Australia

Full throttle for low cost airline


By ERWIN CHLANDA

Any conversation about the livability of Alice Springs will quickly hit on atrociously priced air fares making personal contact with loved ones interstate a nightmare.

The touchdown of Bonza is bringing significant relief. But why can’t it fly to Sydney?

We (two of us) flew from Melbourne to Alice on Tuesday for $161.86 each. Qantas would have charged about three times that.

Previous budget operator serving The Centre, Tigerair, starting in Australia in 2007, was operating from fairly basic facilities, kind of next door to Tullamarine’s main facilities.

But Bonza uses one of the gates in Melbourne’s main terminal. It has access to DIY luggage drop-off and check-in.

The surprise was the standard of the aircraft, one of the four the fledgeling airline owns, with financial backing from Miami-based private investment firm 777 Partners.

The Boeing 737-8 looked brand new. Legroom was equal to Qantas, in my experience. The entertainment system seemed better.

And you can order your drinks and nibbles on your mobile phone via the Bonza app: No trolleys blocking the way to the dunny. The crew will deliver your choice on a platter, for example, sourdough bites and Cheddar cheese plus 187 ml of Shiraz for $14.

The flight took off within a few minutes of schedule and arrived in Alice about 20 minutes late, perhaps because a couple of small detours around towering cumulonimbus clouds.

An estimated 90% occupancy of the 200-odd seats was a sure sign that Tourism Central Australia – the industry lobby in Alice Springs – was on the right track pushing the NT Government for financially supporting the new airline.

How, much?

We’ve been told that the arrangement with the government is “commercial in confidence” – that irritating excuse for withholding information from the public that is paying for the deal.

According to Minister for Tourism Minster Nicole Manison the amount is part of the $10m Territory Aviation Attraction Scheme “which has seen Bonza enter the market”.

What is keeping Bonza out of Sydney, according to a tourism source in The Centre, is the lack of slots.

Slot management is governed by the Sydney Airport Demand Management Act 1997.

According to the national Transport Department, which is embarking on a review of the issues, slots are designed to “control the scheduled movement times of airlines so that no more than 80 runway movements occur in any hour [as an] essential element of noise sharing and achieving balance between the efficient use of the airport and broader environmental impacts.

“Guaranteed slots for NSW regional services [and] greater access for new entrants” are among the objectives.

What’s also likely to make a big difference is the completion, scheduled for 2026, of the $5.3 billion Western Sydney International (Nancy-Bird Walton) airport at Badgerys Creek, being built by the Australian Government. Work started in 2018.

[NOTE: The Alice Springs News paid for its flights from Melbourne to Alice.]

PHOTO at top: Passengers boarding at Tullamarine.



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