The Australian aviation sector could be welcoming a new entrant in the new year as independent carrier, Bonza, gets ready to offer more options to budget-conscious travellers.
Backed by US private investment firm 777 Partners, Bonza is expected to launch at the beginning of 2022 pending regulatory approval. Australia is the only country out of the top 15 domestic aviation markets without a low-cost independent airline and the budget end of the local market has been moribund since the closure of Tigerair Australia, by parent company Virgin Australia, in September 2020.
Bonza chief executive Tim Jordan told The Sydney Morning Herald and The Age that the airline would be one focused on Australia’s ‘tradies, teachers, kids and carers,’ and will concentrate on opening up new destinations rather than just concentrating on Melbourne, Sydney and Brisbane.
The majority of routes Bonza has identified are not currently offered by existing carriers.
“We’re for the everyday Australian...we won’t have the bells and whistles offering with lounges and frequent flyer programs,” Mr Jordan said.
Mr Jordan has been in the aviation industry for more than 25 years and working on launching a low-fare Australian airline for the past decade. With the prospect of interstate travel finally emerging, Mr Jordan said there was room for an independent domestic carrier to make a mark.
Tigerair, launched in 2007 by Singapore-based Tiger Airways, was a fully-fledged budget carrier before becoming a subsidiary of Virgin Australia in 2013. Mr Jordan said the move created a hole in the market that has never been filled.
“There has always been an opportunity, but it’s changed shape. The initial takeover of Tiger has meant the opportunity has gotten larger and larger while the economies of regional centres have also grown in significance,” he said.
“The countries with the most aviation growth are those with independent, low-cost operators that can stimulate new markets that can’t exist if full-service carriers operate them.”
Bonza has been in development for some years and will this week begin contacting over 45 Australian airports to gauge preliminary interest in the service while it awaits regulatory approval.
Mr Jordan said the airline is keen to capitalise on the expected surge in demand as pandemic restrictions are relaxed across Australia.
“I think there will be a degree of hangover when the international restrictions are lifted that will see lower rates of international travel for much longer than there will be domestically. The rest of the world has shown Australia domestic markets recover rapidly when given the opportunity to do so,” he said.
Mr Jordan is the architect behind Kazakhstan airline FlyArystan. The central Asian group has seen a 37 per cent increase in the first six months of 2021 than the comparable period pre-pandemic.
Bonza is the newest addition to 777’s array of aviation investments including Canada’s only independent low far airline Flair Airlines, and the South-East Asian-based Value Alliance.
The managing partner of 777 Partners, Josh Wander, said the time was right to kickstart the independent aviation industry in Australia, “There is a huge opportunity to both do good and do well by democratising air travel through lower costs. We want to increase consumer choice and make travel more affordable and more accessible for all Australians.”
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