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Old Virgin B777 on the move from Wellcamp to Brisbane

written by Hannah Dowling | May 13, 2022

Virgin Australia (VH-VPE) Boeing 777-3ZG(ER) departing Sydney Airport for the final time, headed for Wellcamp. (Bidgee / Wikicommons)

A Virgin Australia-branded Boeing 777-300ER widebody jet was ferried from Wellcamp to Brisbane on Thursday, marking the first time the jet has taken to the skies in over 19 months.

The jet, VH-VPE, took off from Wellcamp Airport just before 12:20pm on Thursday, landing just 27 minutes later at Brisbane International Airport.

According to Planespotters.net, it’s the first time the jet has fired up its engines since it entered long-term storage at Wellcamp in October 2020.

It was previously stored at Sydney Airport, after being withdrawn from use on 30 March 2020. It remained parked in Sydney until it was ferried to Wellcamp on 23 October.

Virgin grounded its fleet of five Boeing 777s in March 2020 at the dawn of the global pandemic, just weeks before the group entered voluntary administration.

As part of the administration and restructuring process, Virgin axed operations of its 777 fleet, along with its ATR, Airbus A330s and Tiger A320s, in order to slim down to a mid-tier domestic carrier. Since then, Virgin has resumed short-haul international jaunts on its Boeing 737s.

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Virgin did not comment on the movement, however, pointed to earlier communications that it had disclaimed its Boeing 777s, despite a number of the jets sitting at Wellcamp for months after the administration process had finished.

A number of sources point to VH-VPE now being the property of US-based UMB Bank, after its sale in November 2020, suggesting the aircraft could shortly be moved again to a new, more permanent home.

However, the movement comes as Virgin gears up to make a major announcement that it claims will ring in a “new era of flying” later this month, putting on a spectacle at its Brisbane Hangar.

While the two moves are likely entirely unrelated, it certainly has the rumour mills turning.

It comes just weeks after Virgin announced the order of another four Boeing 737 MAX jets, on top of its existing order for 25, in another show of post-administration strength.

The new aircraft, the smaller 8 variant, will arrive as soon as February and take the airline’s 737 fleet to 88 – significantly higher than its post-administration prediction of just 58.

Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said, “We are on track to return to 100 per cent of pre-COVID domestic capacity by June this year and expect to well exceed those levels by year’s end, and our resources sector and contract flying in WA is in high demand.

“This investment in our fleet reflects the increased demand we are experiencing in all parts of Virgin Australia.”

The business on Friday also said it would retire its older Fokker 100 aircraft from early next year and replace them with 737-700s, which it estimates will result in 30 per cent less emissions per seat, per trip.

The airline group currently operates 10 Fokker 100s across its operations in Western Australia.

“We are committed to building this business and positioning it for success into the long term,” said Hrdlicka. “Continuing to modernise our fleet and develop the capability of our teams across Australia to support newer aircraft is an essential part of that success.

It also comes after Australian Aviation reported that Virgin carried more passengers than rivals Qantas, Jetstar and Rex in January, claiming 34 per cent of the passenger market, up from 33 per cent in October 2021.

The figure surpasses Virgin’s long-held target since exiting administration in November 2020 to achieve and hold onto 33 per cent of domestic market share. Virgin boasted just 22 per cent share in November 2020.

Qantas and Jetstar each claimed 31 per cent of the month’s domestic passenger market share, sending the Qantas Group’s collective share to just 62 per cent, well below the group’s target of 70 per cent.

Comments (7)

  • Simon

    says:

    LAX to Australia routes are desperate for competition- only today thinking how much I’d love to jump on a VA 777 to Sydney. Sure it won’t happen but I’d be very happy to see their return to the skies.

    • Mark K

      says:

      Couldn’t agree more. Qantas is just milking the situation at the moment. Shameful.

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    Can anyone advise the disposition of the tech crews from the VOZ B777/A330 fleet since their abandonment tks.

    • Richo

      says:

      They are being re-hired trained on the B737 as per the VA EBA and Seniority –

      Well over 150 have so far returned, more to come.

  • Max Sutter

    says:

    IT’S been a couple of years since I’ve been on an aircraft of any sort. However to.be bringing larger aircraft on line now seems to me like optimism gone mad.

    There may well be a surge in domestic business travel post pandemic and even a rise in family oriented travel but tourism related travel will take years to pick up substantially. Nobody has any lazy money now, nor are they likely to have any for some time, with the exception of politicians and their families ,hangers-on and journalists. Ordinary people without a link to somebody to pay for their tickets won’t be flying anywhere until the economy not the economy that our politicians inhabit where we, the public pay for their whims and political junkets, will only be travelling for funerals and for the better off weddings. Domestic travel, expect by car or bus won’t pick up for 3 years should the government be returned ,or a bit sooner should some other result eventuate. We’re I running an airline in Australia I would be bunkering down and cutting back severely and hoping for a change of Government. It can’t be easy and is unlikely to improve soon. Except possibly a surge in people emigrating.

    ANY AIRCRAFT

    • Bill Oreally

      says:

      Maxy, big chip on the shoulder pile of nonsense right there. Perspective Maxy, perspective

  • Nicholas

    says:

    I’ve got a bunch of DJ FF points, I wonder if I could make an offer for one of the 777’s????.

    I’ve always wanted a plane of my own……

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