Virgin Australia has signed letters of intent to welcome an additional seven Boeing 737 Next Generation aircraft to its fleet, as it prepares to stand all of its staff back up by December.
The airline has also said it will begin recruiting for “hundreds of new roles” in preparation for an increase in flight demand, as Australia begins to ease its remaining border restrictions.
It comes just one year after Virgin was officially relaunched under the ownership of Bain Capital, and 19 months after the struggling airline first entered administration.
Since the airline relaunched one year ago, Virgin has announced plans to increase its 737 fleet by over 45 per cent from 58 to 84 Boeing workhorse jets.
“This fleet growth underlines the confidence we have in the future of our business and the industry generally,” Virgin CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said. “Vaccination rates are rising, borders are opening, and demand is returning.”
The airline chief executive said she is “really positive” about the current state of planned borders reopening and confirmed Virgin’s intentions to continue snatching market share from its biggest rival, Qantas.
“We have used our time well while the industry was quiet and are well advanced on all aspects of our transformation strategy and we fully intend to continue growing with demand to ensure we operate at roughly 33 per cent of the domestic market,” she said.
“This enables us to continue to deliver the right mix of destinations with high frequency to support both our business and leisure purpose guests. It also means continued jobs growth at Virgin Australia and our team are delighted to be welcoming new family members to the organisation.”
The airline is preparing to welcome an additional 600 new members to its workforce in the coming weeks and months, with advertisements already up across five states for roles in engineering, pit crew, cabin crew and corporate.
“The strength of Virgin Australia lies in our people, who have been the most extraordinary inspiration through the toughest of times with border closures and standdowns,” Hrdlicka said.
“They have stayed positive, been incredibly flexible, demonstrated such loyalty and commitment, and worked hard every day to make a difference for our guests and our airline.
“The passion for our airline runs deep through all of our team members and has helped us all get through the long periods of very little flying.”
It comes just three months after Virgin last announced it will lease an additional nine Boeing 737-800 NG aircraft.
The airline said at that time the new aircraft will be welcomed ahead of an anticipated uptick in domestic travel demand, as the rate of vaccination increases and interstate borders inevitably open.
Virgin said then it hopes to see all nine jets in the air by mid-February 2022.
“Airlines around the world have had to bend and stretch over the past 18 months as our fleets, teams and wider operations have responded to unprecedented border restrictions and demand volatility,” Hrdlicka said.
Virgin is also anticipating the delivery of its first of 25 Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft, due to arrive in mid-2023.
This order was originally for 38 of the smaller 737 MAX 8s, due to enter the Virgin fleet in November 2019, and 10 larger MAX 10s, due in 2022.
However, the order was delayed due to the 20-month global grounding of the 737 MAX in early 2019, following two fatal crashes on the aircraft.
The MAX was recertified following numerous safety upgrades and test flights by the US Federal Aviation Administration in November 2020, and Australia’s Civil Aviation Safety Authority followed suit in February 2021.
Additionally, in December 2020, the newly reborn Virgin revised down its MAX order to just 25 MAX 10s, following the airline’s months-long restructuring and the COVID pandemic-induced downturn.
It also comes one week after Virgin revealed its brand-new interior cabin design on its flagship Boeing 737 fleet.
The airline has already installed the newly upgraded cabins, which include enhanced business class seats, on two of its nine newly acquired Boeing 737-800 aircraft.
Like Virgin’s existing 737-800 interior, the new cabin will contain eight business class seats up the front, however the new seats boast an extra recline of seven inches (17 centimetres), around 40 per cent more than existing business class seats.
In order to make room for these roomier business class seats, Virgin has removed one row of economy seats for the aircraft, with the upgraded 737-800 interior now hosting 162 economy seats as opposed to its predecessor’s 168.