The Fall Of Bonza: A Case Study In How To, And Not To, React In A Crisis

The Fall Of Bonza: A Case Study In How To, And Not To, React In A Crisis

Sometimes, marketing is about more than selling products or making money; it is about having a human touch in times of crisis. Yesterday, Aussie Airlines did exactly that in the wake of the news that Bonza has entered voluntary administration, with all flights grounded.

Jumping immediately onto social media, Jetstar offered free flights on the budget carrier to anyone whose Bonza flights were cancelled. 

In a statement of support for Bonza customers, Jetstar offered free flights to those displaced by the cancellations and invited Bonza employees to come forward to discuss employment opportunities with the Qantas-owned airline. 

“We know the news about Bonza today is difficult for both their customers and their team members,” the statement said. “We extend our thoughts to our aviation industry colleagues and their families – from pilots and cabin crew to flight planners and operations controllers – who will all feel the impact of today’s news”. 

Virgin Australia was also quick to respond, taking to social media to offer complimentary seats to “any passengers stranded mid-journey”.

A spokesperson for Virgin Australia Group told B&T that it was saddened to hear of the appointment of administrators to Bonza and of the impacts the cancellations were having on its people, customers and partners. 

“When Bonza started in Australia, Virgin Australia welcomed its launch because competition makes us all better and benefits consumers,” the spokesperson said. “Virgin Australia this morning offered to support any passengers stranded mid-journey by offering complimentary seats, where available, on Virgin Australia-operated flights to the airport nearest their final planned Bonza destination. We are also offering support to the Bonza team members to help manage this challenging period”. 

Bonza, on the other hand, delivered a case study on how not to handle a crisis. They shared no information via social media, displaying a statement in their website header as their planes were repossessed and towed away from the terminal. The ability to book any further Bonza flights on the website appears to be blocked.

“Bonza has temporarily suspended services due to be operated between Tues 30 April, Wed 1 and Thur 2 May, as discussions are currently underway regarding the ongoing viability of the business. We apologise to our customers who are impacted by this, and we’re working as quickly as possible to determine a way forward that ensures there is ongoing competition in the Australian domestic aviation market,” the statement, attributed to CEO Tim Jordan, said.

Many reported they were not given any notice of the flight cancellations, not finding out until they arrived at the airport. 

“I have just got here and some airport man out the front said, ‘Your flight is cancelled’” Passenger Nicole Morris told the ABC.

Others reported that they couldn’t find anyone from the airline to help speak to on the matter. 

According to reports from inside the airline, staff were only informed of issues within the carrier on Tuesday morning when they were advised that “Bonza had finished” and all flights would be grounded until further notice. 

B&T contacted Bonza for comment on this but did not receive a response prior to publication.

While many debate the “inevitable failure” of the airline in a time where it is increasingly difficult to make profits as an airline, Jules Hall, CEO at The Hallway, applauds Bonza for having a go and taking a pretty decent run at it. “The airline industry is notoriously brutal. Data points have been flying around since Bonza’s announcement, reinforcing the difficulty of building a profitable business in the category. Some even claim that no airline has ever made money from its flight services. Which leaves the smart-ass commentators talking about the inevitability of Bonza’s failure. Shame on those people”.

As always, the best approach from other airlines when responding to these situations is the human approach, fuelled by consideration and support, not opportunity. “Virgin were first in, offering free flights to stranded customers. Perfect. Qantas swiftly followed. But don’t stop there. What about the people with flights coming up tomorrow, the next day and so on? They can’t all have free flights. So what can the other airlines do to help them out? Right now, it’s all about actions, not promises, finding ways to solve the problem of those passengers with tickets but no planes will be seriously appreciated by all those customers,” Hall said.

It is of course not just customers impacted by these kinds of tragedies, reports are that up to 150 staff have been impacted by the submission to administration. “We know how tight the labour market is right now. Creating pathways for Bonza staff to fill the staff shortages at the other airlines is a no-brainer. How it’s executed is critical – be respectful, be considerate, be supportive. Assume they have a positive allegiance to Bonza and don’t assume they want to join businesses they’ve been trained to view as their competitors. But giving them the opportunity if they want to is smart,” Hall said. 

“Underpinning everything is the broader supplier network. There are so many here. All hurting. How can the other airlines lean in and create mutually beneficial outcomes?”

“In all of this, it’s actions over words. Authenticity and humaneness at every step, and making sure they are cognisant of the regulatory/legal contexts. And remember, ‘voluntary administration’ doesn’t mean Bonza won’t be back. Just ask the team at Virgin Australia!”.

Bonza launched in February last year, servicing 21 destinations across the country and has claimed to have saved Aussies more than $100 million through its low-cost airfares, having flown more than 650,000 customers. But this is not the first time the airline has faced financial instability.

Back in December, Christmas plans descended into chaos when all Darwin to Gold Coast flights on the carrier were cancelled for the month due to “regulatory approval processes”. 




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