TRAVEL | Australia’s newest low-cost airline, Bonza, recently launched their second Australian base at Melbourne airport. I was invited to try out the first service, flying from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast. Bonza operates four flights between Melbourne and the Sunshine Coast. Brand new Boeing 737-MAX 8 (“737”) planes are currently used on the route, with Economy class being the sole option.
As well as the Melbourne to Sunshine Coast route, Bonza fly 12 other routes from Melbourne across two planes, 7 of which aren’t serviced by any other airline. The planes have names like Bazza, Shazza, and Malc.
Unlike other airlines, booking a Bonza flight is all done through their app. It’s important to know that there are no other options. Even if you just want to search for Bonza flights, you’ll need the app. It’s not ideal, but somewhat understandable as a way to keep costs down, given the airline is a low-cost option.
The app itself is simple and well designed, using the Bonza’s purple and white colour scheme. Searching for and booking flights, along with any extras you might want, is easy enough.
Note that Bonza do work with travel agents, so if that’s you’re preferred option when booking flights, you can technically book a Bonza flight without the app.
Check in can be done through the Bonza app or at a physical counter at the airport. You’ll get a text reminder when check in is available, but to access your booking and check in, you’ll need to find your reference number and enter it into the app. I was assured that this process is going to be streamlined in a future app update.
I didn’t have any checked luggage. If you do, there are self-service drop-off stations and the staffed check in counters themselves. If you have any issues, there are a number of Bonza staff (“legends” as the airline calls them), in the area with tablets, ready to help.
When flying with Bonza, you’re entitled to 8kg of carry on luggage. You can purchase checked luggage allowance when booking your flight for an additional fee. Checked luggage allowances vary depending on weight, and the length of the flight.
I had no complaints about the service of the staff at all stages of my flight experience. Staff were friendly and helpful, but not overbearing. They do lean into the whole “Aussie” thing with slang and the like in line with the brand image. I’d assumed it might get a bit cringey, but they strike the right balance. Meal service (more on that later) could be made more efficient, but I’m putting that down to teething issues, which the staff dealt with admirably.
The Bonza cabin on the 737 that flies from Melbourne to the Sunshine Coast features 186 seats, in a 3-3 layout. There are enough flight attendants around so getting the attention of someone should you need assistance isn’t an issue. Colour wise it’s purple and white, in line with Bonza’s branding. When it comes to cleanliness, everything is nice and clean.
The leather Recaro slimline seat has dimensions of about 74cm x 43cm, smaller in pitch but about the same width as most low-cost airline seats. Like any economy seat, it doesn’t recline that far back, about 7.5cm. Each seat features a cushioned headrest which can be moved up or down.
There are small armrests, and a modular pocket sleeve at the back of the seat containing a safety card. You could fit a magazine or tablet in here, but not much else. There’s not much space to get work done with the tray down if you’ve got a laptop, but for a tablet sized device it’s possible to get some productive stuff done.
There’s a USB port for charging devices, and a power outlet (two for each bank of three seats). Power is provided at Australian power standards of 220V AC 50 cycles (Hz).
Bonza’s seats do have seat back screens, rather the entertainment runs through the app, which you can connect to using the onboard WiFi. Note that the WiFi is only for using the app’s in-flight functionality, and can’t be used for internet access.
There’s a small selection of podcasts, games, e-books, and videos on the app, but it’s a pretty limited selection. I’d advice loading up your device with your own entertainment before the flight, or brining something to read. Interestingly, there’s no flight map on the app, which is something I usually like to check when on a flight.
The food offering is the thing that really stands out on Bonza. My expectations are quite low when flying budget airlines, and I generally skip food altogether when flying them. Bonza’s offering, however, is actually quite good.
The menu is all-Australian, sourced from a mix of well known Aussie brands and small, independent producers. There’s snacky things like cheese, crackers, brownies, and chips, along with larger options like the ‘snag in a bag’ (it’s a hot dog), wraps, and croissants. To drink, it’s a quality selection of local alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.
Ordering can be done via the app, or directly with a staff member. Do remember to bring a physical card with you for payment. There’s no set meal service, and no cart, which means things can get hectic when lots of people are ordering and also trying to move through the aisles. This is something that Bonza will need to look at as it’s quite an inefficient way of doing things.
No amenities are included with Bonza tickets.
Overall I enjoyed my Bonza flight from Melbourne to the Central Coast. When I purchase a seat on a low cost carrier the main thing I’m looking for is a good flight price, friendly service and a comfortable seat. All of the other extras I can live without. Bonza delivers on all these fronts. Yes, there are some teething issues, but nothing that can’t be ironed out as the airline becomes more established.
More competition in the skies is always a good thing, in particular when it comes to servicing regional routes which the larger airlines have neglected for so long. I’m already thinking about flying to destinations within Australia that I might not have considered in the past, now that Bonza is offering an affordable option.