Bonza falls into voluntary administration, triggering mass cancellations as it assesses ‘ongoing viability’

Georgina Noack
The Nightly
3 Min Read
Customers have been left stranded by a string of Bonza cancellations since the new airline launched in early 2023. Supplied
Customers have been left stranded by a string of Bonza cancellations since the new airline launched in early 2023. Supplied Credit: News Corp Australia

Budget airline Bonza has fallen into voluntary administration after passengers were left scrambling to find seats on planes following sudden cancellations.

Flights to and from Bonza’s major hubs at Melbourne Airport, Sunshine Coast Airport, and the Gold Coast Airport were cancelled in the early hours of Tuesday morning, plunging passengers’ travel plans into disarray.

ASIC records on Tuesday afternoon showed the company appointed external administrators, named as Hall Chadwick.

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In an earlier statement Bonza CEO Tim Jordan confirmed the airline had “temporarily” cancelled services for the day as it enters negotiations over how it can continue to operate in Australia.

“Bonza has temporarily suspended services due to be operated today as discussions are currently underway 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 in the Australian domestic aviation market.”

Bonza CEO Tim Jordan
Bonza CEO Tim Jordan Credit: Credit Bonza/TheWest

Services from the Gold Coast to Mackay, Melbourne (Avalon), Launceston, and Prosperine were nixed, as were flights from the Sunshine Coast to Newcastle and Rockhampton.

Flights to Melbourne from Rockhampton and Gladstone were also cut on Tuesday, as was the service back to Rockhampton, and afternoon services to Tamworth and Alice Springs from Melbourne.

Bonza has reportedly sent a text message to affected customers with a link to a refund form.

Meanwhile, the federal Transport Department has set up a hotline for customers to call — on 1800 069 244 — which will operate until 10pm Tuesday night.

And amid the confusion, major competitors Virgin Australia, Qantas, and Jetstar stepped in to offer affected customers complimentary seats, where available, on services travelling to their planned destinations.

Virgin Australia was the first to publicly declare it would step in to rescue “stranded” passengers after it became aware of the situation.

“We are aware of the temporary suspension of Bonza flights. We will immediately support any passengers stranded mid-journey by offering complimentary seats on Virgin Australia-operated flights to the airport nearest to their final planned Bonza destination,” Virgin Australia posted on X on Tuesday morning.

Federal Transport Minister Catherine King urged customers who had been left at airports to approach Qantas, Jetstar or Virgin customer service desks, or call their service lines for assistance.

Customers can contact Virgin Australia on 13 67 89, Qantas on 13 13 13, or Jetstar on Live Chat or 13 15 38.

Ms King said she told Bonza the department expects them to keep passengers informed of their options and consumer rights.

Queensland Airports Limited, which looks after airports on the Gold Coast — where Bonza operates — Longreach, Townsville, and Mount Isa, released a statementsaying it “shares in the disappointment” of tourism partners and passengers affected by Bonza’s withdrawal.

“As an airport operator, we strongly believe in the importance of increased airline competition in Australia to make air travel more accessible and affordable,” a spokesperson 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 Worker’s Union National Secretary Michael Kaine told the ABC Bonza was “trying to do the right thing” by catering specifically to regional airports largely ignored by larger competitors like Qantas, Virgin and Jetstar

TWU national secretary Michael Kaine. Credit: News Corp Australia

“Trying to fly to those areas in Australia that Qantas refuses to fly to who again is under the gun and who is suffering? It’s passengers and it’s workers,” Mr Kaine said, adding that the local airline industry is “broken”

The temporary suspension comes just days after the airline announced it would begin to reduce its number of flights nationally, and as the Australian Financial Review reported some of Bonza’s Boeing 737-MAX-8 fleet had been repossessed.

It also followed months of customer criticism over the service cancelling flights — including mass cancellations over Christmas — and suspending routes.

Bonza took flight in January 2023 from its hub in the Sunshine Coast, promising to deliver “low-cost” services on “the quietest‚ most comfortable and fuel efficient aircraft in the domestic market”.

It was the first new local airline to launch in Australia since Tiger Airways 15 years earlier, and it said it was focused on “opening up Australia”, by catering specifically to regional centres.

— with AAP


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