Virgin Australia’s Embraer era comes to an end, accepts last 737NG delivery

E190 VH-ZPH taxis at Brisbane after operating the type’s last revenue flight with Virgin Australia. (James Baxter)

Virgin Australia has flown its last commercial flight with the Embraer E-Jet, after E190 VH-ZPH operated flight  VA1105 from Newcastle to Brisbane on Saturday.

Wet and sombre skies greeted the E190 in Brisbane, where it touched down at 12:51 local time following a one hour and eight minute flight from Newcastle, flight tracking website Flightaware shows.

Virgin Australia announced its decision to phase out the E190 from service in mid-2016 as part of plans to rationalise the airline group’s fleet to help cut costs. Other changes include the withdrawal for some of its ATR turboprop fleet and the transition of low-cost carrier subsidiary Tigerair from an all-Airbus A320 operator to the Boeing 737.

“Fleet simplification through reduction in fleet types will make the business more scalable and productive,” Virgin said at the time.

VH-ZPH arriving earlier today at Brisbane Airport. (Emil Cooper)

Meanwhile, Virgin Australia has taken delivery of its last Boeing 737-800 on order. Named Dreamtime Beach and registered VH-YWE, the 737 arrived in Brisbane on January 31 after transiting Kona, Hawaii and Nadi, Fiji on its delivery flight from Boeing Field.

“This week, we’re very happy to have welcomed our newest Boeing 737-800 Next-Generation (NG) aircraft to our fleet, named Dreamtime Beach,” the airline wrote in a blog post on its website. ”

“This delivery completes our Boeing 737 fleet of more than 80 aircraft.”

Dreamtime Beach’s arrival is the last currently planned delivery of a new aircraft type to Virgin Australia until the first of the airline’s 40 Boeing 737 MAXes on order is delivered in the second half of 2019.

Comments

  1. Brad says

    Its a shame to see the E190s go; they had the most comfortable Y class in domestic operations in AU. I understand the decision though as the cost savings from an eventual single type narrowbody fleet across VA and TT are substantial.

  2. Dan says

    Boo hiss! A brilliantly comfortable aircraft in comparison with the 737.
    Because of where I live I am stuck with Virgin (Qantas’ Dash 8s are intolerable) but I deeply resent having to use 737s. Once more money over people!

  3. Space Cadet says

    Does anyone know why Virgin decided to keep the Fokkers and phase out the Embraers?
    I would have thought the Embraer would be a much more economical model to operate in comparison?

  4. Lechuga says

    Surely now the Embraers are gone they get something else, the -800s and future -8s are too big for some routes. Surely they get more of the max family than just the -8 the -7 has to be in the frame just for capacity and the -9 or -10 for more capacity. I mean surely otherwise there planes will be half full on regional flights.

    (Basing this from Melbourne because it’s where I live & I know more about it than other places) but the -7 could be great on Mel to Mildura, Launceston, Hobart, Adelaide, Newcastle (if it were to start) Sunshine Coast, Alice Springs, Darwin. -8 on the usual routes and the -9 or -10 to Sydney, Perth, Brisbane, Auckland. Maybe I’m just thinking a bit too much, but surely even modern day VA aren’t that inept they can’t see the benefits of multiple MAX variants especially for capacity where they’re losing embraers and want to phase out A330s from domestic service.

  5. James says

    The E Jet direct operating costs are very very similar to the 737-800. More bums, more dollars. Bloody terrific machine, just cost too much for how many people it holds.

    @ Space Cadet

    The Fokkers are way cheaper to buy/lease than the Embraers. Direct operating costs would be similar if not cheaper for the Fokker (assuming the VARA crews are on lesser pay rates than mainline DJ). That’s why they stick with them/buy more.

  6. Doug bell says

    While Australia has steady population growth, it is the distances flown per sector that kill effective cost control. You either have short 40 to 90 minute type flights, suitable for the tubbies, or 60 to 240 minute sectors where various forms of jet equipment do a good job. The trick is getting fleet mix right. It is a shame that the 80 to 100 seat market in Australia is not thought about more carefully. I flew with JetBlue in the US Fort Lauderdale to JFK. They did about 6 of these 3 hr flights a day with 80% take up. Both majors need to seriously stop taking the airline public for granted. The 117s and F100s are old technology and with a transition program could bring the 190 in a niche market, but QF have an allergy to providing comfortable seating on all flights for y class and Virgin want you to pay for even a glass of water. So what hope do we have? None

  7. Paul McKeown says

    Magnificent Aeroplane

    Economic rationalism over quality and customer experience….what a shame VAA.
    The e-Jet will be sadly missed by all who flew her…and flew in her.

    Despedida Amiga

  8. C Jannese says

    Yes …..profit before people …….. I would have thought an all Embraer fleet would have introduced a competitive airline that people would have truely preferred to travel on!

  9. says

    I remember the first flight on an embraced aircraft when Virgin Australia first too delivery and like others have said the seats where extremely comfortable. It’s sad to see them go but I love Boeing aircraft and having one brand helps being down operating costs. I’m sure I’m the future the few Airbus aircraft Virgin Australia have will be replaced with a new Boeing product. If you look overseas the Success of US carrier Southwest airlines which I love is because their entire fleet is boring 737’s. When I fly to the USA it’s always with Virgin Australia I love the Boeing 777-300ER Aircraft.

  10. James says

    @ Doug Bell

    It has nothing to do with the airlines not looking into the market.

    The US has huge numbers of pax, so the need for machines of that size to match the frequency required is abundant.

    The technology of the F100 doesn’t really matter, in fact it’s not that far behind. As long as it’s comfortable (which it is) and cheap then it will be a hit. It’s been said a million times, airlines are a money making game and if there are ways to save, they will pounce. If you actually saw the numbers, you’d be shocked how much cheaper a F100/717 is to run than a ERJ or C series’s.

    It is a shame though. The 190 was a very nice machine to travel in (I here too that it was a joy to fly). Perhaps Airnorth will pick a couple up and do a few more obscure, thinner routes of behalf of QF.

    I don’t think it’s the end. Don’t be surprised when the E2 and C series become abundant that Alliance, Network and NJS start looking at second hand examples to replace the Fokkers and 717’s.

  11. Dan says

    @James, are you sure the C series is that much more pricey to operate than the F100 & 717? Everything I’ve read about the new C series suggests it’s very low cost.

    I liked flying in the Ejets, but I understand they cost almost the same to operate, so may as well offer more seats on the same routes as a way to increase revenue. If not, then at least you’re more likely to have an empty seat next to you which is nice.

    Bring on the Maxes, my sinuses will be thankful for the higher humidity levels in cabin.

  12. James says

    @ Dan

    You have to include the lease rates for the aircraft. Plus, the Alliance and VARA crews aren’t on nearly as much as a mainline E190 pilot would be.

    All in all, way cheaper. For now; once they get run in and on the secondhand market they’ll be here. Unless QF decide on a big cash injection to replace everything in one go. Who knows.

  13. Dave says

    Here here Johnny.
    I love how people comment about how the Embraer’s are superior than Boeing’s in cattle class, and that profit comes before passengers. Now let’s look at Virgin’s bottom line for the last decade.
    They are bleeding and the big shareholders want black ink not red. Take out an entire aircraft type out of the fleet and replace it with more of the same makes economic sense. There is a whole spare parts inventory that they can sell. Less spare engines because they are more of the same in the main fleet. Less staff costs because they don’t have to pay for endorsements on type. Better pooling arrangements with local Boeing operators meaning faster AOG turn arounds.
    If I owned a fleet of 10 taxis and the customers preferred the Rolls Royce in my fleet, I don’t think I’d keep it if it’s operating costs bled the rest of the company into oblivion.

  14. Lechuga says

    Very sad that the E jets are being dropped, but I don’t think they’ll be a permenant loss.
    Air North still run a couple (although it’s very minimal) and I do believe that the E jets are mostly in the frame for Qantas 717 replacement eventually.

  15. says

    It’s understandable due to bottom line but a real shame as the E-190 has a much better #PaxEx than the 737 (no middle seat, windows at the right height, etc).

  16. Baxter says

    Good the embraers were not superior product anyway, most of virgins cabins are crammed regardless of the aircraft. I would happily take a flight on one of there Fokker 100s as even though the paint from Skywest has gone the Skywest cabin remains.

  17. Adrian P says

    Flybe a low cost carrier in the UK make them pay.
    Inexpensive and quality can go together with good utilisation (management).

  18. Wayne says

    Funny the Virgin starts with an all B737 fleet crowing about the economics of a single type {Southwest are doing OK] and morphs into A330’s/B777,Emb 190’s,F-100’s, A320’s, ATR72’s….

    ….and voila a standardised fleet of B737’s is the answer..

  19. Freddie says

    Too much diversion of type in the fleet which relates to added running costs, spares etc. for an airline the size of Virgin. Cabin Crew aren’t type specialists but Flight Crew are… I didn’t like it al all as it reminded me of Ansett’s BAE146 and that was a nightmare.

  20. James says

    @ Wayne

    Yeah that’s right. I remember back when VB ordered them and thought it was an odd move (particularly the 170).

    No doubt it worked for JetBlue. But your talking greater numbers. And I know their crew contracts etc are quite different.

    But again, it is still a shame. I too thought they were a very nice aircraft to travel on.

    Is what it is I guess.

  21. Mac Carterr says

    Sad to see the E Jets disappear from the Virgin fleet.
    Always a superior passenger experience for this writer.
    Good to see Airnorth servicing regional Australia with their E Jets.
    Expect to see some second hand examples return when the Fokkers eventually reach their use by date.
    However the Fokkers have one advantage over the E Jet in the form of high mounted engines offering better protection from debries / gravel / ect often found on remote runways and taxiways.
    The Fokkers will remain for sometime because of their fully depreciated asset value.
    If they use a bit more fuel, so what.
    The purchace price of one second hand E Jet is several more times of that of a used Fokker

  22. Teddy says

    Does anyone know the difference in ownership costs and operating costs between B737-700 and B737-800?

    Given that VA is trying to achieve fleet commonality, and that there are many arguments suggesting that the B737-800 is just too big for many routes, then why is there not a conversation about further B737-700s entering the fleet? To this point VA has been slowly pensioning them off rather than adding more. At last count they were down to 2 of these with no sign of wanting any more.

    Any arguments about fleet commonality should fall flat when common-rated types within a family of aircraft are used (EG ALL B737 types) – if not, then the model that Southwest and Ryan Air have clung to must somehow be a lie.

    From my understanding VA seating is as follows:

    B737-800 – 176 seats
    B737-700 – 128 seats
    E190 – 98 seats

    At 30 seats above E190 capacity it seems somewhat odd that QF / VA are not pursuing this type, as its smaller capacity would suit many of the thinner routes that E190 / B717 were sourced for, all whilst sustaining fleet commonality. Worst case VA will end up throwing B737-800 at routes, or just withdrawing completely when it would seem that B737-700 is a much better fit.

  23. James says

    @ Teddy

    The cost would be very similar. Seating capacity is one thing, as is also the freight carrying capacity.

    Southwest chose 700’s when the NG series rolled out. That was an upgrade from their 200/500/300 series. Lined up against them, aslso bearing in mind this was around 1998, the 700 probably seemed practical. You’ll notice that they are now buying a significant number of 8 Max’s.

    Ryanair had all 200’s, replaced them with all 800’s. I think they operated 1 or 2 700’s for some special reason, and that was recently.

    How much these carriers load freight I’m not too sure, but being as though they are sticking firm to the LCC model I’d say maybe not much.

    DJ have worked out that running a 700 alongside an 800 is probably not much use. Although they may not fill the 800, they will put more freight in it.

    If the route can’t sustain the 737, put Alliance/VARA on it. Cheaper again, DJ is still in that particular market and that town isn’t without maybe just one carrier.

    You can’t just do a comparison of seats.

  24. James says

    Remember too, that the more cheaper seats available on the aircraft may also stimulate the market.

    So bringing in an 800 on a “700 route” might actually do it good.

  25. Adrian P says

    Cabin crew are licensed for types, they have to know the specifics of an aircraft regarding safety exits etc.

  26. Scott says

    Swapping aircraft dynamically on the day with wx/loads/breakdowns is strategically and commercially difficult with a mixed fleet 700/800. 800 AoG swap with a 700 ? What do we do with the other 40 people.
    800 – 800 Network wise is clean and simple. Simplified structure.

  27. Taurean Lea says

    After 1 long decade in our skies, the E-Jet era is all over for Virgin Australia :’-(.

  28. Holden says

    @James

    Easy to see the freight argument, but there would seem to be a slew of routes within Australia that have neither the freight nor the pax for B738. One would have to concede that’s why 100 seat aircraft like E190 were originally selected – to cater specifically to that market.

    This Teddy’s query seems valid – If fleet commonality is a key issue, then surely equipping within a family of aircraft to specifically cater for that slew of routes would seem to make sense. The closest mainline aircraft (in size to E190) with commonality to B738 is the B737-700…. but neither QF nor DJ / VA seems interested in it. With commonality arguments forefront that seems a little bizarre.

    In the vein, it seems somewhat illogical that the B737-700 hasn’t been chosen more widely.

  29. James says

    @ Holden

    They were purchased for DJ to try at the thinner routes, to provide extra capacity on current routes and to probably attempt to start new routes.

    The simple fact is, that compared to an 800, a 700 is too dear to run in today’s financial climate.

    If QF or Virgin wish to enter a thin market that caters to a 100 seater, they will enter with the 717/Fokker 100/Fokker 70, that are run by subsidiaries or contractors at far lower costs. Or, in QF’s case, they will whack in more Q400’s with greater frequency.

    Or, they just won’t do it. I get what you guys are thinking, but these companies can and will find cheaper ways of doing things. To you guys it may not make sense but I assure you there is a reason for it.

  30. franz chong says

    sad to say the least but commonality wins out at the end of the day.I am old enough just to remember Australian had a mix of 727-200’s,DC9 AND 737-300 doing more or less the same kind of roles.THE DC9’s along with the 727’s were history by the time the merger with Qantas took place and it was a mix of 733’s and 734’s that were way too big for their subsidiaries little planes but too small for a 767 and for a while A300’s domestically post merger.I have had the luck of going on a couple of E190’s before and loved it four across economy,surely they could have gone with the new CS100 BOMBARDIER as a replacement for anything way too big for a 738.

  31. Craigy says

    @ Holden Fleet commonality has inherent economies particularly if there is a large fleet. That certainly has worked for the likes of Southwest, Ryanair, and Easyjet. They also have the advantage of a big market to draw from. In Australia, outside of the Syd – Mel – Bne triangle the market is I think very different and margins lower. WA is a case in point. Geoffrey Thomas wrote a very informative article in AA last year about the difficulty of making a profit on the intra WA routes and why air fares are so high. This is where the B712 and F100 with their lower direct and indirect operating costs permits lower air fares. A similar story for flights to Tasmania where Qantas mostly use the B712. As Qantas management have said, operating the B738 on the frequency required, the routes were unprofitable. Now with a lower cost base using the B712 and providing the frequency required, I understand they are profitable.

    The biggest decision for an airline is what markets they wish to service, it is then a case of selecting aircraft that meets the demand and maybe some capacity for growth.

  32. AlanH says

    It’s dollars versus services. And dollars will always win out. The airlines are businesses after all with hungry shareholders to feed. Australia is unique in that it has huge distances to cover with insufficient population to support narrow routes really. I don’t know what the answer is, but one-type fleets will become the norm in the years ahead for the sheer dollar savings it realises. Look at Tiger … they’re moving over to B737s. Yes the E-jets are a lovely aircraft from the pax point of view, but the airlines don’t really care about that. That is why the regionals need to be smarter and start thinking about what the customer wants. I think Australia really needs to become a nation of small independent regional airlines serving a lot of regional destinations with appropriate aircraft to meet the expectations of its travelling public and let the majors just focus on the capital city routes.

  33. David says

    I do miss the Virgin Embraer E-190s I think they are great aircraft but the 737 is a good jet as well.

  34. Chris Adam says

    All,

    Out of curiosity, why are the Boeing 717’s not more popular on the shorter runs? I’m 6’3” and I fit in them ok. (Prefer the emergency exits if I can get those seats).