Virgin Australia will add nine more Boeing 737 jets to its fleet as the airline prepares for an expected surge in domestic travel as vaccination rates rise and interstate borders reopen.
The first of the leased Boeing 737-800s will arrive in October, with a rapid rate of delivery to bulk up capacity over the peak summer holiday season; all nine are expected to be parked in Virgin's Brisbane hangars by February 2022.
They'll also give Virgin some leeway to take advantage of the reopening of travel bubble with New Zealand.
Although generally held to be a starter for 2022, rival Qantas this week said it would schedule flights between Australia and New Zealand "from mid-December 2021 on the assumption that some or all parts of the two-way bubble will restart."
In May this year, Virgin suggested that most NZ destinations – including Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington – would remain off its map "until at least December 2021", along with a return to popular holiday spots such as Bali, Fiji and Vanuatu.
The new jets will swell the size of Virgin's Boeing 737 fleet to 77, up from 66 today and close to the 81-strong fleet when the airline collapsed into administration in April 2020.
"These extra aircraft are an important part of our planning and ensure we're ready to ramp up flying and meet the pent-up demand for domestic travel as soon as the opportunity presents itself," commented Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
"With this extra fleet capacity, we will be well positioned to reach our target share of 33% of the domestic market, and service the destinations that our customers want with the frequency they expect."
Executive Traveller understands that only a small number of the nine jets were previously leased to Virgin, with the airline putting the new arrivals through an "operational readiness" program which will include fitting Virgin's familiar business and economy seats.