Bonza has dropped prices to just $29 for the launch of the route mocked by Rex deputy chairman John Sharp.
The deal between the Sunshine Coast and Coffs Harbour, by far its cheapest-ever, comes despite CEO Tim Jordan previously arguing his airline would avoid “stunt fares” of $29.
“We’ve all seen $29 and $19 fares,” he said in February. “They’re very easy to do, but what generally happens in those circumstances is you upset quite a few people because not everybody gets them, and people miss out, and that isn’t a great way to treat a customer.”
The airline said the price between the Sunshine Coast to Coffs Harbour was a “celebratory fare” and that regular prices would start from $49.
It follows Rex’s Sharp last month quipping he “can’t imagine” why anyone would fly the service, which formally launched on Thursday.
Speaking to BOSS magazine, Sharp hinted the two holiday destinations are too similar to make business sense.
“Coffs Harbour is a great place [with a] great hinterland, nice beaches, lovely climate,” he said. “Maroochydore [in the Sunshine Coast] has nice beaches and a nice climate.
“Coffs Harbour is in NSW, and people have their business and professional connections in Sydney. There is a small market from Coffs Harbour to Brisbane, but I can’t imagine anyone wants to go from Coffs Harbour to Maroochydore.”
Bonza is the first Australian operator to attempt to fly so-called “point-to-point” leisure services that skip out major cities and allow consumers to fly direct from holiday destination to holiday destination.
The business has said 93 per cent of its final network — 25 out of its 27 routes — are not currently flown by any other airline, while 96 per cent are not served by any other low-cost carrier. Many traditional carriers have argued their model would not work in Australia.
Bonza has hit back recently and presented evidence that its plan is working with strong sales and high load factors.
On average, it said its flights were 88 per cent full over the Easter weekend, with every flight from Melbourne Tullamarine and Avalon to the Sunshine Coast between Thursday, 6 April and Tuesday, 11 April, completely full.
Bonza also claims to have notched up over 100,000 bookings through its Fly Bonza app alone – enough to fill more than 500 flights.
On Friday, the airline’s CEO Tim Jordan hailed the value of the new Sunshine Coast to Coffs Harbour route.
“From yesterday, Aussies can ditch the 12-hour round trip in the car for less than a tank of fuel as we continue to give the many, and not the few, access to air travel,” he said.
“To celebrate today’s launch, we have dropped some $29 fares into the Fly Bonza app, so we suggest locals get in quick to secure their next holiday,” said Jordan.
“The two big quirky landmarks [the Big Pineapple and the Big Banana] are not the only draw cards, with both regions sharing an abundance of beaches, treetop adventures and wildlife wonders. Our schedule means you can take a long weekend in either destination and explore something new.”
Coffs Harbour Airport general manager Frank Mondello said, “With more than 38,000 seats available annually between the two destinations, this new route will increase the passenger numbers arriving into Coffs Harbour Airport, who will be able to travel quickly and easily for business or pleasure, and will offer a wonderful holiday alternative for travellers wanting to explore the beautiful Coffs Coast region.”
The Bonza 737 MAX 8, VH-UIK, departed the Sunshine Coast at 6:36 pm on Thursday as flight AB582 and landed in Coffs Harbour at 7:17pm.