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Sunshine Coast had 1.85 million passengers in 2023, smashing previous records

 MCY-Mildura

The Sunshine Coast – affectionately called the Sunny Coast – continues to break its passenger traffic records. The closest airport to some of Australia’s best tourist locations, it welcomed 180,600 passengers in January 2024 – more than any other month in history.  In 2023, it had 1.85 million passengers, smashing previous records. This is primarily due to one airline: Bonza, the new entrant and 737 MAX-operating LCC.

Sunshine Airport passengers 2006-2023

Bonza has now served the Sunshine Coast for a year

Created to improve the country’s connectivity by opening unserved leisure routes, Bonza’s inaugural flight was more than a year ago. It was from Sunshine Coast, the first of its three current bases and the location of its HQ.

According to Cirium schedules information for the first half of 2024, the carrier has 12 routes from the Queensland airport: Albury, Avalon, Cairns, Darwin, Launceston, Mackay, Melbourne, Mildura, Newcastle, Proserpine, Rockhampton and Townsville. The Tasmanian city of Launceston will begin on 29 March 2024 (2-weekly); it was the Sunny Coast’s largest unserved market.

Just one destination – Melbourne – has head-to-head competition, and only three – Cairns, Melbourne, Launceston – have ever had Sunshine Coast flights before. As is usually the case, not all routes have worked: Bonza has ended service to Coffs Harbour, Port Macquarie and Tamworth.

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Dublin Airport

Jetstar remains the airport’s leading operator

Despite the entry and growth of Bonza, it is not the Sunshine Coast’s largest airline by available seats. Jetstar is, continuing the trend that has existed for years. However, Bonza is second. Naturally, the gap between the pair has narrowed significantly, helped by Jetstar’s own growth, which is primarily to Melbourne – in response to Bonza’s entry.

  • Jetstar: 215,000 departing seats between January and June 2024 (+15% year-on-year); three routes
  • Bonza: 164,000 (+61%); 12 routes
  • Virgin Australia: 147,000 (-8%); two routes
  • Qantas: 94,000 (-4%); two routes
  • Alliance: 8,000 (-); Brisbane-Emerald via the Sunshine Coast
  • Air New Zealand: seasonal service from Auckland returns on 26 June (3-weekly)

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Sydney remains the top destination, but Melbourne has caught up

Hardly surprisingly, Australia’s two largest cities and airports account for more than seven in ten of Sunshine Coast’s January-June departing seats (73%). However, using Cirium to examine the airport’s network in those six months of 2019 shows that they had 94% of capacity.

It was when the Sunshine Coast had just six routes – and now there are 17. Yet, Sydney is still number one. There are 51 departing flights in April by Jetstar (21), Virgin (17) and Qantas (13).

Notice Darwin in the following figure. The Northern Territory capital, not previously served from the Sunshine Coast, became part of its network on 29 November 2023. Bonza serves it 2-weekly. It is unusual in the LCC’s network as the 2,800-kilometre route operates overnight.

Sunshine Coasts top 10 destinations Jan-Jun 2024

London Southend Airport