Budget airline ‘unlikely’ to recover

Ms King said planes will be cancelled until May 2 ‘at the very least’. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Transport Minister Catherine King says it is unlikely budget airline Bonza will make a financial comeback after the regional budget airline plunged into voluntary administration on Tuesday.

Thousands of travellers were left stranded and confused after a former business partner of the embattled airline abruptly repossessed all of four of its Boeing 737 MAX 8 planes in Australia overnight, taking passengers and the airline by surprise.

Ms King said her department would continue assisting passengers stranded mid-journey but conceded it was not likely that the airline would continue trading.

“The administrators, we have been speaking to them 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,” Ms King told ABC on Wednesday.

Bonza entered voluntary administration less than 18 months after launching its first passenger flights. Pictures: Darwin International Airport
Bonza entered voluntary administration less than 18 months after launching its first passenger flights. Pictures: Darwin International Airport

“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.”Leading accountancy firm Hall Chadwick will act as the airline’s administrator and determine whether the airliner has a viable future in Australia’s tight airline market.

Ms King did not confirm whether the company had requested a financial assistance package from the federal government and said it was a matter for the airline to “come forward.”

She said the customer situation remained her department’s chief priority, urging passengers who have found themselves stuck at a regional hub to contact her office’s hotline.

“I was concerned that people weren’t able to get a person to talk to so I stood up my department hotline which is still operating this morning at 1800 069 244,” Ms King told ABC.

“I got public servants in my department just so people have someone to talk to, so they can get information about how to get on a Virgin, Qantas or Jetstar flight. Virgin, Qantas and Jetstar have frankly been magnificent.”

“If you’re in a regional centre you may need to get to a hub where they fly out of, but certainly that hotline is available today.”

Bonza CEO Jim Jordan said discussions were underway regarding the ‘viability’ of the business. Picture: NCA NewsWire / Martin Ollman

Treasurer Jim Chalmers described the downfall of the low-cost airline as “disappointing”

“I feel for any stranded passengers, that’s one of the reasons why the Transport Minister with her usual level of diligence has made sure she’s been speaking to the other airlines to make sure that we can try to get people home where they are stuck,” he told ABC RN earlier.

“This is a very unfortunate set of events for the workers at that company and also for people who are stuck.”