Virgin Australia Group has pushed back the delivery timeline of its fleet of 25 Boeing B737 MAX 10 aircraft by two years, now beginning in mid-2023.
A previous order for 25 B737 MAX 8s, slated to enter service from February 2025, has also been scrapped.
Boeing’s 737 MAX 10 is around 20 metres longer than the MAX 8 and has a maximum seat capacity of 230 passengers, versus 210 on its shorter fleet-mate.
The Brisbane-based airline originally announced it would blend the ’10’ variant into an existing 737 MAX order that dates back to August 2018.
Virgin Australia views the MAX 10 as its future fleet workhorse for domestic and short-haul international routes as it rebuilds its position in the Australian aviation scene under the leadership of new CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
Virgin said the restructured order with Boeing provides “greater efficiencies to the airline as well as a better flying experience for customers”.
The agreement represents a commitment to the future from the airline’s new owners, Bain Capital, and will allow Virgin Australia to appropriately manage future fleet requirements amid what has been the worst year in the history of aviation, Hrdlicka said.
“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,” she said.
“The restructured agreement and changes to the delivery schedule of the Boeing 737 MAX 10 gives 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 administration to ensure we remain competitive on the other side of COVID-19.”
Boeing’s MAX 10 recently received its recertification by the US Federal Aviation Administration and other regulators.
Virgin Australia Group said it remains confident that global return to service plans will support its arrival in mid-2023. This, alongside design features such as the Boeing Sky Interior and higher seating capacity, make for a better product for customers and the environment.
“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.
The airline also noted that it “remains in discussions with aircraft manufacturers” on a fleet strategy to support the reintroduction of widebody services when long-haul international travel demand returns.
Lead image source: Boeing