Virgin adds nine Boeing 737s ahead of expected lift in domestic demand

Confident of an uptick in domestic travel, Virgin Australia is rebuilding its Boeing 737 fleet to approach pre-collapse levels.

By David Flynn, August 27 2021
Virgin adds nine Boeing 737s ahead of expected lift in domestic demand

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.

Also read: Virgin begins its countdown to the Boeing 737 MAX

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 662

There is a major issue here, have you ever flown more than 4 hours on a 737? If you have you will never ever do it again trust me I know. VA needs a couple of jets with lie flat seats and more toilets onboard other wise the Darwin, Perth, Fiji etc routes won't get my dollars or other business travellers money. It's ok to have one type of aircraft but the layout needs to suit that route flown.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 303

Wouldn't that be the MAX-10's role?  

Saying that can't see VA installing lie flats on a subfleet of MAX-10s for a handful of routes (DPS, PER, etc). especially with QF downgauging PER services to the 737s. 

At most VA might install extra legroom in J on the -10s.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 954

Given 737s do relatively few red-eye flights, the economics of these seats are problematic. Lie flats on a 737 use up a lot of space.  VA would need to be assured they could ratchet up J fares accordingly.  I think this is why Paul Scurrah binned the plans previously developed by JB.  

If anything, JH and Bain are even more driven by the dollars so I think the chances of a luxe J class on VA 737s are pretty slim.  I do see QF probably putting lie-flats on some of their A321LRs but these will be mostly dedicated to international routes such as SYD-CGK, ADL-SIN etc.  I think the days of "over-the top" J class on every MEL-PER and SYD-PER flight are over.

AT
AT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

14 Sep 2012

Total posts 355

I think by now JH has made the VA strategy crystal clear that they just won't be competing in that space, so you can count on her not expecting your dollars any time soon.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 662

Silly question where are the NG's coming from and if I was the VA marketing guru I would have them set up for long haul domestic and short haul international.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 954

They are coming from both ex VA lease fleet (2) and Singapore Airlines / Silkair (7).  The first of ex-SQ planes arrive this week and they range in age from 5-7 years old and have BSI.  The ex-VA planes are VU* series so will be around 10-12 years old.  Apparently these are the last 2 ex-VA fleet that they are interested in with some of the older VO* series already going to REX or freighter conversion.  One (VOS) has corrosion issues and the lessor owner will scrap it. 

The ex-SQ planes' interiors will be refitted to match the remainder of the fleet. Keeping all the interiors and seat counts of the 738s the same makes for maximum fleet flexibility.  The only minor difference is technical with only some of the fleet ETOPs certified and able to do NZ routes when/if they return.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 662

@reeves35 good to know thank you, I was sort of hoping they might be similar to the new SQ lie flat option coming out.

08 Sep 2021

Total posts 3

The advantage of the -800 over the max is cost . When whichever state closes its borders and you need to ground the fleet - it's a lot cheaper to ground 12 year old 737s than brand new ones.


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