly affected passengers to airports closest to their destination free of charge.

“Obviously, by going into voluntary administration, those planes are still available here in Australia.

“I think it would be Bonza’s preference they get up and flying quickly, but that is going to be absolutely a matter for the administrator,” Ms King said.

“Our concern has been about how do we get people home, particularly at the tail-end of the school holidays.”

Bonza chief executive Tim Jordan apologised to customers and said the company’s ongoing viability was being discussed.

“We’re working as quickly as possible to determine a way forward that ensures there is ongoing competition in the Australian domestic aviation market,” he said.

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

The Sunshine Coast-based company was unveiled in October 2021 and its first flight took off in January 2023.

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

It originally flew 27 routes to 17 destinations but started cutting services during its first six months.

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

Bonza’s LinkedIn profile says it has between 51 to 200 employees.

The airline operates flights from select airports on Australia’s east coast but does not have flights to or from Sydney and Brisbane.

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

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