Plans by Bonza (Sunshine Coast) to convert two short-term wet-lease contracts into longer-term dry leases have hit problems with one of the B737-8s returning to Canada and the other parked at Sunshine Coast Airport since early March while awaiting approval to fly on dry lease terms from Australia's Civil Aviation Safety Authority (CASA).

Bonza wet-leased MAX 8s C-FLHI (msn 61804) and C-FLKC (61807) from Flair Airlines (F8, Kelowna) over the 2023-24 Southern Hemisphere summer. 777 Partners has equity interests in both carriers. In February, Bonza came to an arrangement to convert the wet leases to dry, replacing the Flair flight crews with Bonza crews, keeping the planes in Australia, and issuing the aircraft with local VH- registrations.

Bonza started flying in early 2023 and had hoped to have around eight B737-8s in the air after 12 months. However, 777 Partners, distracted by issues closer to home, had only supplied half that number, leaving Bonza to struggle to service its schedules. The airline has also underestimated the time it would take to secure CASA approvals, including for the wet-leased aircraft, resulting in the disrupted opening of its Gold Coast Coolangatta base and launch of flights there at the start of the 2023-24 summer.

Converting the wet leases into dry leases would provide Bonza with some much-needed additional capacity over the longer term. However, shortly after news of the arrangements broke, C-FLKC returned to Canada and resumed flying for Flair. C-FLHI was parked at Bonza's Sunshine Coast base on March 1, where it has remained ever since due to complexities surrounding the registration update. Nauru Airlines (Nauru) stepped in with a wet-leased B737-300 to help plug the capacity gap. However, Nauru Airlines terminated that arrangement earlier this month.

As a result, Bonza has had to trim its schedules, primarily out of Gold Coast Coolangatta, which it is now servicing with its existing four aircraft, rather than the Flair B737-8s, as was the plan. Frequency adjustments include:

  • Gold Coast - Cairns is cut from five weekly roundtrips to three;
  • Gold Coast - Mackay is reduced from three weekly roundtrips to two;
  • Gold Coast - Townsville is down from five weekly roundtrips to three;
  • Gold Coast - Proserpine is cut from three weekly roundtrips to two;
  • Gold Coast - Launceston is down from three weekly roundtrips to two;
  • Gold Coast - Melbourne Avalon is reduced from three weekly roundtrips to two; and
  • Gold Coast - Melbourne Tullamarine is reduced from four weekly roundtrips to one.

Flights from the Gold Coast to Mount Isa, Mildura, Albury, Darwin, and Rockhampton are keeping their existing frequencies, albeit with some scheduling changes.