Virgin will operate four more 737 MAXs, in addition to the 25 it already has.
The new aircraft, the smaller 8 version, is expected to arrive in February, bringing the airline’s total 737 fleet to 88, much beyond its pre-administration projection of just 58.
“We are on target to recover to 100% of pre-COVID domestic capacity by June this year and aim to significantly exceed those levels by year’s end, and our resources sector and contract flying in WA is in great demand,” said Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
“This investment in our fleet reflects the increased demand we are experiencing in all parts of Virgin Australia.”
The company also said on Friday that starting early next year, it will retire its older Fokker 100 aircraft and replace them with 737-700s, which it estimates will result in 30% reduced emissions per seat, each trip.
In Western Australia, the airline group currently operates ten Fokker 100 aircraft.
“We are committed to building this business and positioning it for success into the long term,” said Hrdlicka. “Continuing to modernize our fleet and develop the capability of our teams across Australia to support newer aircraft is an essential part of that success.
“Existing F100 flight and cabin crew, VARA engineering and support staff and corporate and operations functions will be progressively trained to operate and maintain a 737 NG fleet, both as F100 aircraft are retired and as the airline continues to grow its WA resources sector and contract flying business.”
Domestic travel has recovered faster than projected, despite foreign travel still being considerably behind pre-pandemic levels.
Gold Coast Airport, for example, became Australia’s first major airport to fully recover from COVID earlier this month, with passenger and flight counts breaking pre-pandemic levels.
On Easter Monday, the facility welcomed and said goodbye to about 25,000 travelers, a new monthly high and close to the all-time high of 25,455 passengers set on January 4, 2020. Qantas has also stated that by Easter, their domestic capacity will be at 110% of pre-pandemic levels.
Virgin has renegotiated its 737 MAX deal with Boeing in 2020, according to Australian Aviation.
Originally, the company planned to buy 25 MAX 10s and another 23 MAX 8s, but those plans were scrapped entirely. The airline will now receive four of the eight variants, according to the new order made on Friday.
The order, the company stated at the time, demonstrated new owners Bain Capital’s “strong commitment to the future.”
“We have already moved to simplify our mainline fleet and committed to the Boeing 737 aircraft as the backbone of our future domestic and short-haul international operations,” said Hrdlicka.
“The restructured agreement and changes to the delivery schedule of the Boeing 737 MAX 10 give us the flexibility to continually review our future fleet requirements, particularly as we wait for international travel demand to return.
“The MAX 10 will allow us to build on the operational flexibility we have been able to achieve with our existing fleet throughout the administration to ensure we remain competitive on the other side of COVID-19.
“These enhancements will give us the ability to manage demand and deploy the B737 MAX 10 on high-density domestic and short-haul international routes or where there are constraints due to slot availability limitations.”