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Virgin to launch Japan services with older 737s as MAX delays continue

written by Jake Nelson | May 10, 2023

Virgin Australia will launch flights to Japan using older 737-700 aircraft, with its order for 737 MAX planes still delayed.

Virgin had planned to commence flights from Cairns to Tokyo’s Haneda Airport with 737 MAX planes from 28 June, but as none of the planes it has on order have arrived, the airline is instead resorting to its 12-year-old 737-700 fleet to ensure the service launches on time.

A spokesperson told the Sydney Morning Herald that there was a “short delay” in Boeing’s delivery of eight new 737 MAX 8s, though Virgin’s 25 pending 737 MAX 10s are not affected.

“As a result of the delay, we will operate our Cairns-Haneda (Tokyo) service using our existing Boeing 737-700 aircraft for a short period,” the spokesperson said.


“The good news is that Virgin Australia customers will not be impacted and our schedule of Japan services will continue as planned.”

The older 737-700s have almost 50 fewer seats than the MAX 8 aircraft, as well as higher carbon emissions.

At present, Bonza is the only Australian carrier to be operating 737 MAX planes, which comprise its entire fleet – Rex operates 737-800s, many of which are ex-Virgin, while Qantas in late 2021 opted not to place an order for the 737 MAX, instead going with rival Airbus for new A220 and A320 aircraft.

Boeing last month told the US Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) that supplier Spirit AeroSystems had advised it of a “nonstandard manufacturing process” used for fittings in the 737 MAX’s aft fuselage that could result in noncompliance with required specifications. This affects a “significant number” of undelivered planes, it said in a statement.

“We expect lower near-term 737 Max deliveries while this required work is completed. We regret the impact that this issue will have on affected customers and are in contact with them concerning their delivery schedule,” the statement read.

“We will provide additional information in the days and weeks ahead as we better understand the delivery impacts.”

This was the second issue with Spirit AeroSystems components affecting Boeing deliveries in the last few months, with the FAA in early March lifting a ban on deliveries of the 787 Dreamliner resulting from a data analysis error relating to the aircraft’s forward pressure bulkhead.

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