Airline competitors united in support of stranded passengers as Bonza placed into administration

Airline competitors united in support of stranded passengers as Bonza placed into administration

The fiercely competitive Australian airline industry put on a united front today, stepping in to help stranded airline passengers get home after embattled startup Bonza Airlines was placed into voluntary administration this afternoon.

Qantas, Jetstar and Virgin have offered Bonza passengers, where possible, free flights to their destinations after the grounding of Bonza’s fleet of six aircraft.

While it has yet to be officially confirmed, Bonza is understood to have been placed into voluntary administration with The Australian Financial Review reporting it has seen internal emails that reveal the appointment of administrators from Hall Chadwick to the company.

When approached by Business News Australia, Hall Chadwick said it had yet to issue a statement regarding Bonza.

Rumours of financial strife have been swirling around Bonza for some time, with the grounding of aircraft today exposing the extent of the company’s problems for the first time.

Bonza CEO Tim Jordan confirmed this morning that Bonza had “temporarily suspended services due to be operated today, as discussions are currently under way regarding the ongoing viability of the business”.

“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,” said Jordan. 

The grounding of Bonza’s fleet has caused massive disruptions for hundreds of travellers.

Federal Minister for Transport Catherine King this morning said her department had spoken with Bonza management and confirmed that the “information we have about what is happening with Bonza is somewhat limited”.

“We have made it very clear to Bonza that our expectations are that they inform passengers about what their options are, what changes are being made, and that they respect their consumer rights, of which they do have some,” King told waiting media in Melbourne.

“The government’s first priority, obviously right at this point in time, is making sure that stranded Australians can get home and to do so safely and as quickly as they possibly can.”

King confirmed that Qantas and Virgin stepped in where possible to get stranded passengers home.

“I understand both Qantas and Virgin have already had Bonza passengers flying on their flights this morning,” said King.

However, out of Bonza’s 36 routes, Qantas and Jetstar have only six that overlapped, leaving the fate of many others still up in the air.

Virgin also offered immediate support for passengers stranded mid-journey with complimentary seats on Virgin Australia-operated flights to the airport nearest to their final planned Bonza destination.

Bonza, a budget airline that launched its first commercial flights in January 2023, initially mapped out 27 routes to 17 destinations in Queensland, NSW and Victoria.

Some 93 per cent of these routes, such as Sunshine Coast to the Whitsundays, were not served by any airline and 96 per cent were not serviced by a low-cost carrier.

The company started with a fleet of three Boeing 737 MAX aircraft and had another eight on order. It has managed to double its fleet to six since January last year.

The new airline was backed to the tune of $300 million by US-based private equity group 777 Partners, a specialist investor in low-cost aviation carriers and solutions providers including Canada's Flair.

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