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Virgin commits to the 737 MAX but reduces its order

written by Adam Thorn | December 9, 2020

New Virgin 737 MAX order resized
An artist’s impression of a Boeing 737 MAX 10 in Virgin Australia livery. (Virgin Australia)

Virgin Australia has renegotiated its order with Boeing for the 737 MAX and will now accept only half the number of aircraft.

Previously, the business intended to purchase 25 MAX 10s and an additional 23 smaller MAX 8s, which have now been cut.

The news comes shortly after the US Federal Aviation Administration certified the aircraft to fly again following a 20-month ban. The MAX was grounded worldwide due to two fatal crashes that killed a total of 346 people.

Virgin is now scheduled to take delivery of the first aircraft in mid-2023 and not July 2021 as originally intended.

The business said in a statement the order shows a “deep commitment to the future” from new owners Bain Capital.


“We have already moved to simplify our mainline fleet and committed to the Boeing 737 aircraft as the backbone of our future domestic and short-haul international operations,” said chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka.

“The restructured agreement and changes to the delivery schedule of the Boeing 737 MAX 10 gives us the flexibility to continually review our future fleet requirements, particularly as we wait for international travel demand to return.

“The MAX 10 will allow us to build on the operational flexibility we have been able to achieve with our existing fleet throughout administration to ensure we remain competitive on the other side of COVID-19.

“These enhancements will give us the ability to manage demand and deploy the B737 MAX 10 on high-density domestic and short-haul international routes or where there are constraints due to slot availability limitations.

“We will also continue to invest in capability that delivers a safe and efficient aircraft operation, and one that ensures safety remains our top priority. With support from Boeing, any new aircraft will undergo careful evaluation to ensure we are comfortable with it prior to entering service.”

Aside from the MAX’s own technical problems, Wednesday’s announcement draws a line under a number of changes to Virgin’s order.

Australian Aviation previously reported how the business at one stage ordered 38 737 MAX 8s, which were due to enter its fleet in November 2019, alongside 10 larger 737 MAX 10s due from January 2022 onwards.

This order was revised to 25 MAX 10s and 23 MAX 8s before today’s latest amendment to just 25 MAX 10s.

The developments were spurred on after the MAX finally received its certification to fly again by the FAA. The decision is expected to be replicated by similar bodies around the world.

FAA chief Steve Dickson said the aircraft is now “the most scrutinised airplane in aviation history”.

“The design changes that are being put in place completely eliminate the possibility of an accident occurring that is similar to the two accidents,” Dickson said.

“I feel 100% confident. We have run this thing top to bottom … We’ve done everything humanly possible to make sure.”

Shortly after, European budget airline Ryanair ordered an additional 75 MAX jets, in a deal worth over $9 billion, bringing its total MAX order as high as 210 aircraft. The order is the largest Boeing has seen on the aircraft since 2018.

Ryanair group chief executive Michael O’Leary called the 737 MAX order “the deal of the new century” while Boeing chief executive David Calhoun added that he “always had faith that the order book would begin to fill with the return of the industry”.

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Comments (11)

  • On paper, a stretched narrow-body variant such as the Max 10 was always a smart choice for VA. Improved Business Class, additional seating in Economy and fuel efficiency all on the 737 platform provide the flexibility and competitiveness they are seeking. This Aircraft should therefore meet the criteria of their ‘Mid-Market Hybrid’ business model. Well done VA for getting back in the air and planning for the future!

  • Allan


    Whats happening to the Max’s that are already in Australia – I have need more than a couple transit Brisbane in full Virgin colours

  • AgentGerko


    VA seems determined to opt for the larger aircraft, which leaves them no options for routes that cannot maintain a MAX-10 size. Qantas is going forward in leaps and bounds using its fleet of 717’s and VA simply has nothing to compete with these. Take a route like Sydney – Coffs Harbour. QF offers frequent flights using its 74 seat q400’s whereas VA has to try to fill a 180 seat 737. Now I’ll take the 737 over a Q400 every time but have to wonder how VA can fill this flight midweek. Instead of going all out for MAX-10’s I would have thought they’d be better of buying a few smaller second hand jets for thinner routes. There’s got to be a heap of Embraers and Canadair regional jets sitting somewhere in the desert that could be bought for a song.

  • Warwick


    And just where are they getting the funds’ to buy all these new planes?
    I doubt Bain’s handing over 100’s of billions’ $ for them.
    They’ve just dumped multiple numbers’ of their former aircraft

    This airline went insolvent only 8 months’ ago. Why would they commit to this order, which could possibly have that happen again?
    It makes no sense, at this stage, as they’re not even flying fully Domestically, let alone no overseas’ flying for a minimum of a year.
    Its’ longevity is certainly not assured.

  • Peter


    I’m sure Bain-Virgin would have walked away completely if they could have, clearly this was the minimum they could get their order down to……

  • Trent


    Seen in news item today, that Virgin still referring to PAYING customers’, as ‘guests’!
    This is typical US speak, even were saying it before Bain bought it.
    If they want to use this word, suggest they give them FREE air tickets’ then, in keeping with the definition of ‘guest’.
    At a minimum, it’s grossly annoying, & jarring here.

  • Marum


    I hope I am not proven wrong, but the 737 MAX variant would have to be the most tested aircraft ever. Thus it should be one of the safest, by now.

    I still think BOENG made a wrong decision in extending the life of the venerable 737 series. They should have started with a clean sheet of paper, and built something much more modern, and without the design limitations inherent in the 737 model.aircraft.

    We seem to have become extremely risk averse in modern times. Look at the number of early model 737 crashes.

    See the following table: http://www.airsafe.com/events/models/rate_mod.htm


  • hsfghs


    Marum, the airlines didn’t want a clean sheet design. They wanted a more efficient 737 that crews and engineering staff familiar with the NGs could easy easily work on to with minimal transition training. They also wanted it sooner than could be done with a clean sheet design.
    Big NG operators would have had to spend a lot of money retraining staff had they had to buy an all new aircraft instead of an upgraded 737. And they would have had to wait longer and pay for the aircraft too. And they may have decided to switch to Airbus instead. An operator like Southwest with 700 NGs would have had to spend a fortune training everyone up for an all new type.
    The results have been plain to see for years with over 4000 MAX orders. It’s hard to believe people still think MAX was a mistake. Yes, with the benefit of hindsight, there is that terrible design flaw, however it is really not that hard to overcome. Further, a design flaw could have come up in an all new model too – and if that had happened, people would be saying they should have stuck with an upgraded 737.

  • Rick


    Won’t be flying VA anytime soon. Especially from Perth, 4-5hours in a 737 is close to my idea of hell. Besides Boeing have pushed that airframe too far for my liking… should have gone A321.

  • Damian


    VA, with all its’ financial woes, I’m surprised they’re possibly still sponsoring a racing car team. Would’ve thought that’d been dropped when they hit insolvency, back in April 2020.
    If not, sure shows where their ‘priorities ‘ lie!

  • Marum


    @HSFGH$….I agree with you. Profits and convenience for manufacturers, and Airline Managers, should always take precedence over safety, and good design.

    All worship the prophet….Marum.

    PS. May his cash register overflow.

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