Virgin Australia teases new Boeing 737 MAX business class

Next year’s arrival of the Boeing 737 MAX will also serve as the launchpad for new business and economy seats.

By David Flynn, May 30 2022
Virgin Australia teases new Boeing 737 MAX business class

Virgin Australia is counting down to the arrival of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8, with the mid-sized aircraft scheduled to be flying from February 2023.

And the new jets will be crowned by a new business class seat – although this is tipped to be the same design that’s being trialled on two of the airline’s Boeing 737-800s already darting around Virgin’s domestic network.

Is this the business class seat we'll see on Virgin's Boeing 737 MAX?
Is this the business class seat we'll see on Virgin's Boeing 737 MAX?

Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka is full of praise for the comfortable and well-appointed seats, which add a leg-rest and storage pocket lacking in the current business class, as well as AC/USB power outlets and a handy holder for tablet and smartphones.

The AC and USB sockets are easily accessed beneath the armrest.
The AC and USB sockets are easily accessed beneath the armrest.

“Our customers love them, and our crew love them too,” Hrdlicka told Executive Traveller on the sidelines of the Virgin Australia / United Airlines alliance launch.

However, she won’t be drawn on if those seats – along with their new economy siblings – or even a Boeing 737 MAX was to be the star of the airline’s cancelled Brisbane hanger event on Friday May 27, which Virgin promised as “one of the most exciting and unique aviation events of 2022... to celebrate a new era of flying.”

Virgin scrubbed its order for 23 of the mid-sized 737 MAX 8 jets in December 2020, in favour of the larger 737 MAX 10 model, with Hrdlicka at the time saying the MAX 10 would dominate “high-density domestic and short-haul international routes or where there are constraints due to slot availability limitations.”

From early 2023, the Virgin 737 MAX will be an increasingly familiar sight in Australian skies.
From early 2023, the Virgin 737 MAX will be an increasingly familiar sight in Australian skies.

And while that’s still the plan for MAX 10 – due in the Virgin hangar from mid-2023 – the MAX 8 has since landed back on the books, with a delivery date brought forward by two years from February 2025 to February 2023.

The airline will now fly just four 737 MAX 8 jets instead of the originally-slated 23, lifting the 737 fleet to 88 planes as Virgin replaces its WA-based regional Fokker 100 fleet with the Boeing 737-700 model.

Hrdlicka said the airline remains on a growth trajectory: “we’re a growing airline, we needed more 737-800s and the MAX 8 is a modern fuel-efficient replacement.”

She also cited “tension” in the market as making this a good time to buy the jets and invest in Virgin’s expansion –  with that tension seeing Airbus pick up many orders at the expense of Boeing, most notably Qantas’ decision to abandon the 737 as its domestic workhorse in favour of the Airbus A320neo-family from late 2023.

And Hrdlicka has no qualms about flying on the MAX, saying the exhaustive testing following two fatal crashes and a global grounding makes it “probably the safest aircraft in the world today.”

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 786

Virgin needs a plane to compete in the 3 hours or more flight range, lay flat beds and more toilets to be a serious contender, if I'm going to Perth or even Cairns I'm looking for a QF A330 at least. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

VA has no interest in adding a second fleet type and it is completely against the strategy they have adopted.  

WIth their model of offering J Class at a substantial discount to QF, it is highly unlikely they are going to go to a lie-flat arrangement.  These seats simply use too much real estate for the revenue VA will earn from them.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 786

@reeves35 let’s put a bet on that within 2 years from now VA has planes with lay / lie flat beds probably a Max?  

There marketing strategies are appearing , copy Qantas, make it better and make it cheaper. I just wonder what that shiney QF card of mine will be worth in a couple of years. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 317

@UpUpAndAway  Why would VA put a lie flat on largely low yielding 4-6 hour medium haul routes like Bali or Fiji, where mainly price-conscious passengers usually patronise?  

The owners were on the record saying that they were a mid-market, "value orientated" carrier, and lie-flats doesn't exactly meet VA's "value orientated" approach according to the owners.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 786

@DanV lol have a look at the current offering compared to what they said they were going to do. All those Qantas execs headed by Nick at the top, all on performance bonuses. I’m waiting to see the 3 rows of business in VA planes come around.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 786

@DanV Happy to put $100.00 on it, I've been in the speculative business for 40 plus years working out what they are doing not what they are saying is easy as riding a bronco to me.

18 Sep 2015

Total posts 121

To get the premium passengers, of course. JetBlue's Mint is an obvious example of a mid to LCC. There's plenty of premium accommodation in Bali/Fiji/etc but it's hard to find a premium bed on night flights on the Oz run..

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

QF's announcement today suggests that they won't be putting lie-flats on their initial A321XLRs (200 seats means J class will probably be 12 recliners) which makes it even less likely, if that is possible, that VA will bother with lie-flats on their MAX fleet.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

Sorry that will be 20 recliners and 180 Y seats on the QF A321XLRs.  I assume JQ's will keep the same 220 seat config as their existing A321s.

Is this the best they could do, why not an Airbus Neo. I'm sure Jane (CEO) must of got a great deal through Boeing 

United Airlines - Mileage Plus

12 Sep 2011

Total posts 333

Great desal, since many are still avoiding MAXX,, and the 777X stil lwont be certified until at least late 2023 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

Why would they do that?  They have a fleet built around the 737.  With their network, the A320 can do nothing that the 737 can't.  The cost of adding another fleet type particularly one that does exactly the same thing would be idiotic.

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 78

Probably got them for free. Well, that's the nail in the coffin for me, I'll never willingly fly on a Boeing "737 max" aircraft. Over to Qantas it is.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

11 Dec 2016

Total posts 73

To be honest, VA is crazy to order more of these outdated birds. Qantas made the smart decision to swap over to the A320 series which are much more fuel efficient and modern. The 737 is a killer for the baggage loading times. Having to manually load every bag on the plane which if a flight is delayed makes it worse. Being able to load standard prepacked cargo pallets is much smoother and logical.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

I like the A320 but the A320NEO is no more economical than the MAX.  In fact, the MAX-8 actually carries a few more passengers than the A320 so the seat cost of the 737 is lower,  There is zero logic in VA moving to a second fleet type.  The A321XLR will be great for QF but VA does not need its range and, for them, it offers no advantage over the MAX-10.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

27 Nov 2020

Total posts 5

So, they're getting x4 MAX8s in Feb — and an additional x25 MAX10s later on (wonder if they'll change this order to MAX8s too...).

The MAX8 has more range compared to the MAX10. 

MAX10: 3,300 nm (6,110 km)

MAX8 & MAX9:  3,550 nm (6,570 km)

Both these aircrafts are capable of flying direct from PER to AKL (5,300 km). And to Japan from Darwin (or Cairns)! 

These are my wish-list routes :). 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

27 Nov 2020

Total posts 5

Wondering if they're switch more of the Max 10 order to Max 8s. 

The Max 8 & 9 have a greater range compared to the Max 10 (6,500 km vs 6,100 km).  

The Max 8s can comfortably make the journey from Perth to Auckland (5,300 km) — and even Japan from Cairns (5,800 km).  Both routes are on my VA wish-list.  

Been a frequent flyer with VA from day one. I’ll hit the pause button when it comes to flying on a MAX8. Still don’t trust them. Hopefully there’ll be no incidents in the next few years to instil confidence in these birds. 

15 Jun 2022

Total posts 1

Max never crashed in competent hands... next

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 71

Won't be getting me on any of those Max's out of sheer principle. I really don't care how safe they may be now....too little too late. Says a lot about Virgin supporting the max after its ill fated legacy. Putting a plane into service that's not ready yet is just beyond words.

23 Oct 2014

Total posts 228

Sr Batrill 

That’s an outrageous statement.

And needs correcting.

The aircraft is now the most scrutinised and therefore safe in the world.

The FAA and CASA are meticulous in there re certification - and CASA would be very conservative and take the safe path.

To  somehow link the Virgin brand to these incidents is unwarranted and totally unfounded.

23 Apr 2013

Total posts 2

It may be as simple as schedule risk - the MAX8 is available now, and the MAX10 is in certification trouble - it may require a significant redesign, which will push its entry into service back potentially years.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1102

Hardly a surprise that VA are updating to the newer J seats as trialled on the 2 ex-Silkair 738s.  These seats are a tangible improvement on the existing seats but use no more space and are perfectly suitable for the routes VA fly which are only rarely above 4 hours with very few operating as red-eyes.  I think we can safely say that JB's plans for a lie-flat J product onboard the VA narrowbody fleet are binned for the foreseeable future.

06 Feb 2021

Total posts 49

It's my understanding that if the MAX10 does not get certified before the end of this year, it won't be certified, without a change to the emergency cockpit warning systems, (and possibly other areas,)  as new requirements come into effect from January 1st, 2023.  Given the obvious reluctance of some airlines, particularly in the US, to retrain their flight crew, it must be a possibility that orders for 10's could be changed to other types if it does require a notable upgrade and retraining schedule. After the MACHS disaster, not retraining is not going to be an option. And if orders are changed to 8's or 9's, at what point does the MAX10 become non-viable, if this also results in further delivery delays ?

06 Sep 2019

Total posts 19

Having flown a couple of times with the new seating, I hope they bring back the barrier between rows 2 & 3. There was a constant procession of economy passengers wanting to use the front toilet and crew were often distracted from providing service to business class passengers.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Aug 2015

Total posts 7

"Wonder how many of the "That's it I'll not fly with Virgin" crew also say the same thing about QF in other threads when faced with 4+ hours on hold.  

Understand the reluctance on the MAX but if SQ see fit to operate them then that says a bit for me.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

08 May 2017

Total posts 14

The new layout without a bulkhead between rows 2 and 3 is a mistake 


Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Virgin Australia teases new Boeing 737 MAX business class