Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti says he would consider placing a shared order for either the Airbus A350 or Boeing 787 with partners Etihad Airways, Singapore Airlines and Air New Zealand.
This 'bulk buy' would enable Virgin to move ahead with a decision on its future fleet beyond 2017 while delivering lower prices for what would on its own be a relatively small order.
Speaking at the media Q&A session following last Friday's release of the airline's 2014 financial report, Borghetti appeared to embrace the notion of a joint purchase of aircraft with Virgin Australia's airline stakeholders.
"Could we, would we, talk to our three partners in terms of how we do this together? Within legal bounds, absolutely," Borghetti said.
But any decision on the next-gen jetliners is still some time away, and Borghetti isn't about to pick favourites.
"The A350 and Boeing 787 are both excellent aircraft" Borghetti said.
"I recently had the pleasure of seeing the A350 and was stunned from a consumer aspect" he commented on last month's visit of the Airbus A350 during its world tour, of which Borghetti said the A350 was "a very impressive aircraft" with a "seriously outstanding" design, "but I'm equally confident that the 787 is good."
"The important thing is that we dont have to rush into this" Borghetti said.
"What we do have to rush into is narrow-body, so we brought the Boeing 737 MAX foward in order to extract the fuel benefits from it."
Virgin Australia expects to take delivery of the first of 23 Boeing 737 MAX 8 aircraft from 2018, one year ahead of the previous schedule.
Boeing predicts the 737 MAX will deliver lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions that are some 13 percent lower compared to "today's most fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft."
New high-efficiency engines and refined aerodynamics – including split wingtip designs – are at the core of the 737 MAX's fuel friendly nature.
Virgin Australia's current domestic fleet, like that of Qantas, is dominated by the Boeing 737-800.
The Airbus A320neo, which will compete against the 737 MAX, will take its maiden flight this month and has already snared local orders from Air New Zealand – which will fly the A320neo and A321neo on trans-Tasman routes – and Qantas' low cost offshoot Jetstar.
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