A new Australian airline backed by US investment firm 777 Partners pushed back its launch toward year-end, reflecting the difficulties of starting from scratch during Covid-19 and the global supply-chain crunch.
Bonza’s first flights will be in the third or fourth quarter of 2022, as much as six months later than originally planned. Nailing down agreements with domestic airports has been laborious and hiring while working remotely has also proved difficult, 777 Vice President Adam Weiss said in an interview.
“Obviously the pandemic delayed things,” Weiss said. “A lot of things go into starting an airline. It’s very difficult to predict a launch date.”
While the pandemic has broken airlines worldwide, new carriers have emerged, lured by the prospect of cheap aircraft and a rebound in demand. Miami-based 777 aims to partly replicate in Australia the firm’s other ultra-low cost carrier investment, Canada’s Flair Airlines.
Weiss said Australia and Canada share similar topographies, demographics and market dynamics, and Bonza will avoid going head-to-head with dominant carrier Qantas Airways Ltd.
Bonza’s challenge will be to make money flying to and from small towns where there’s no proven demand. Most of its planned routes, including Rockhampton-Townsville and Cairns-Mackay, don’t currently support commercial air services, according to Bonza.
Bonza will start with five new Boeing Co. 737 Max jets and aims to build the fleet to eight in the first year. The airline may also need some smaller propeller-driven aircraft to land at regional airports that can’t handle fast jets, Weiss said.
One of 777’s goals is to maximize in-flight sales of things like shopping, food and drinks, and items and services passengers might need on holiday. Ultimately, this income could be more than Bonza makes selling tickets, according to Weiss.
“If someone spends 400 bucks on their way to a destination, and the airline takes 2% or 3% of that, arguably that’s a multiple of what the airline would get per passenger if it operated really efficiently,” Weiss said.