Grounded budget airline Bonza collapses

We may have seen the last of budget airline Bonza. Picture: Supplied
We may have seen the last of budget airline Bonza. Picture: Supplied

Budget airline carrier Bonza has entered voluntary administration less than 18 months after launching its first passenger flights.

Bonza announced its sudden collapse on Tuesday, leaving thousands of passengers stranded as the airline grounded its fleet across the country.

Leading accountancy firm Hall Chadwick will act as administrators and assess whether the troubled carrier has a viable future in Australia’s competitive airline market.

Bonza chief executive Tim Jordan apologised on Tuesday morning to affected travellers, but he was unable to confirm if or when operations would resume.

“Bonza has temporarily suspended services due to be operated today, as discussions are currently under way regarding the ongoing viability of the business,” he said.

“We apologise to our customers who are impacted by this and we’re working as quickly as possible to determine a way forward that ensures there is ongoing competition.”

Bonza chief executive Tim Jordan announced the company’s collapse on Tuesday.
Bonza chief executive Tim Jordan announced the company’s collapse on Tuesday.

The administration process involves an external party taking control of the company’s operations and assessing its financial situation to determine whether the business can be saved.

Hall Chadwick specialises in restructuring businesses.

“Hall Chadwick provides expert advice and solutions on the best way to restructure your company or help turn around your financial affairs to reach the best possible outcome,” the firm states on its website.

“The key to a successful turnaround program is to acknowledge your position early and plan a clear strategy.

“When you work with us you’ll find our deep industry knowledge, paired with a commercial approach to business, will highlight ways to move forward.”

A national hotline has been established to help stranded passengers as the nation’s carriers pick up the slack.

Transport Minister Catherine King urged customers affected by the sudden grounding to call the hotline on 1800 069 244, or contact Qantas, Jetstar or Virgin Australia.

The three national airline carriers stepped in on Tuesday to offer complimentary seats to passengers impacted by the sudden suspension of infant airline Bonza’s services.

Budget airline Bonza has grounded services. Picture: Supplied
Budget airline Bonza has grounded services. Picture: Supplied

In a statement to X, formerly Twitter, Virgin Australia said it was aware of the “temporary suspension” of all Bonza flights and would offer support to affected customers.

Passengers “stranded mid-journey” were offered complimentary seats on Virgin Australia-operated flights to the airport nearest to their final planned Bonza destination.

Customers on one of the six routes overlapping with the Qantas group network were also being offered a complimentary seat on either QantasLink or Jetstar flights.

The routes included between Melbourne and Queensland’s Gold and Sunshine Coast, as well as flights in and out of Cairns, Mildura, Alice Springs, and Avalon.

At least nine flights in and out of Queensland’s busy tourism airports at the Gold and Sunshine Coasts were nixed on Tuesday following similar cancellations on Monday.

Flights either to or from Avalon, Launceston, Proserpine, Newcastle and Rockhampton were impacted, with about nine flights listed as going ahead throughout the day

Queensland Airports Limited said in a statement it “shared in the disappointment of our regional tourism partners and Bonza passengers” after the grounding.

“As an airport operator, we strongly believe in the importance of increased airline competition in Australia to make air travel more accessible and affordable,” it said.

“We remain committed to growing our network and securing new routes and services to connect people, places and communities – particularly across regional Australia.”

Transport Workers Union national secretary Michael Kaine blasted the cancellations as bring “more chaos and mayhem”, but also criticised market leader Qantas.

“Today’s Bonza cancellations brought more chaos and mayhem to aviation fuelled by monster market dominance of a rampant profiteering Qantas,” he said.

“This will continue until we get the balance right in this critical industry with regulatory oversight from a safe and secure skies commission”.

Bonza flights at Rockhampton cancelled on Monday. Picture: Nine
Bonza flights at Rockhampton cancelled on Monday. Picture: Nine
Flights in and out of Gold Coast airport were also nixed. Picture: Nine
Flights in and out of Gold Coast airport were also nixed. Picture: Nine

Passenger Tracey Hilbert was supposed to fly with Bonza after her father died overnight but instead was stranded at Melbourne's Tullamarine airport on Tuesday.

“I needed to get up there because my brother texted me and said that (her father) was not in a good way,” Ms Hilbert told Today.

“Last night, my husband booked me a ticket with Bonza. I’ve never had this problem with them. It’s only a two-hour flight. It’s going to take me all day to get there.”

Ms Hilbert said carriers Jetstar and Virgin had come to her aid but was unable to talk to anyone directly at Bonza about a refund, only by email.

Bonza passenger Stacey Hilbert. Picture: Nine
Bonza passenger Stacey Hilbert was trying to fly to. Picture: Nine

Flight Centre chief executive Graham Turner told the Today show the travel agency had also attempted to get into contact with Bonza that morning but was unable to.

“With all these cancellations, not just this morning … The news doesn’t look that good, but we haven’t heard anything official yet,” Mr Turner said.

“One of the problems with the domestic aviation industry in Australia, two main domestic carriers is all that the market can stand.”

Customers took to Facebook group “Scum of the Air” to vent frustration at the cuts this week, with some people forced to rebook flights with another airline.

“Just cancelled from Gold Coast to Launceston. We were at the gate. No alternative. Just bugger off. Had to spend $526 on Virgin to get home,” one person said.

Other customers called for refunds to be made available rather than credit given to impacted travellers, while another simply added: “Bonza. Dead to us.”

The flight chaos comes after a turbulent few months for the infant airline that launched in January 2023 on niche tourist routes.

Since then, Bonza has faced criticism over its now-improved reliability, repeated route cancellations, and the stalling of sister carrier Flair.

A Flair plane sat idle on the Gold Coast airport tarmac for weeks while Bonza awaited approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority.

Speaking on reduced routes to and from Launceston, Tasmania, Bonza told Tasmania Pulse it was responding to “market demands”.

Bonza has been contacted for comment.