Virgin Australia circles back on the 737 MAX 8, eyes 2023 delivery

It’s out with the new and in with the old, as the airline seeks to reduce its carbon footprint.

By Chris Ashton, April 29 2022
Virgin Australia circles back on the 737 MAX 8, eyes 2023 delivery

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

If you’re confused, you’re not alone, as this is the exact model the airline reportedly cancelled delivery of in December 2020, retooling its order – originally placed under former CEO John Borghetti – in favour of the larger MAX 10 variant. 

At the time, Virgin cited the larger model as providing “greater efficiencies to the airline as well as a better flying experience for customers”. It’s a curious about-turn.

Although they won’t be the first MAX 8 operated by an Australian airline – that honour will go to low-cost startup Bonza, which is launching its routes later this year – it will still signal an evolution in Virgin's fleet and passenger experience.

The new MAX 8 will be capable of flying more passengers for a similar amount of fuel than its Fokker 100, which the airline will also retire and replace with Boeing 737-700, resulting in 30% less emissions per seat per trip. An additional 25 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft are still on order. 

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka says the fleet changes are part of a broader growth strategy, which will see the Boeing 737 fleet, currently consisting of 737-700 and 737-800 aircraft, increase to 88 in response to surging customer demand. 

“We have a younger average fleet age than other airlines operating in the Australian market and we are in a good position to phase out our older F100 aircraft for more fuel-efficient options,” Hrdlicka adds.

“This fleet program is about making sure we capitalise upon that advantage as we work toward achieving our 33% domestic market share, strengthen our resources sector and contract flying, and continue on our journey to Net Zero.”

The delivery of the MAX 8 will see Virgin Australia join the likes of Southwest, United and American Airlines, which all fly the mid-sized variant. 

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 779

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 1087

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 779

@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 316

@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 779

@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 779

@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.

24 Aug 2011

Total posts 1087

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 1087

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 322

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 1087

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 77

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 1087

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. 

04 Dec 2017

Total posts 72

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 225

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.


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