Virgin Australia rules out the return of the Boeing 777

Virgin Australia says it will resume overseas flying, but not on the Boeing 777s it still owns...

By David Flynn, September 27 2021
Virgin Australia rules out the return of the Boeing 777

Virgin Australia says it has no plans to fly the two Boeing 777s which remain under its ownership some 12 months since Bain Capital retired the airline's Boeing 777 and Airbus A330 fleets as part of its 'Virgin Australia 2.0' reboot.

While four of the five Boeing 777-300ER jets were fully owned by Virgin, to date only two have been sold off – the other pair remain on the books of VB Leaseco, one of the many arms of Virgin Australia Holdings, and are still parked at Toowoomba's Wellcamp Airport, 130km west of Virgin's Brisbane base.

Virgin has always insisted that it would resume long-range international flying when demand on its key routes returned.

"Long-haul international operations are an important part of the Virgin Australia business," the airline has said in a statement.

"However, given current international travel restrictions, the airline will continue to suspend flights to Los Angeles and Tokyo with the intention to recommence and grow long-haul flights when sufficient demand returns."

Separately, Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka has said "we are really looking forward to restarting (long-haul international flying) with a principal focus on Japan and the USA", although short-range overseas services would be first cab off the rank.

The Virgin Australia Boeing 777s featured the airline's flagship business class.
The Virgin Australia Boeing 777s featured the airline's flagship business class.

With Australia's international borders now set to reopen in December, Tokyo and Los Angeles are among the first destinations that rival Qantas plans to reboot from December 18.

In short order, flights between Australia and Tokyo are expected to be offered by Qantas and its Oneworld partner Japan Airlines, and Star Alliance member and Virgin partner ANA.

As previously reported, Virgin Australia was due to begin flights from Brisbane to Tokyo's Haneda Airport flights on March 29, 2020, although this route was cancelled weeks before launch in the face of the Covid-19 pandemic.

A Virgin Australia spokesman told Executive Traveller that the airline "has retained its capacity allocation in Tokyo Haneda with the intention of commencing Australia-Japan services in the future."

Similarly, the familiar foursome of Qantas, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines will all be flying to Los Angeles.

Virgin Australia's Boeing 777 bar was a hit with trans-Pacific travellers.
Virgin Australia's Boeing 777 bar was a hit with trans-Pacific travellers.

The continued presence of those two Boeing 777-300ER jets at Wellcamp Airport and on Virgin's books has sparked some speculation that the airline could reactivate those jets, and their former Virgin Australia crew, to kick-start one international route.

This is despite that the 339-seat Boeing 777s would be ill-matched against soft post-pandemic demand, especially compared to more mid-sized and fuel-efficient Boeing 787s and Airbus A350s.

While Virgin Australia declined to offer an on the record comment, Executive Traveller understands that the airline 'disclaimed' these aircraft in the process of going through voluntary administration in late 2020, and is now working to complete their title transfer from VB Leaseco.

"We remain in discussions with aircraft manufacturers on a fleet strategy to support the reintroduction of widebody services when long-haul international travel demand returns," a Virgin Australia spokesman told Executive Traveller.

Also read: Virgin to reopen points bookings on international partner airlines

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.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 517

"The Business" suites in these planes, coupled with 'that bar', make in a fave of mine for flights between AUS and LAX.  Even if all initial flights to LAX were out of BNE (putting the 2 owned 777-300 ERs to good use), provided the sector connecting to/from BNE (with SYD or MEL) had its own status credit earn (separate to those for the BNE-LAX sector), I'd be using it - without a doubt in the world.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 200

They were too big for VA pre-covid anyway

soft post-pandemic demand ? Pent up demand is huge. Many just waiting for fed govt to confirm no quarantine on return. NOTE: from Nov, Australians can enter USA as long as vaccinated & at the moment, having to have a covid test within 3 days of their departure. Meanwhile, you can reserve, ie. no money down, flights to USA in late Dec & early Jan at fares, never before seen for peak season.

05 Mar 2015

Total posts 339

Huge initial pent-up demand but that will not be sustained after school holidays end, because business and leisure travel, family holidays etc will not immediately bounce back to their pre-COVID state. Look at the AU-NZ bubble, huge pent-up demand in the first week or two, then dropped so low that airlines had to cancel flights and run a reduced schedule.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

07 Dec 2015

Total posts 51

I agree QFP1 - lots of talk about pent up demand but I too see it being a very short spike (your AU-NZ bubble example is a good one) with many other things that need to fall into place to make it sustainable. I still can't see international travel rebounding more confidently in Australia till late 2022 at the earliest. Domestic I can see sooner.

are the 4 x B773s hulls actually worth anything at all right now, apart from scrap value ? Engines maybe.

So many 777s have been parked around the world, most to never ever fly again, so parts must also be cheap. Is that a safe assumption ?

08 Sep 2018

Total posts 21

They are getting a tad old now approaching 15 years old, they would be looking at replacing regardless in the next 5 years even if they used them, might as well just kickoff 787 ops now while they are financially more attractive vs playing around with 77Ws for the next few years. They will need some $$$ engineering work soon also, it’s really not worth all the hastle. 

777/787 is a common type rating from memory also. 

02 Nov 2017

Total posts 8

Thing is as a passenger 777 is so much more spacious than 787 which is effectively a contemporary 767. For myself its A380 or 777 for long haul whatever the class I’m flying 

21 Apr 2019

Total posts 13

I predict demand for USA flights will be huge by mid 2022.

QF

11 Jul 2014

Total posts 697

Seeing a couple of Singapore Airlines 737 coming to  VA could they also bring in A350 or 787 aircraft makes sense to myself, Syd - LA etc

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 307

VA picking up widebodies from SQ is very unlikely as SQ has no ownership and now has minimal involvement in VA (existing partnership) post Bain takeover. 

VA picked up the SQ 738s from the lessor after the leases ended.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

05 Oct 2016

Total posts 71

Demand might be huge now, all those of us waiting to go, but i doubt it will be sustained for the short term... Drop off and take a while to build up again I reckon. Also, USA letting Australians in from Nov but i understand they don't recognize AZ vaccine? What about those that had that vax?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 452

The US Government recognises AZ, as it recognises any approved vaccine on either the FDA or WHO lists. 

The issue that was reported early on was that some US businesses (theatres, restaurants, shops) had introduced their own requirements for proof of vaccination, and a number of them were reported to be not accepting AZ because it wasn't on the FDA list (and that's because AZ had never lodged an application with the FDA because no manufacturer in the US is producing the AZ vaccine).  Now being aware of this issue, AZ has either recently lodged an application with the FDA, or will do so very soon.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 332

It will be great when VA do resume long haul flying as competition benefits many, but I do not see them starting these operations until late 2022 or even into 2023.

01 Aug 2019

Total posts 13

It would not be surprising if they have ordered the 787-9 and it is under disclosed orders.

26 May 2016

Total posts 18

Agreed. This was definitely done when the VA MAX order was rejigged in December last year (peak covid). There is no way VA has left it up to now to secure planes for its resumption for long distance international flying - with increased demand with international green zones 

I think that all makes perfect sense, rejig the MAX order and get some Boeing 787-9s in place, but why would Virgin want to keep that a secret, and just keep making the same response about "we will return to long-haul travel, we are talking with Airbus and Boeing", instead of coming out and saying "we have an order for ten Boeing 787-9s, flexible delivery from as early as FY23 whenever we want them" to prove they are serious about resuming long-haul routes? It would seem like a real PR win for Virgin, so why would they place an order but keep it secret?

Joe
Joe

03 May 2013

Total posts 643

777 is a great cargo plane. Terrible for passenger experience in flights over 5-6 hrs.  Not sure what the future of the 777x will be considering it’s essentially an old frame. 

25 Jun 2021

Total posts 19

777 I have always liked. And 1st in emirates is better than the A380

29 Jan 2020

Total posts 32

I reckon saints19 is spot on….they have ordered 787/9s

22 Nov 2020

Total posts 3

Maybe the have ordered A321XLR, This aircraft could reach all of VA's international destinations except for LAX, just food for thought, not that I want to be in a single isle jet for 8 hours. For LAX they could use other United.

Because after going to great lengths to simplify the VA fleet, Bain will want to add another type of jet to the mix? No, I think we are in for the Boeing 737 and later the MAX variant for domestic and short-haul flights, and the Boeing 787-9 for long-haul. But I don't hold much confidence that Tokyo will come back, Virgin never got around to launching it and it was almost a pivot done by previous CEO Paul Scurrah after pulling the plug on John Borghetti's Hong Kong routes. I wouldn't be surprised if Virgin either never returns to proper international flying or just returns to LAX. Which would be a shame because I'd love to see Virgin do a number of 'premium' direct international routes such as Seattle and Las Vegas. They would have no competition on those. But anywhere in Asia would seem to be a battle.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

04 Nov 2017

Total posts 307

Las Vegas would likely be low yielding, plus theres no hub on that end apart from SouthWest.  Seattle has the Delta hub and will likely depend whether QF/AS (or even AA as a point to point route carrying QF and AS codeshares) jumps on the route first in the medium term.

07 Jan 2016

Total posts 35

Was at Wellcamp on the weekend. Noticed that there were actually 3 Virgin 777's in storage.   Still carrying the full Virgin Australia branding... I found it pretty surreal to see an aircraft that I regularly flew on to LAX sitting in the middle of a dustbowl...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 517

Well nige00160, not sure what two others found discouraging or disagreeable in your post, but thought I'd show my appreciation for the update.  Thank-you.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2546

It's quite the sight, isn't it? 'Surreal' is a perfect word to describe it, similar to seeing all those Qantas A380s wrapped up at Victorville, or any endless lineup of jets from around the world there or at Alice Springs. Even my experience walking though Sydney T1 on the first day of the AU-NZ bubble, with almost nobody around (between flights) and almost every shop closed... it's other-worldly, for sure.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

12 Jun 2019

Total posts 12

I loved “the business “ in the B777. We used to fly to US twice per year. Great plane if you are at the front. The bar!!🥂

It’s son married an American girl, so looking forward to travelling there again. I assume we will travel in Delta plane on code share. 

I believe Delta one is as good. 

Patrick 

08 Mar 2021

Total posts 3

With the sudden change in government restrictions about to be finally released and a resurgent Virgin Australia adding domestic capacity I wonder if these remaining 777’s could yet have a bit more life in them yet till an eventual replacement is announced.


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