EXCLUSIVE | Virgin Australia has put on ice its plans for a new domestic business class for east-west Boeing 737 flights as it embarks on a review of the airline's domestic offering.
The move follows freshly-minted CEO Paul Scurrah's decision earlier this week to delay delivery of the troubled Boeing 737 MAX jets from November 2019 to July 2021.
The Boeing 737 MAX was once considered as the launchpad for an all-new business class seat which former Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti promised would be a “quantum leap in domestic business class."
Borghetti referred to the top-secret seat as Virgin's "Perth product", in line with its aim of offering a superior business class experience on east-west routes flown by the Boeing 737 as the airline's larger Airbus A330 jets progressively shifted to Asia.
Two of Virgin's six-strong Airbus A330 fleet cover the Sydney-Hong Kong and Melbourne-Hong Kong routes, while Borghetti and Virgin brandmaster Richard Branson had previously talked up Brisbane and mainland China as follow-on routes.
Borghetti first revealed his plans for the dedicated east-west business class to Australian Business Traveller in July 2017, teasing "you’ll hear about it later this year."
However, by December 2017 the airline was tamping down expectations – which at one stage included an early 2018 launch – with Virgin Australia exec Rob Sharp saying there was "not an immediate need” for the new seat while Virgin continued to fly Airbus A330s on the transcontinental trek.
Australian Business Traveller understands that Scurrah, barely five weeks into the job, has launched a broader review of the airline's domestic offering and filed away plans for the new Boeing 737 business class.
"The majority of our transcontinental flights are currently operated by Airbus A330 aircraft, which offer our award-winning lie-flat business class," a Virgin Australia spokeswoman told Australian Business Traveller.
"We believe we have an appropriate business class offering for the transcontinental market at present, and will continue to review the business class product we offer on routes between Perth and the East Coast to ensure it remains appropriate for the market."
In related news, Virgin Australia has advised that its Brisbane international lounge is now planned to open in July 2019, some eight months after the lounge was first and obviously optimistically promised to open in November 2018.