Virgin Australia doubles 737 MAX order

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

By David Flynn, August 24 2022
Virgin Australia doubles 737 MAX order

Virgin Australia is making a bullish bet on the Boeing 737 MAX by doubling its initial order to eight jets before the first one has even taken wing.

The airline today confirmed it would add four more MAX 8 aircraft to the fleet from 2023 – a move which swells Virgin’s total 737 family fleet to an all-time high of 92 jets, larger than the years when former CEO John Borghetti first put Qantas in the competitive cross-hairs.

“Despite the challenges faced by our industry, demand for travel remains strong, and we’re responding with a focus on the long-term by increasing the efficiency and sustainability of our fleet with four additional Boeing MAX 8s joining our fleet from 2023,” noted Virgin Australia Group CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.

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.

The first 737 MAX in Virgin livery is scheduled to be flying from February 2023, after winging its way from Boeing’s assembly centre at Renton, south of Seattle, to Virgin’s Brisbane hangars.

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?

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 has previously told Executive Traveller, adding the airline remains on a growth trajectory “and the MAX 8 is a modern fuel-efficient replacement” for its workhorse 737-800s.

And she 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.”

Virgin intends to roster the mid-sized 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.

“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,” Hrdlicka has previously remarked.

While the past two decades have seen Qantas and Virgin both flying the Boeing 737 as the backbone of their domestic inter-city networks, that all changes from the end of next year, when Qantas will add the Airbus A220 – a game-changing jet capable of tackling inter-city as well as regional routes – with the Qantas Airbus A321XLR joining the fray from late 2024.

However, it appears the first Qantas A321XLRs won’t push that transformative envelope to include lie-flat beds in business class, with Qantas instead settling for an updated version of a premium economy-style recliner at the pointy end.

09 Apr 2020

Total posts 12

Pragmatic evolution 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 76

A few months ago I had the opportunity, for the first time, to fly an A320 and a 737 MAX on the same day (both flights in Economy). The A320 was 25 years old, but I ended the day convinced that the A320 is the more comfortable ride. On the other hand was the difference so pronounced that I would pay extra on a short-haul domestic flight just to avoid the 737 and to fly in an A320? Definitely not.

If Virgin can get a good deal for the 737 and continue to undercut Qantas on price, they’ll continue to be my first choice.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1174

When the article talks about larger jets trumping smaller jets on MEL-SYD, I assume it is referring to the MAX10 as the MAX8 is the same size as VA's existing 737-800s.

Anyway, it is great news that VA and its new owners continue to express such confidence in their future.  They are running with a disciplined strategy that seems to be delivering for them and will undoubtedly deliver a significant profit to Bain when they come to sell down their interest.

01 Apr 2014

Total posts 110

FYI David - slight typo: Boeing Renton is South of Seattle (not north). Renton is responsible for narrowbody construction and after first flight from Renton, the painting /  final fitout / handover is done at nearby Boeing Field (King County) which is just a couple of miles NW of Renton.

You may have Renton confused with Everett (Paine Field) which is north of Seattle, and responsible for widebody construction.

Hope that helps to update the article.

bsb
bsb

21 Jul 2011

Total posts 92

Those J seats are fine, nothing special. But what is not great is the lack of the divider and magnetic rope between J and Y. It’s one of the things that I think make Virgins’s 737 J Class a better experience than QF (as well as the dessert as opposed to a pathetic Lindt ball on QF).  Hope the Max’s have the divider and rope back. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 870

I want the best business class seats on any flight over 4 hours (lay flat), if VA don’t deliver I can’t see them as being a true competitor to Qantas.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 319

VA were on record saying that they are a 'value-orientated' airline now going after the 'mid market' clients, thus ceding the high yielding 'Flat Bed on Every Flight' market to Qantas.

Thus QF would be more of your liking.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1174

Even QF has moved well away from the "Flat Bed on Every Flight" philosophy with many trans-continental services and just about all Darwin services operated by narrowbodies.  QF has also announced that the domestic A321XLRs arriving from the end of next year to replace the 738 fleet will have recliner J class seats.

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 655

No thanks Virgin. Not flying anything that has a legacy of killing 350 people. I don't care if it's now safe..too little too late for those poor souls.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 870

It might be safe know but there is also a thing called “corporate responsibility” and can they be trusted in the future.

Thai Airways International - Royal Orchid Plus

15 Jan 2013

Total posts 441

No offense intended but even with updates it's an old design from the 60's for the 737's whereas the equivalent Airbus is way ahead.


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