Australian budget carrier Bonza has suspended operations on 30 April, raising questions about the viability of the airline amid challenges facing its primary backer. 

“Bonza has temporarily suspended services due to be operated today (Tuesday 30th April), as discussions are currently under way regarding the ongoing viability of the business,” says the carrier on its website.

Bonza 737 Max 8

Source: Bonza

Australian low-cost startup Bonza took delivery of its first Boeing 737 Max 8 in August 2022, prior to launching services in January 2023

“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.”

FlightGlobal has contacted the carrier for additional information. 

Media reports in Australia suggest that AIP Capital, which manages Bonza’s four Boeing 737 Max 8s, has seized those assets.

Australia’s Qantas and Virgin Australia have meanwhile issued statements saying that they 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,” says Qantas.

“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.”

Launched in January 2023, Bonza’s business model eschewed going head to head with larger rivals on Australia’s most competitive routes. Instead, the LCC operated mainly on secondary routes unserved by other carriers.

Some of Bonza’s challenges could be related to its backer, Miami-based 777 Partners, with reports suggesting that the firm’s finances are under scrutiny.

On 1 April, the Financial Times reported that regulators in Utah and South Carolina had moved to force five insurers to cut ties to the firm, which is attempting to buy English Premier League football club Everton. This deal has, reportedly, faltered.

According to the Financial Times, the insurers belonged to Advantage Capital, also known as A-Cap, and that they had $2.9 billion invested in entities related to 777 Partners.

In January, court filings obtained by FlightGlobal showed that 777 Partners was being pursued by the lessors of three Max 8s and one 737-800 formerly operated by Flair Airlines – another affiliate of 777 Partners – for non-payment issues. Four Irish entities were seeking a total of nearly $28.5 million.

As recently as January, Bonza said it was “firmly focused on growth” this year, with plans to add to this then-fleet of six 737 Max 8s and to launch additional domestic destinations. 

In 2023, Bonza carried more than 750,000 passengers across its domestic network of 38 routes serving 21 destinations. A majority of these routes – around 84% – were previously unserved by low-cost carriers.