The chief executive of Bonza (AB, Sunshine Coast) has said the carrier could open a base at Sydney Kingsford Smith and start flights from Australia's biggest city if only he could secure the appropriate slots at the airport.

Speaking in Canberra at an Australian government Select Senate Committee hearing on bilateral air service agreements on September 27, Tim Jordan said he would like to base four aircraft in Sydney and fly from there to eight regional destinations. He would need to secure four morning-peak and four afternoon slot pairs but claimed he was told not to bother applying.

"Our initial experience from our Melbourne Tullamarine aircraft base is a strong indication of what could be achieved in Sydney," he said. "In Melbourne, we started service on nine routes, with seven of those routes not operated by any other airline. This can certainly be repeated in Sydney. The required slots would represent less than 10% of the available seasonal slots that are either cancelled on a daily basis or allocated and then unused by incumbents, or are ring-fenced for regional services but go unused. With appropriate focus and change, this potential growth for Bonza could start to happen as soon as the second half of 2024."

Jordan's comments continue a longstanding dispute about how slots at Sydney are managed and the need for reform. There are ongoing allegations of slot hoarding and last-minute cancellations, robustly refuted, by the two biggest airport customers, Qantas Group and Virgin Australia (VA, Brisbane International).

"The choice for us is very simple. We can either change nothing and have the slots go unused. Or we can service eight million more Australians with low-cost fares," he said.

However, it also emerged that Bonza has not formally applied for the slots. Importantly, the owners and operators of Sydney Airport are not responsible for slot allocations - that role falls to the Airport Coordination Australia (ACA). That entity confirmed to ch-aviation that no formal application had been made but "as an independent slot coordinator we would welcome any formal slot application made by Bonza."

"We've had conversations with Sydney Airport," Jordan said. "We were told we would not get the necessary slots to base aircraft, so [why] apply through the formal process when you know the outcome isn't worthwhile [...]. It was made absolutely clear to us that if we wanted to operate to Sydney, we could fly in the middle of the day. If you want to base aircraft there, having the option to only fly in the middle of the day is not optimal."

777 Partners-backed Bonza started scheduled operations earlier this year and presently operates four B737-8s, with another two wet-leased from Flair Airlines (F8, Kelowna) soon to arrive for the busy Southern Hemisphere summer peak season. The airline intends to open its third base at Gold Coast Coolangatta in November. By the end of the year, Bonza will be flying on 38 routes to 21 destinations from three bases - but not to Sydney. "We cannot access very large parts of the market such as Sydney," said Jordan, "but we would like to."