In California, in a town called Victorville, there lies an aeroplane boneyard.
- Three Bonza-branded planes have been spotted in the United States in recent weeks
- Bonza unveiled its plans in October 2021, with hopes to be in the air by mid-2022
- Bonza’s chief commercial officer says they are respecting the regulatory process
The desert site, known officially as the Southern California Logistics Airport, is where jumbo jets go to die.
But it also serves as a place to store planes until they can be brought back to life.
It is here an eagle-eyed plane spotter snapped two 737 MAX aircraft, originally headed for LOT Polish Airlines, being rebranded with Bonza logos.
Nearly 1,500 kilometres away, other plane spotters, including Nick Dean, have snapped Bonza’s VH-UIK at the Seattle Delivery Centre in Washington State.
Mr Dean has taken thousands of images of planes over four decades.
“It is always nice to get a new airline and the Bonza colour scheme is very eye-catching,” the photographer said.
The airline is still awaiting regulatory approval from the Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).
But Bonza chief commercial officer Carly Povey has confirmed that the aircraft sighted in the United States are destined for Australian shores, where they’ll be given new Aussie monikers.
The company’s first plane touched down at its Sunshine Coast base in August and has been renamed Shazza.
“Shazza does have some friends in Victorville at the moment that are undergoing painting and applying [of] some Bonza touches,” Ms Povey said.
“People the world over [are] looking out for Bonza and trying to capture an image of the aircraft.”
In it for the long haul
It will be a long trip for the planes, on what has already been a lengthy journey for the first airline to launch in Australia in 15 years.
The low-cost carrier was announced in October, with hopes to be up in the air by June.
That was pushed back to September, with the company still working to obtain regulatory approval through CASA.
CASA says the air operator’s certificate (AOC) application, filed in April, is “subject to the clarification of several issues”.
“The airline has revised its schedule and is now working to a mid-October target,” a statement read.
“A new AOC is a complex and detailed process to ensure Bonza meets the aviation standards expected by Australian travellers.”
The evaluation includes areas such as operations manuals, maintenance procedures, safety systems, as well as pilot and crew training.
Ms Povey says the airline is happy to wait for the necessary approvals.
“It would be wrong of us to call out a specific time, but we’re working really hard in the background to be wheels up as soon as we can,” she said.
All systems go… bar one
While they wait, the company has been making a series of announcements.
Bonza plans to service 27 routes across 17 destinations, including Melbourne, Newcastle, Port Macquarie, Bundaberg, Cairns, the Whitsunday Coast, Coffs Harbour, Gladstone, Mackay, Mildura, Albury, Toowoomba and Townsville.
The first cabin crew has graduated from training and Bonza has revealed plane names, an app-based booking system and a relaxed uniform policy.
Ms Povey says the policy flies in the face of traditional airlines.
“A non-gender uniform that really embraces all Australians and gives them the opportunity to be who they want to be at work and to be smart, but to be comfortable and to have fun as well.” Ms Povey said.
“We won’t dictate that people need to wear pantyhose; we won’t dictate that you need to wear a skirt if you’re a woman … if they have tattoos that’s fine by us.”
Some turbulence likely
It has been a tumultuous period for the aviation industry, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing airlines to haemorrhage billions of dollars, as global travel all but ground to a halt.
2021 has seen a welcome resurgence in domestic and international travel, but airports have been plagued by lengthy delays, due to severe staff shortages.
“It would be foolish of us to say that there won’t be things we learn … that, despite best efforts, sometimes things might go wrong,” Ms Povey said.
Professor in air travel at Griffith University Gui Lohmann says Bonza will face stiff competition from “well-established regional airlines”.
“It’s going to be very challenging for Bonza, but good on their executive on having a go and seeing if this model might operate,” Professor Lohmann said.
“They have to make sure they generate a demand for leisure … what we call visiting friends and relatives, people that basically have the flexibility to pick the date that they can fly directly to another regional area.
“So, as long as they can work well their schedule and the pricing and the value proposition of people not having to drive and fly out of a larger capital city, or to even transit through a capital city airport, then they could have a chance.”