Bonza (AB, Sunshine Coast) will wet-lease two aircraft and open a third base at Gold Coast Coolangatta in time for the Australian 2023/24 summer. The low-cost carrier, which does not presently fly into the airport, will progressively open 11 new routes to existing destinations from the airport from November.

Queensland Airports Limited (QAL), owners of Gold Coast Coolangatta Airport, Australia's sixth busiest in terms of passenger numbers, says it reached "a deal" with Bonza to start flights. The airport was something of a surprise omission from Bonza's initial route rollout. However, Bonza CEO Tim Jordan later told ch-aviation that the airports that showed the most interest and offered the best deals were top of the initial list. QAL declined to comment on any concessions or incentives provided to Bonza to start flights from Gold Coast Coolangatta.

Bonza says it will operate 70 roundtrips a week to and from Gold Coast Coolangatta, initially to Albury, Bundaberg, Cairns, Gladstone, Mackay, Melbourne Avalon, Melbourne Tullamarine, Mildura, Rockhampton, Proserpine, and Townsville. Bonza will enjoy sole operator status on eight routes but will compete with Jetstar Airways (JQ, Melbourne Tullamarine) on the Gold Coast Coolangatta - Cairns and Gold Coast Coolangatta - Melbourne Avalon routes, plus take on Qantas, Jetstar, Virgin Australia, and Rex - Regional Express on the hotly contested Gold Coast Coolangatta - Melbourne Tullamarine route - Australia's sixth busiest with almost 162,000 passengers and 1000 plus flights per month.

Bonza expects the new base to generate around 100 jobs and contribute AUD100 million (USD66.4 million) annually to the Gold Coast economy. Since its first flights in February, a lack of available aircraft has hampered Bonza's planned growth, with financial backer and aircraft provider 777 Partners diverting expected aircraft elsewhere. The deal to wet-lease aircraft is a step away from the original business plan, but Bonza admits that "global aircraft supply is challenged."

The new base also follows a decision by Bonza to axe five of its 27 existing routes and reduce services on others. That decision was due to sluggish demand and reliability issues attributed to stretched aircraft resources, with a spate of cancellations generating some unwanted publicity. Effective August 1, flights between Sunshine Coast and Tamworth; Sunshine Coast and Coffs Harbour; Sunshine Coast and Port Macquarie; Cairns and Mackay; and Toowoomba Wellcamp to Proserpine will cease. The Maroochydore Sunshine Coast - Tamworth service lasted less than three months.

Jordan says once the Gold Coast Coolangatta base is up and running and the new routes bedded down, the airline will look at increasing services to the airport. "We’ll be adding new destinations to our route map that will fly from the Gold Coast, and we continue to welcome conversations with airports around the country," he said. "Our focus continues to be on unserved and underserved markets that we know would benefit from low-cost flights."