Australian Traveller made aviation history by joining the first flight for new Aussie airline, Bonza. Here’s everything you need to know.
Bright and early on a Tuesday morning, I walk into the Sunshine Coast Airport to a sea of purple; it’s not very often you see a dress code in a departure lounge. From bright pastel polos to matching patterned sets, the range of outfits all represent the same thing; purple is the colour of Australia’s newest airline, Bonza.
Back in October 2022, Bonza’s CEO Tim Jordan broke the news of a new airline for Aussies, one that ventures where others have not. Bonza currently flies to 16 destinations; connecting locations like the Sunshine Coast and Melbourne, as well as adding new destinations such as Mackay, Toowoomba Wellcamp, Albury and Mildura. The airline has now sold in excess of 10,000 seats across February and March.
Bonza CEO Tim Jordan is excited to be connecting new destinations.
An estimated $1 billion is set to be invested in the upgrade of infrastructure at the Sunshine Coast Airport, which previously only serviced four destinations. Bonza has now ramped that up to 13, which will not only offer Sunshine Coast locals more places to travel, but invites a whole new demographic to explore the region. “The sound of the Bonza jet engines is the sound of the tourism industry coming back to life after the pandemic,” noted Queensland’s Treasurer and Minister for Trade and Investment, Cameron Dick.
But you may be wondering, is it worth it? I jumped onboard Bonza’s first flight to find out.
Boarding the first Bonza flight was a thrill.
I flew from the Sunshine Coast Airport (formerly Maroochydore Airport) to the Whitsunday Coast Airport in Proserpine.
Bonza flies the Boeing 737 MAX in an all-economy configuration. Each Bonza aircraft has a stereotypical Aussie name; we flew on Bazza.
Despite its young age, this model of aircraft has a long and checkered history. However, both the Federal Aviation Administration and the European Union Aviation Safety Agency have approved the plane as safe, which definitely matched my experience. Bonza is the first Australian airline to fly the MAX, with Virgin set to receive four later this year.
Bonza is the first Aussie airline to fly the Boeing 737 MAX.
The flight took approximately an hour and 25 minutes from take-off to landing. Wheels up was 20 minutes later than scheduled, however, I chalk it up to chatty journalists taking plenty of photos and conducting interviews.
Unlike city airports, the Sunshine Coast Airport is a little dated, so allow plenty of time for check-in and luggage drop-off at the desk, as well as security. The gate lounges are quite small and there aren’t too many options for food or coffee, but for a small regional airport, it’s easy to understand why. Once onboard, the safety instructions are brief and to the point.
Each Bonza plane has an Aussie name; I flew on Bazza.
About midway down the plane, I took my seat in 15-D by the wing. I was very comfortable in my aisle seat, with easy access to the lavatories, and if I peered across my friends in row D I managed a cheeky look out the window too. The leather seat was soft and the tray table was small but did the job.
The aeroplane is configurated in an all-economy style.
Food and drink
The menu is easily accessed by scanning the QR code above your tray table. To connect, simply put your plane on aeroplane mode and join the Bonza wi-fi (which currently only works for its app/menu, not other sites).
The menu was very Aussie, the categories covering ‘tucker, thirst quenchers and booze’. Pick between ‘chippies, choccies, biccies’ or ‘a snag in a bag’ (hotdog), among other usual menu suspects. All drinks onboard are from local brands, including Your Mates Larry pale ale, Ballistic Reef lager, Sirromet wines and Sunshine & Sons spirits. Prices range from $2.50 for a snack to $10 for drinks and food. You can also build your own combo.
Make sure you have your bank card handy, as phone payments (using Apple wallet for example) are not accepted. I enjoyed my Presha orange juice and packet of hand-rolled, buttery sourdough bites by local brand Silver Tongue Foods.
A Bonza legend will deliver your order directly to your seat.
Entertainment and amenities
On the Bonza app, you can listen to the radio, podcasts and music, as well as watch Bonza behind-the-scenes clips. There’s even a range of games, however, these are low-quality and a bit slow. I tried my hand at Solitaire but couldn’t make out the cards.
The bathrooms are comparable to any other national airline’s amenities; small but clean with everything you may need.
I found every Bonza legend I interacted with to be friendly, polite and helpful. When ordering in-flight services, a friendly ‘Bonza legend’ will bring your order to you personally; a nice change from the standard airline practice of a one-service mid-flight trolley. I was served by Helen, who introduced herself and made me feel very welcome. She was decked out in Bonza’s purple uniform, which was designed by Pamela Jabbour from Total Image Group.
The simple yet stylish Bonza uniform was designed by Pamela Jabbour.
As I was only travelling for the day, I didn’t have any luggage to check in, but the process seems relatively easy.
Carry-on baggage can include one large item and one small item, such as a small suitcase and a backpack, which cannot exceed eight kilograms in total. For check-in luggage, there are four weight options: 15, 23, 28 and 32 kilograms per piece.
Emissions and offset
Bonza chose the Boeing 737 MAX for a reason. The new model reduces fuel use and CO2 emissions by an additional 14 per cent compared to other regional single-aisle aircrafts. It emits 350,000 fewer metric tons of CO2, saving more than 250 million pounds of fuel per year. Emissions will be approximately 50 per cent below the International Civil Aviation Organization’s Committee on Aviation Environmental Protection.
Bonza is also the first Australian airline to introduce reusable cups, which the Bonza legends collect at the end of each flight. A mobile smart washer that sanitises the cups ensures they stay clean and germ-free for all guests. Food and drinks come with biodegradable napkins and there are no paper menus or magazines onboard.
Everyone onboard was keen to take off into the skies.
Overall, I thoroughly enjoyed my Bonza flight, from the seat to the service to the plane itself. The staff were well-organised, the amenities and service were on point and there were no issues with the plane. Bonza has everything you would expect from a regional, low-cost airline, but go the extra mile to make sure you enjoy your flight whilst reducing its impact on the environment. Four out of five stars.