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Virgin Australia’s first 737 MAX 8 finally handed over

written by Jake Nelson | June 28, 2023

Virgin Australia’s first 737 MAX 8, VH-8IA ‘Monkey Mia’, in Seattle. (Image: Virgin Australia)

The wait is over for Virgin Australia, with the airline officially taking delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX 8 in Seattle on Wednesday.

VH-8IA, nicknamed ‘Monkey Mia’, is expected to land in Brisbane this week after numerous delays, and will fly between Cairns and Tokyo (Haneda) after obtaining regulatory approval. The airline has a further seven MAX 8 and 25 MAX 10 aircraft on order.

Virgin Australia chief operations officer Stuart Aggs said the addition of the 737 MAX family to Virgin’s fleet will allow the airline to “grow capacity and support more efficient jet services”.

“Importantly, they will reduce emissions by at least 15 per cent per flight compared to the 737-800 NG fleet, supporting our commitment to targeting net zero emissions by 2050,” he said.

“While our approach to decarbonisation is multi-faceted, fleet modernisation is a critical part of progressing our sustainability ambitions and represents a significant opportunity to reduce our emissions intensity in the near-term.


“We expect our fleet renewal program, combined with other fuel efficiency initiatives, to support over 80 per cent of our 2030 interim target to reduce Virgin Australia’s carbon emission intensity by 22 per cent.”

The MAX 8 has a longer range than Virgin’s existing 737-800 NG aircraft. The airline currently operates a fleet of 84 planes, primarily Boeing 737s.

“As well as being more fuel efficient, the 737-8 is approximately 40 per cent quieter than the current 737-800 NG fleet and comes fitted with our new generation seats, which include device holders and in-seat power,” said Aggs.

Virgin is set to launch its route from Cairns to Tokyo (Haneda) using its older 737-700 aircraft, with the MAX 8 – originally meant to fly the route – not arriving in time for Wednesday’s first flight.

VH-8IA will fly domestically for a short time to familiarise crews and obtain regulatory approval before being pressed into service on Cairns-Haneda.

The MAX 8 has been delayed several times due to issues at Boeing and its suppliers.

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