Virgin Australia has started the countdown to delivery of the next-generation Boeing 737 MAX, which will mark the beginning of a refresh for the airline's domestic fleet.
With the first of some 40 Boeing 737 MAX 8 jets due from the end of 2019, Virgin will be the first Australian airline behind the stick of this update to the airline's best-selling 737 family.
Despite the aircraft's A$144 million price tag, passengers won't notice much difference between the MAX 8 and the 737-800 – unless of course the MAX 8 comes loaded with Virgin's promised new 'quantum leap' business class seat.
The MAX 8 is the same size as the Boeing 737-800 and shares the same traveller-friendly traits such as large (and easier to use) overhead luggage bins, gently-curved cabin walls and LED lighting – all part of the streamlined ‘Boeing Sky Interior’ cabin, which is in turn based on the interior of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner.
The only give-away will be the eye-catching wingtip, which adopts what the boffins call a 'split scimitar' design as part of the push towards refined aerodynamics and greater fuel efficiency.
And that's the kicker for Virgin Australia, which expects a none-too-shabby 13% cut in fuel burn – as well as a quieter ride and smaller noise footprint, due to the pair of high-efficiency engines strapped under the MAX's wings.
Qantas is also considering the Boeing 737 MAX as the logical replacement for its Boeing 737-800 workhorses sometime after 2022, although the competing Airbus A320neo family is also in the frame.