Virgin will buy an additional six 737 MAX 8s, taking its total order to 14, in another sign of the airline’s better-than-expected recovery from administration.
The business made the announcement on the day its third, VH-8IB Bronte Beach, is set to arrive in Brisbane from the US.
Virgin Australia entered administration in 2020 after years of trying to shift itself from a low-cost carrier to a full-service offering capable of taking on Qantas.
It recently revealed a full-year profit of $129 million for FY23, a remarkable turnaround given it collapsed owing more than $7 billion.
Virgin Australia chief strategy officer Alistair Hartley said, “Travel demand remains high, and we continue to grow and renew our fleet, enabling us to deliver great value and choice in the market.
“We are investing in our fleet to best meet our customers’ needs while positioning the business for success in the long term. A more modern, sustainable, and streamlined fleet is central to our ongoing transformation.”
Pre-pandemic, the airline ordered 25 MAX 10s and an additional 23 smaller MAX 8s – but later cut the MAX 8 order entirely.
However, Virgin subsequently began increasing its order and will now target 25 MAX 10s and 14 MAX 8s, three of which have already been delivered.
The 11 remaining MAX-8 aircraft are expected to arrive throughout 2024, while the 10s will land from late 2025.
Virgin will look to deploy them on domestic routes servicing Brisbane, Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Cairns, as well as overseas destinations such as Fiji, Bali and Samoa.
VH-8IA, the first 737 MAX 8 in the Virgin fleet, was handed over in late June after numerous delays and began serving the airline’s route to Tokyo (Haneda), which launched with 737-700s after the MAX failed to arrive on time.
Virgin Australia chief operations officer Stuart Aggs said at the time that adding the 737 MAX family to Virgin’s fleet would 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.
“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.