Flight Centre boss Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner slams lack of airline competition after Bonza goes under

Bringing down airfare prices by releasing Qantas and Virgin Australia’s stranglehold on the domestic flight market will require government intervention or a competitor with “very deep pockets”, tourism supremo Graham “Skroo” Turner believes.

Turner, the chief executive of Flight Centre, has expressed his concern about budget airline Bonza going into voluntary administration this week, grounding planes and putting 150 staff out of work.

He has joined the chorus of criticism over the lack of competition in the industry as the two major airlines hold 90 per cent of the domestic market, while Bonza and other smaller companies, including Rex Airlines and Alliance Airlines, struggle to make their mark.

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“It’s very difficult,” Turner told Sunrise on Friday.

“A third player to be very successful is going to need very deep pockets.

“You can see here why Bonza, they lasted a bit over a year, they didn’t have enough aircraft, probably. The aircraft were probably too big for the routes they were on. And they obviously didn’t have deep enough pockets, by the looks.

“I do think for the right player, a third airline could be successful, but it is not going to be easy. They’re going to need to be persistent over a number of years rather than 12, 15 months like Bonza.”

One action that could be taken to improve competition is by the NSW government making more flight slots available to smaller airlines, Turner said.

“One of the big ones is the availability of slots, particularly in the mornings into Sydney Airport,” he said.

“They are very rare and Virgin and Qantas have the vast majority of them and they’re hanging on to them.

“So that is one thing that the Government could do to encourage more competition, even between Qantas and Virgin.”

Australian Airports Association boss James Goodwin said Bonza had been “instrumental” in forcing prices down across the industry on the popular Melbourne-Gold Coast route.

“This is a sad time for aviation and a major blow for competition,” Goodwin said.

Thousands of passengers were left stranded around Australia when Bonza flights were cancelled on Tuesday morning with little notice.

Administrator Hall Chadwick revealed default notices were issued to the airline on April 17, almost two weeks before customers were left scrambling to secure alternative flights.

Bonza leased its entire fleet of Boeing 737-8 planes, and those lease agreements were terminated late on Monday night.

Bonza’s directors claimed action taken by lessors that forced them to ground flights was “not foreshadowed or expected”, Hall Chadwick said in a statement.

Graham ‘Skroo’ Turner expressed his concern about the fall of Bonza on Friday. Credit: Sunrise

All planes have been grounded until at least Wednesday, May 8, five more days than previously expected.

“The administrators appreciate this is not the news that the employees, customers, and other key stakeholders would like to hear however, there is no alternative course of action available to the administrators at this point in time,” Hall Chadwick said.

Refunds are not being processed and customers have been told to contact their bank or travel insurance provider.

The Sunshine Coast-based company was unveiled in October 2021 and its first flight took off in January 2023.

– With AAP

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