QLD tourism expert calls Bonza route axing a case of “trial and error"

QLD tourism expert calls Bonza route axing a case of “trial and error"

Photo credit: Bonza (via Facebook)

The former CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council (QTIC) has called Bonza’s recent axing of certain flight routes a case of “trial and error” after the airline announced it would discontinue five routes taking off from the Sunshine State due to a lack of demand.

Bonza chief commercial officer Carly Povey revealed the company would stop offering routes from the Sunshine Coast to Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Tamworth, plus Cairns to Mackay and Toowoomba to Whitsundays from 1 August.

Speaking with Business News Australia, Griffith Institute for Tourism Professor Daniel Gschwind said the budget airline is designed to be adaptable, even if that sometimes leads to disgruntled customers with cancelled bookings.

“That is the cost of a low-cost carrier model - there may be changes and disruptions perhaps more frequently than with more mainstream air carriers,” said Gschwind, who is the former CEO of the Queensland Tourism Industry Council.

“Their business model is very much based on high volume, low prices…it is obviously very successful when there is enough demand for the routes and they have come in with interesting point-to-point options for travellers.

“Some of those routes have now proven to be less than desirable for the market with fewer population centres on either end, and Bonza needs to make adjustments. I think that was to be expected.”

While Bonza - owned by Florida-based 777 Partners - has cut down its routes, it is also introducing additional services for three of its strongest performing routes, namely Sunshine Coast to Albury and Melbourne (Avalon), plus Melbourne (Tullamarine) to Port Macquarie.

Gschwind added it can be difficult for the carrier to gauge demand for routes that previously were not available.

“It was trial and error. Look at the European aviation market - the budget carriers in Europe over the last decade or so have introduced routes that nobody had ever thought of before, going to points between cities and larger population centres,” he said.

“I'm sure Bonza would have looked at that and seen opportunities to connect towns and cities that previously had not been connected directly.”

Customers who have booked on the routes impacted will be contacted by Bonza via SMS to receive either a full refund or alternate flights with the airline. The cuts will see 22 routes remain, with flights like Townsville to Rockhampton being cut back from three to two flights per week.

“By removing some flying from our schedule, and going where there is demand, we are achieving two things. Firstly, the changes will allow us to build in additional spare capacity within our current fleet of four aircraft, so we have a buffer when things don’t go to plan (and they will by virtue of being an airline),” Povey’s open letter to customers said.

“Secondly, by focusing on routes that are performing very well, we’re also taking decisive action by going where the demand is and in turn, setting Bonza up for the long haul - because competition in the airline industry is a good thing and the demand for Bonza is clear.”

Gschwind added that aircraft are assets that can be transported relatively easily to suit demand.

“It does come to cost of course, but it's an asset that is footloose - it can be moved and that's what we're seeing,” he said.

“I'm sure we'll see other, more popular routes introduced. There's nothing wrong with flexibility. I think we all benefit from having a competitive aviation market.”

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