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Boeing woes lead to fresh delays for Virgin’s 737 MAX fleet

written by Jake Nelson | March 18, 2024

Virgin Australia has ordered 14 737 MAX 8 aircraft. (Image: Virgin)

Virgin Australia is facing yet another delay to its 737 MAX order due to the ongoing troubles at Boeing.

The airline, which received its fourth MAX 8 – VH-8ID – on 13 March, is staring down potential late arrivals of 31 new 737 MAX aircraft, including six MAX 8s and all 25 of its MAX 10s, owing to increased production delays across all Boeing aircraft types.

Virgin now expects to only receive four more MAX 8s this year from its order of 14, with the remaining six to arrive from early 2025, while the MAX 10s – which still have not received regulatory approval in the US – will not arrive until 2026 at the earliest.

“We have been advised by Boeing there will be a delay to the delivery of some 737 MAX 8 aircraft and we are working to minimise impacts to our schedule,” a Virgin spokesperson said.

Virgin currently operates a fleet mainly comprising older 737-800 aircraft, with some 737-700s, A320s and Fokker 100s handling flights for Virgin Australia Regional Airlines.

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Its first MAX 8 arrived last year after being delayed by problems at Boeing supplier Spirit AeroSystems, forcing the airline to initially use 737-700s on its Cairns-Tokyo (Haneda) route instead of MAX 8s as it had planned.

Despite the delays, the carrier increased its 737 MAX 8 order from eight to 14 in November. As the planes arrive, Virgin plans 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.

Virgin and Bonza are currently the only two Australian airlines to operate 737 MAX aircraft, with Qantas largely turning to Airbus for its “Project Winton” fleet expansion program.

The delays come as Boeing continues to face scrutiny over the safety of the 737 MAX family following the mid-air blowout of a door plug on board an Alaska Airlines MAX 9 in January, with the planemaker now the subject of a criminal investigation.

“We are squarely focused on implementing changes to strengthen quality across our production system and taking the necessary time to deliver high-quality airplanes that meet all regulatory requirements,” a Boeing spokesperson said in a statement.

“We continue to stay in close contact with our valued customers about these issues and our actions to address them.”

Boeing has been barred from expanding production on the MAX family, and last month sacked the head of the MAX program amid the continuing fallout from the incident.

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