Bonza cuts 5 of 27 services as the realities of regional aviation hit

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Australia’s Bonza airline has cut five routes from its roster, just months after the low-cost carrier entered the market and launched a high-profile marketing campaign to win passengers from its incumbent competitors.

Bonza will cease operations of five of its 27 routes as of August 1, chief commercial officer Carly Povey announced Thursday.

Affected routes include Sunshine Coast — Coffs Harbour, Sunshine Coast — Port Macquarie, Sunshine Coast — Tamworth, Cairns — Mackay, and Toowoomba Wellcamp — Whitsunday Coast.

There is no “sustainable demand at present” to sustain those Queensland services, Povey said.

However, Bonza says the change will allow it to devote further resources to high-performing routes, namely its Sunshine Coast — Albury and Melbourne (Avalon) and Melbourne (Tullamarine) — Port Macquarie services.

“You could say, we’re taking a step back to allow us to take a leap forward,” Povey added.

Passengers with outstanding tickets will be refunded or receive alternative services provided by Bonza, depending on their circumstances, she said.

Travel industry professionals have shared disappointment at the news of service reductions while hoping the tweak will enable Bonza to achieve success elsewhere.

Paul Mercuri, founder and managing director of holiday deal website Traveldream, said the announcement was a “shame” but “inevitable”.

“Looking forward to seeing Bonza flying the Melbourne, Sydney, Brisbane golden triangle one day and hopefully competing where they should be,” he wrote on LinkedIn.

Sunshine Coast Airport, one of Bonza’s first airline hubs, will see three services cut.

However, Aviation Australia reports airport management is viewing the decision as an investment in Bonza’s long-term operations.

Bonza’s scheduling tweaks come half a year after Bonza’s inaugural flight, and a litany of marketing stunts intended to differentiate the carrier from the likes of Jetstar and Rex.

The airline has enjoyed positive reviews from passengers in its early days, and flyers have welcomed a new option for regional routes.

It also flew into the market as established players like Qantas sought to repair their reputation with passengers after a year beset by delays and luggage mishandling claims.

Not content to simply brand itself as ‘something different’, Bonza’s ocker branding extended through to bespoke budgie smugglers, and directs passengers to book via an app, rather than a traditional web page.

Mia Fileman is a Darwin-based marketing strategist and founder of Campaign Del Mar.

Speaking to SmartCompany, Fileman said Bonza’s entry would be welcomed by regional flyers, but business-focused passengers on regional routes may be less enticed by colloquial marketing than the utility of the airline itself.

Its marketing output is less likely to be a winning factor compared to its ability to compete against existing players in terms of flight timings and service reliability, she added.

“What people are saying is they are frustrated with the service delivery” on the incumbent players, she said, suggesting new entrants will face a tall order to win customer support.

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