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  • Matt Coughran

A Bonza of a time to Rockhampton and back


In January, Bonza held a 50% off sale, so I decided to book a joy flight return to Rockhampton. The cost of the Gold Coast to Rockhampton sector was $19.50 and the return flight was $24.50. Adding a selected seat into the mix, the total return cost was $55.00.


Flight Details:

Airline: Bonza

Flight Number: AB1543

Route: Gold Coast - Rockhampton

Aircraft: Boeing 737-8 Max

Rego: C-FLHI

Seat: 17A

Date: 03/02/2024


Arriving at Gold Coast airport at 6:15am and already being checked into the flight, we went straight through security and met up with some fellow plane spotters who were doing the same thing. Our flight was scheduled to depart at 7:25am from Gate 5.


Our first boarding call was at 6:50am. Within 7 minutes our boarding passes were scanned and we were on our way to our plane.


For those unfamiliar with Gold Coast Airport, majority of the domestic flights allow you to board via the tarmac which is a great opportunity to appreciate the size of the aircraft.



As Bonza’s fleet of aircraft is still reasonably small, the parent company, 777 Partners, sent two of their 737 Max 8 from their partner airline from Canada, Flair Airlines. Our aircraft for the day was Canadian registered C-FLHI sporting a hybrid livery of Bonza and Flair. To my knowledge this is the first time an airline has been allowed to fly aircraft and crew from another country domestically in Australia.



We boarded the aircraft through the front stairs only. The process was pretty quick although the load for the flight was quite light considering the aircraft size.


We took our seats, which for a low cost carrier, I found comfortable and had enough leg room to not feel cramped like some other airlines. Before you know it, we were advised by the captain our flight time to Rocky will be 1 hour and cabin crew were to prepare the aircraft for departure. We pushed back 2 minutes ahead of schedule at 07:23 AM.


Seat 17A


We would taxi to depart from RWY 14 with rotation at 07:29 AM



During the take off we headed south over Tweed Heads before making a left hand turn over Kingscliff/Casuarina to head north towards Rockhampton. We passed the skyline of Surfers Paradise and Stradbroke island before heading inland over Rainbow Beach on the Sunshine Coast.




Once the seatbelt sign was extinguished, I took advantage of the Bonza App. Instead of the traditional food trolley being pushed down the aisle in the hope of a sale it is always kept free as you can order your choices through the Bonza app. For this flight I ordered a banana bread waffle and an orange juice.



Within 5 minutes of ordering it was delivered to my seat. Personally I think this is a game changer for any airline that does not offer a complimentary meal or snack, other airlines in Australia should take note of this.






As the flight was not full, I had a walk around the cabin and took advantage of a few extra photo opportunities.



We started our descent into Rockhampton around Lake Monduran which took around 20 minutes before landing on Runway 33 at 08:27 AM with our scheduled arrival time of 08:50 AM.






Only the front stairs were being used for disembarking, Clearing out the aircraft took around 10 minutes from landing and arriving at the gate (we were the last to get off by choice) and we walked directly back into the departure lounge for our return flight.



After disembarking our plane, it was a short tarmac walk to the terminal.


 

Flight Details:

Airline: Bonza

Flight Number: AB1544

Route: Rockhampton - Gold Coast Airport

Aircraft: Boeing 737-8 Max

Rego: C-FLHI

Seat: 8F

Our return flight was scheduled for a departure time of 09:25 AM.





At roughly 8:40 AM, the call over the PA “Gday Bonza 1544 to the Gold Coast is now boarding”



At 08:44 AM we were back on the plane. Although the departure time was 09:25 AM, Bonza seem to open their gate and started the boarding process super early, which I think is a fantastic idea. I will touch more on this in my summary.





This time my seat was 8F, which is in front of the engines. I wanted to mix up the experience by flying towards the back and then in the front to compare. Interestingly there is one row less on the Flair 737, so it felt like the right hand side had a little bit more room than the seat heading to Rocky.



We pushed back at 9:23 AM and were taxiing at exactly 9:25 AM - On Time Performance 100% for these two flights. As we landed on Runway 33 I expected to take off from Runway 33 but instead we made a right turn down the Runway towards Runway 15 and backtracked before turning around for a Runway 15 departure, Rotation at 9:27 AM.



Again I wanted to try out the onboard service, as this time the flight had more passengers onboard.  I ordered 2 chocolate brownies, ginger beer and some of the Bonza keep cups. Once again these items came within minutes of ordering. I’m so impressed with how well it works. Much better than having to wait to for the trolley to make its way down the aisle.








We started our descent into Gold Coast around Somerset Dam from our cruising altitude of 37,000 feet. We tracked over Brisbane Airport before heading overwater passing North Stradbroke Island.




We then made a long track out to sea before coming in towards Broadbeach, then making a left turn towards Runway 14.






We touched down ahead of schedule at 10:28 AM, our scheduled arrival was 10:45 AM. Disembarking again from the front stairs at 10:36 AM.



Summary: As this being my second experience flying with Bonza I can safely say for an airline that is only 1 year old, they are out performing airlines that have been operating here in Australia for a very long time in many different areas. I believe the idea of opening the gate and boarding process 30 minutes prior to the departure time allows passengers to board when they feel comfortable and not being lined up like cattle and having their bags weighed. If all Passengers are boarded there is a high chance the flight will depart on time if not before schedule. This is something that we experienced on both flights.


Another key winner for me is that the inflight service of food and drinks is how low cost carriers that do not offer complementary food should work. It’s extremely convenient and works so well. The App based ordering keeps that aisle clear and let passengers feel like they can order when they’re ready. I’m a massive promoter.


My biggest fear for Bonza is that once the planes have returned back to Canada, they will need to drop routes or will start to cancel flights as they did at the end of 2023 whilst they waited on approval from CASA. Bonza are expected to receive additional aircraft soon. But when this is, I’m not too sure.


For $55 return, the experience was enjoyable and rewarding. I personally think Bonza is a great business model, but it will only be successful if people continue to support them and I hope I can share the good word to help Bonza with their success. Next time you need to consider flying somewhere and Bonza is an option, I highly recommend giving them a go. Should this have been what Tiger Airways was turned into if Virgin Australia had the opportunity? We will never know. But I’m glad Bonza is here and I hope to see them stay at these prices and service.


Thanks for reading

Matt



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