Virgin begins its countdown to the Boeing 737 MAX

Due from mid-2023, the new MAX 10 jets will tackle both domestic and short-range overseas flights.

By David Flynn, August 27 2021
Virgin begins its countdown to the Boeing 737 MAX

Virgin Australia has started the countdown clock on the arrival of its first Boeing 737 MAX jet, now just shy of two years away from winging its way from Boeing's assembly centre at Renton, north of Seattle, to Virgin's Brisbane hangars.

It'll be the first Boeing 737 MAX operated by an Australian airline, with Qantas yet to decide if its own domestic refresh will stick with Boeing's new workhorse or shift to the Airbus A321neo family.

The MAX will also mark an evolution of Virgin's fleet and its passenger experience, with new business class and economy seats expected to debut on the next-gen jet.

In a statement issued to the media today, Virgin confirmed it had "commenced planning for the mid-2023 arrival of its first Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft."

The airline touts the jet as delivering "greater operational efficiencies and enhanced product and design features for customers and the environment."

Virgin's timetable sees Boeing 737 MAX deliveries starting in mid-2023.
Virgin's timetable sees Boeing 737 MAX deliveries starting in mid-2023.

Under former CEO John Borghetti, Virgin signed up for 23 of the smaller Boeing 737 MAX 8 and 25 of its 'big brother' Boeing 737 MAX 10.

However, newly-minted CEO Jayne Hrdlicka reshaped that order to scrap the MAX 8 in favour of the larger and more flexible Boeing 737 MAX 10, which began test flights in June this year.

The MAX 10 has seating for around 200 passengers in a standard two-class layout, and fly 3,300 nautical miles (about 6,000km) if outfitted with an auxiliary fuel tank.

Virgin intends to roster the jet on high-density domestic and short-range international routes, as well as routes facing "constraints due to slot availability limitations."

Sydney-Melbourne is perhaps the best example of this: in normal times, this corridor rates as one of the world's busiest domestic routes, with some 150 flights per day shuttling between the two cities, so larger aircraft trump smaller ones.

The Boeing 737 MAX 10 makes its first test flight in Seattle earlier this year.
The Boeing 737 MAX 10 makes its first test flight in Seattle earlier this year.

"It will do a great job for us transcontinental, it’ll do a great job for us in more traditional short-haul (than longer) international routes," Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka remarked at a CAPA Centre for Aviation event in December 2020.

Borghetti also saw the Boeing 737 MAX 10 as launchpad for Virgin's next-generation business class, reportedly a fully-flat bed which in July 2017 he said would deliver a "quantum leap in domestic business class", replacing Virgin's fleet of Airbus A330s when those jets spearheaded an ambitious but later-aborted expansion into Asia.

Borghetti's corner office successor Paul Scurrah put the 'Perth product' on the back-burner, and by some reports sent it either back to the drawing board or into the rubbish bin, which will only add to the interest in what the Hrdlicka-led and now privately-owned  airline will roll out in two year's time.

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

I can't see people not wanting to fly on the Max, gees I'd even dust off the paper lic and go for a flip in a C-150 to get back on a plane. They do need to make sure the seats and toilets suit the range of the route and aircraft. 

14 Oct 2016

Total posts 101

Besides the noted Safety Issues, there's not a lot to get excited about the 737 Max compared to the NG from a passenger's perspective. 

The major downside is that the new Slimline toilet is pretty much standard, which is a downgrade compared to the previous lavatory. In regards to the interior, it is also very similar to the NG with only the addition of LED lights making any major difference. Unless Virgin improves its seats in size and amenities, there is no reason to get to excited.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 197

Keep your power dry, Virgin have introduced many firsts - curb side lounge access, boarding etc, and I think they will also with the first stretched Boeing NB in Australia. With the extra space of the -10,

I’m sure there is a reason to swap from the -8 to -10 for more floor realestate. I’m certain the J cabin will be a winner for this region.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 502

Clever observation DS, Virgin 2.0 has been way too quiet on its future J-class product for my mind, and this could be the reason.  Wouldn't surprise me AT ALL if Virgin's MAX-10 comes with a  mix of J-class seating from (a) an increase from 8 seats to 12-16 (for East coast sectors) to (b) a few with eight (8) flatbeds for the Transcontinental sectors or (c) a combination of 4 flatbeds and 8 recliners.  Time will tell.  

But, come mid-2023 and with the dangers/risks of Covid largely behind us (or at least better understood), I think the perceived 'risk' of the reprised 737-MAX will at last be put in some perspective.  

18 Jan 2017

Total posts 53

My understanding with the MAX 10 is that it will allow for toilets behind business so business class toilets at the front and economy having toilets at the front (behind business) and at the back.

NZ

13 Aug 2016

Total posts 66

NZ did only installed 3x in there a321N which seat, 220 pax. 1 at the front, 1, post wing, and final one in the rear.

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 205

Like the old 757s United used/uses for Transcon EWR (formerly JFK) -SFO -LAX 

This is one aircraft type companies will want to introduce into their fleet quietly without any of the fanfare.

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 28

Agree LLL, it will initially be introduced with little fanfare!

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 623

Definitely worn't be flying Virgin now.

11 Jul 2020

Total posts 75

Im sure our Australian pilots will be trained for every contingency. By the time Virgin take delivery of this aircraft the 737 Max would have been flying for a few years hopefully incident free and proven itself to be a safe aircraft. There is a good chance all our Australian carriers will eventually switch over or have afew of this type of aircraft as they retire old models in their fleet. I flew on this aircraft before they were grounded with Southwest and I'm still here to tell the tale and would happily fly on a Max tomorrow if I could.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 364

most of us have our worries but you shouldn't be.I as a kid in the eighties was all too familiar with the original Airbus A320 and always where possible insisted on what was then ANSETT OR AUSTRALIAN to get a flight that was a Boeing of some kind on the shorter sectors(I always got a 733 or 734,sometimes a 727 or 767)my first and only time on a A320 was New Years eve Adelaide to Melbourne on AN to connect to an Air New Zealand flight to Auckland operated by a 767-300.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jun 2020

Total posts 3

Agree Joe - Never fly Virgin now or in to the future particularly if use MAX10.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 197

How ridiculous 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 205

If its BOEING, I'm not GOING!  Short term or medium term amnesia?? 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

27 Nov 2020

Total posts 3

With a range of 6,000 KM, the MAX 10 can flight direct from Perth to Auckland (5,300 KM). Hoping Virgin Australia will make this route happen.  

If Virgin Australia configure the MAX 10 with a business class like Jet Blues' (as Hrdlicka has indicated), I'd be very happy. 

Virgin Australia - Platinum

21 Mar 2021

Total posts 5

I do love Boeing aircraft, but the MAX range scare the s#%t out of me. It’s not just the crashes of this aircraft, it’s the cover ups!

Have they truly ironed out all the issues of this aircraft? 

Have VA 2.0 bought them (or leased) because they are literally going cheap? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

21 Jun 2020

Total posts 3

I do hope that Qantas does not follow the Boeing max10 line but orders Airbus 220 or 321neo like Delta has.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 431

Watched 737 Max: Ten Mistakes on SBS telecast (should be available on SBS on Demand) which revisited some things I already know (shocking processes at Boeing and FAA) but some I didn’t:

That the new fuel efficient engines were causing serious problem with the airplanes airworthiness requiring a new software MCAS to be installed to address this

That the new MCAS computer software wasn’t even mentioned in the 737 max pilot manuals 

That Lion Air (then the airline with the largest order for the series) actually did request training for its pilots for the 737 max quite a few months before the delivery of the first 7373 max (and before the crash)  but was talked out of it by Boeing

That Ethiopian airline pilots flying the second Max that crashed actually was trained to deal with the flawed MCAS response caused by faulty sensors and they did corrected it 3 times before crashing with the fourth. 

As far as I can tell, from this program and what is available online, the issue with the effect of larger engine upon the max airframe was not clearly addressed and the solution is still relying on sensors and software and pilot training to address a problem caused by fitting a new engine on a 50 year old airframe design. 

Maybe there is someone out there who knows better and can offer a rebuttal to my conclusion but judging on how multiple civil aviation authorities appears to be relying again on the FAA to do the right thing this time, is seriously worrying. Granted many other countries do not have the resources in their aviation regulators to do what the FAA can do, it is also clear that even now the FAA is still stretched for resources 


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