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Creditors will be better off if Bonza is sold rather than wound up, court hears

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Administrators for grounded budget carrier Bonza have been given a two-month window to try to sell the airline as thousands of creditors sweat on the outcome.

Leave was granted by the Federal Court on Monday to extend the deadline to find a buyer until July 29, after a judge was told the failed carrier’s airline licence would probably form its most valuable asset.

A second creditors’ meeting will be held in that period after an initial meeting on May 15.

Several parties are reportedly interested in bailing out the cash-strapped airline, which went into administration with debts of about $110 million.

Barrister James Hutton SC, representing administrators Hall Chadwick, told the court that keeping the company out of liquidation would likely give creditors a better outcome.

“In the event that the company is put into liquidation, advances will be made that will cover some but not all of the employee entitlements,” he said.

If the company went into liquidation, employees might be entitled to retrenchment payouts but it was possible they might not be able to recoup their superannuation entitlements, the court heard.

More than 300 staff were stood down when the embattled airline was placed into administration in April.

Improving the likelihood of a sale is Bonza’s air-operator certificate, which authorises it to operate as a commercial airline.

Bonza’s licence might be its most valuable asset as it was not transferable and would most likely be forfeited if the company went into liquidation, the court heard.

The airline’s US-based owner 777 Partners had shown an interest in restructuring Bonza and its Australian holding company, but it was yet to put forward a formal proposal, Hall Chadwick said in a statement on Friday.

Bonza operated as a low-cost domestic airline primarily servicing regional locations in Australia.

Customers with forward bookings were treated as contingent creditors, taking the total number of creditors to 58,428.

Justice Ian Jackman said customers might be able to retain bookings for future flights if the airline continued operating.

Creditors were told at their first meeting that the airline owed nearly $77 million across two loans, almost $16 million to trade creditors and another $10 million to landlords.

Other debts include more than $5 million owed in staff wages and annual leave entitlements, and $3 million to government authorities such as the Australian Taxation Office.

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