Another Australian aviation industry entrepreneur is planning a low-cost airline and hoping to take flight around the country in 2022. Named after a rarely-used slang word meaning excellent, the CEO of Bonza did the rounds of local media on Monday promoting his startup airline.
Bonza stands out from the airline startup pack
Australia isn’t unfamiliar with would-be airline CEOs inhaling the AvGas and planning to take on Qantas. Earlier this year, plans for an airline called brad were floated but failed to take flight.
While many might say Bonza will meet the same fate, there are a couple of points of difference. The man behind Bonza, Tim Jordan, has some serious airline pedigree. He also has onboard US private investment firm 777 Partners, who have interests in Flair Airlines and Southeast Asia’s Value Alliance.
Mr Jordan, now based on Australia’s east coast, formerly worked at Virgin Blue (Virgin Australia’s former name), Cebu Pacific, and FlyArystan. According to his LinkedIn profile, Mr Jordan was head of Commercial Distribution for Virgin Blue for three years in the early 2000s. Before that, he worked as a network planning manager at United Airlines.
Between 2005 and 2008, Mr Jordan was the Chief Commercial Officer and responsible for taking that airline back to its low-cost roots. In 2018, Mr Jordan went to FlyArystan, becoming its Managing Director the following year.
Under his watch, FlyArystan went on to take the largest market share of traffic in the Kazakh domestic market. As a consequence of FlyArystan, Mr Jordan says Kazakhstan is now one of the fastest-growing domestic aviation markets globally. For the past year, Mr Jordan has been mapping out Bonza full-time.
Australia’s domestic aviation market is a tough nut to crack
The Australian domestic airline market is littered with the carcasses of airlines that tried and failed to make their mark. The most recent high-profile casualty was Tigerair Australia. These days, the Qantas Group has a 70% domestic market share. Many an airline has tried and failed to carve out for themselves a slice of market share.
Bonza’s strategy is a little off-piste. Mr Jordan says he had no plans to take on Qantas (or Virgin Australia) on the highly prized Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane southeast triangle routes, saying his low-cost airline will concentrate on Australian domestic routes other airlines have ignored.
But with plans to fly three Boeing 737 MAX 8s initially, acquired via 777 Partners, the number of unserviced routes between airports capable of handling MAXs with local catchment populations sufficient to fill such big planes is relatively limited.
Bonza faces the Jetstar juggernaut
With Bonza’s low-cost leisure focus, Mr Jordan sees Bonza occupying a different market space to full-service airline Qantas and mid-market carriers Regional Express (Rex) and Virgin Australia. Bonza plans to pit itself against the low-cost Jetstar juggernaut (Jetstar is a wholly-owned subsidiary of Qantas). Jetstar is a formidable competition for any airline.
Bonza’s CEO says he is in talks with 40 plus airports around Australia. He says around 25% of an airline’s operating costs are airport costs, so Mr Jordan is probably keen to cut a deal or two.
As of yet, there is no firm start date, no confirmed aircraft, no confirmed routes, and no air operator’s certificate. But Mr Jordan’s prospective airline already seems on firmer ground than many other airlines that tried and failed.
His investment buddies, 777 Partners, are not naive. They have extensive experience in aviation and believe Australia has significant potential, especially for an independent low-cost airline. Significantly, they are pulling out their checkbook and putting their money where their mouth is.
Is Australia’s domestic aviation market big enough for another airline? What do you think Bonza’s prospects are? Post a comment and let us know.