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Australia’s Bonza suspends all operations, Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet repossessed  

On the morning of April 30, 2024, Australian low-cost carrier Bonza announced that it would be suspending all operations with immediate effect. The official reason provided by the company regarding the suspension of flights cited “discussions currently underway regarding the ongoing viability of the business”.   

“We apologize 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,” added a company statement.  

In the meantime, and amid growing speculation surrounding the financial affairs of Bonza’s primary investor, Miami-based 777 Partners, there are widespread reports that at the end of April 29, 2024, with Bonza’s Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft fleet on the ground, all were repossessed by lessor AIP Capital.    

“I am aware of reports this morning of Bonza flights being canceled,” Australian Transport Minister Catherine King said. “I have spoken to Qantas and Virgin CEOs and both airlines stand ready to assist stranded passengers needing to get home.” 

Following the minister’s comments, Australia’s other leading scheduled carriers Qantas and Virgin Australia both issued statements saying that both airlines will try to help out stranded Bonza customers. 

“We understand today’s news about Bonza will have a significant impact on many people’s travel plans,” said a Qantas statement. “For Bonza customers who are due to travel today or who are stuck away from home, Jetstar and Qantas will assist by providing flights at no cost where there are seats available.” 

Bonza

At the time of the announcement, Bonza had four Boeing 737 MAX 8s in its own fleet and was also using a wet-leased 737 MAX 8 from Canadian-sister airline Flair Airlines, also owned by 777 Partners.  

At the time of writing, two of the aircraft (VH-UJT/UJH) are at Sunshine Coast Airport (MCY) and one is at Gold Coast Airport (OOL), both in Queensland. The last (VH-UIK) is on the ground at Melbourne Airport (MEL) in Victoria.  

The wet-leased Flair aircraft is sat on the ground at Sunshine Coast Airport where it has not flown on behalf of Bonza since February 29, 2024, although it did carry out a 17-minute air test on the morning of April 30, 2024, just as Bonza’s suspension announcement was being made.     

More about Bonza 

Bonza was a newcomer to the Australian domestic airline scene, having only launched operations in January 2023. In its short existence, the carrier had taken a different stance to survive in the country’s highly competitive airline market by avoiding the trunk routes where competition is high, preferring to launch low-cost point-to-point services in secondary-level markets with little or no competition.  

The majority of Bonza’s routes (around 84%) were previously unserved by low-cost carriers, while the carrier announced in January 2024 that it carried over 750,000 passengers across its domestic network in 2023, serving 21 destinations and 38 routes.   

55north Photography / Shutterstock

Although Bonza has made no further public statement regarding the suspension of the airline’s operations or any plans for the immediate future, many in the Australian media are already reporting that there is no way back for the airline.  Furthermore, AeroTime understands that the airline will file for voluntary administration in the Australian courts in the coming days and has already appointed administrators to handle its creditors.

More about 777 partners 

The events surrounding Bonza may also have repercussions for Flair Airlines, as there has been growing speculation in recent weeks surrounding the financial security of 777 Partners.  

Earlier in April 2024, it was reported by the Financial Times that financial regulators based in the states of Utah and South Carolina had forced five insurance companies with business links to 777 Partners to sever all ties with the investment firm. All five firms were part of Advantage Capital, which had $2.9 billion invested in companies closely related to 777 Partners. 

Robin Guess / Shutterstock

Elsewhere, it has been reported that a deal that would have seen 777 Partners take control of Everton Football Club in the UK had recently collapsed. Additionally, at the start of 2024, 777 Partners was the lead defendant named in court papers filed by the lessors of four Boeing 737s operated by Flair Airlines. According to the papers, 777 Partners were being sued for the non-payment of almost $30 million in unpaid lease fees relating to the four aircraft.      

Lastly, earlier in April 2024, the growing speculation over the state of 777 Partners’ finances peaked when news broke that the consortium had set up a new investment vehicle to take over control of 30 Boeing 737 MAX 8s linked to 777 Partners, in an apparent attempt to ring-fence the aircraft from any creditors that may come looking for repayment – a set of events that now seems to have been played out to Bonza’s detriment.   

The post Australia’s Bonza suspends all operations, Boeing 737 MAX 8 fleet repossessed   appeared first on AeroTime.

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