Virgin Australia is finally jetting off to Tokyo

Flights will initially take wing on the older 737-700, before switching to a factory-fresh 737 MAX from July.

By Chris Ashton, June 28 2023
Virgin Australia is finally jetting off to Tokyo

Virgin Australia is forging ahead with the debut of Cairns to Tokyo-Haneda flights today, despite production delays to its first Boeing 737 MAX – the next-gen jet originally lined up for this route – meaning the experience won’t be quite as comfortable as originally intended.

Travellers will instead make almost eight-hour journey on a decade-old Boeing 737-700, which meets the route’s long-range requirements and is fitted with the same business class seats as the airline’s workhorse 737-800 fleet.

Of course, the MAX delay isn’t Virgin’s fault – a statement from Boeing confirmed it was related to “non-standard manufacturing process”, while adding “this is not an immediate safety of flight issue and the in-service fleet can continue operating safely.”

The MAX will touch down on Australian soil this Thursday, although won’t be jetting off to Tokyo right away – instead, it will enter a short period of domestic flying to help familiarise the Virgin crew and finalise regulatory approval before slotting into international service.

The long-awaited Boeing 737 MAX is finally ready for delivery.
The long-awaited Boeing 737 MAX is finally ready for delivery.

At the time of writing, the airline’s schedule shows the 737 MAX moving onto Cairns-Tokyo from July 30. This should, of course, be treated as an indicative placeholder rather than a firm and final date.

The daily Cairns-Tokyo service will run to the following scheduled:

  • VA77 departs Cairns at 1.15pm to reach Tokyo at 8pm
  • VA78 departs Tokyo at 9.45pm to reach Cairns at 6.15am the following morning

Virgin Australia Chief Operations Officer Stuart Aggs describes the new MAX family as a critical part of the airline’s transformation, not only making for a more comfortable onboard experience but forming the backbone of its decarbonisation ambitions.

“We expect our fleet renewal program, combined with other fuel efficiency initiatives, to support over 80 per cent of our 2030 interim target to reduce Virgin Australia’s carbon emission intensity by 22 per cent,” explains Aggs.

“As well as being more fuel efficient, the 737-8 is approximately 40 per cent quieter than the current 737-800 NG fleet and comes fitted with our new generation seats, which include device holders and in-seat power.”

As previously reported, those seats are widely tipped to be the same design being trialled on two of the airline’s Boeing 737-800s which are currently 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?

In addition to the usual complimentary meals and drinks in business class, pointy end passengers will also be issued with a pillow, blanket and amenity kit.

Virgin has also debuted a new business and economy class menu specifically for the flights too, including a bento box with glazed teriyaki chicken accompanied by grilled eggplant, pan fried pork dumplings, and sweeter treats such as green tea cake.

This artfully-plated bento is the signature business class dish.
This artfully-plated bento is the signature business class dish.

Travellers in business class can look forward to: 

  • Japanese Bento box: Glazed teriyaki chicken, carrot, green beans and shitake mushroom served with grilled Japanese eggplant and red pepper, braised pumpkin, pickles, steamed rice
  • Asian slaw with soba noodles
  • Pan fried pork dumplings
  • Hot miso soup
  • Spinach and ricotta ravioli with herbed tomato sauce, spinach, and parmesan panko crumb (Western main option)
  • Four cheese arancini with muhammara sauce (Western main option)
  • Sweet treats including green tea cake, blueberry cake and carrot cake
  • Authentic Japanese green tea
  • Yoshinogawa Gensen Karakuchi sake
  • 4 Pines Japanese-style Lager

And on arrival, jetsetters will discover an enticing array of new and reimagined experiences right across Japan, as well as enduring icons including its onsen hot springs and blistering bullet trains, and little-known gems such as Tokyo’s sub-tropical islands.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 465

about time.the schedules work out well for almost all of Australia except Adelaide people.who still have overnight via the eastern states or go through Singapore.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 967

I'm flying to Japan shortly on A350 (I think) direct from Sydney to Toyoko and direct home in a proper international business class seat. 

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1203

What airline flies the A350 to Japan from Australia?  I thought both ANA and JAL use 787s whilst QF uses an A330.


11 Jul 2014

Total posts 967

Your rite I am wronggggg

ANA must be a 787, I did put a disclaimer (I Think).

12 Dec 2012

Total posts 1024

ANA and JAL both use 787s for the HND-SYD flights. (2x ANA, 1x JAL)
Qantas uses A330s for SYD-HND, which will change soon to 1xA330, 1x787.
Qantas uses A330s for MEL/BNE-HND, which will soon be changing to daily A330 from each to NRT.
JAL has 787s on NRT-MEL
ANA will also be using 787s when they resume NRT-PER in October.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 232

Whilst I always travel with VA Domestically there's absolutely no way I would sit in the old B737-800 for eight hours!!!!, It's ok for 4 or 5 hours but 8 hrs.?? No Way when one can fly on other International Airlines with very much better equipment and seating, service etc.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 49

You couldn’t even pay me to get on this flight. It sounds like absolute torture.

Good luck with this Virgin. Wake me up when you get a decent plane for this route.

Singapore Airlines - KrisFlyer

14 Jun 2017

Total posts 49

i assume the strategy here is, slightly misadvertise this product (ie never blatantly mention the aircraft) to Japanese leisure travellers who would a) never fly virgin again anyway and b) wouldn't bother putting in a formal complaint after the worst 7.5 hours of their lives. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Mar 2020

Total posts 24

lack of lounge access at both ends is a issue, thought they would have come up with some sort of arrangement by now for the limited international flights

03 Oct 2021

Total posts 4

They did say back in Dec 2023 that the agreement with ANA Airlines would be established IE code share points status credit where in nearly July and all they got is ANA numbers on VA flights pretty poor 😕

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 39

Honestly, the prospect of doing an 8 hour flight in any single aisle aircraft in economy (700 or Max) just sounds awful.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 249

For flyers in the know, sure it's not appealing - but it's not a huge aircraft to fill and to capture a market they just need make price attractive. Which they are - in Jul/ Aug QF Sydney to Tokyo direct in Business comes in at $10k return. VA $3.5k return similar to JQ price via Gold Coast. Other 1 stop hops like CX at $5k. For economy pax there aint much difference in seat comfort. VA used to do Perth to Phuket 7hrs on 737 and that had high loads.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

24 Feb 2015

Total posts 5

A 737 for 8 hours is no different than a Boeing 707 in the 1960s or 70s.  Both planes share the same fuselage design... 

28 Dec 2016

Total posts 71

But does the 707 have the same non-existent seat pitch and width as on a modern 737 / narrowbody aircraft? 

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