Virgin Australia orders 23 new aircraft
Virgin Australia has finalised a firm order for 23 of Boeing’s new fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft – the B737 MAX.
The deal, which is worth US$2.1 billion at list prices, also includes options for a further four jets. Virgin Australia becomes the first Australian airline to finalise a deal for the B737 MAX, adding to its existing fleet of 65 standard B737 aircraft.
Deliveries of the B737 MAX 8s – the medium-sized version of the B737 MAX range – will run from 2019 to 2021. Virgin Australia said it will also delay the delivery of some of its outstanding B737 orders until after 2016, meaning it will now receive 31 B737-800s between 2013 and 2016. This, the airline said, will give it “flexibility to develop the appropriate mix of narrow-body and wide-body aircraft”.
Virgin Australia expects that by the end of 2013, all smaller B737-700 aircraft will have exited its fleet.
“Virgin Australia is committed to maintaining a young and flexible fleet of modern aircraft. In the past year alone, we have reduced our average fleet age from 4.9 to 4.2 years,” said the airline’s CEO, John Borghetti.
“The Boeing 737 has formed a critical part of the Virgin Australia fleet… The Boeing 737 MAX will build on this, enabling us to achieve strong on-time performance and maintain our low cost base,” he added.
“Boeing shares a long-standing relationship with Virgin Australia and we are honoured to partner with Virgin once again as the country’s first customer for the new 737 MAX,” said Brad McMullen, Vice President of Japan & Oceania Sales for Boeing Commercial Airplanes. “The 737 MAX will provide passengers with unrivalled comfort as well as tremendous economics and reliability to Virgin Australia’s growing operations,” he added.
Powered by the CFM International LEAP-1B engines, the new aircraft is designed to fuel burn by 13% compared to today’s most fuel-efficient single-aisle jets. Boeing also claims the B737 MAX will have the lowest operating costs in the single-aisle segment, with an 8% per-seat advantage over its competitor, the Airbus A320neo. The aircraft is due to enter service in 2017.
Virgin Australia currently operates a fleet of 93 aircraft, comprising 57 B737-800s, eight B737-700s, five B777-300s, five A330-200s and 18 Embraer E190s.
“Virgin Australia will continue to review its fleet strategy to ensure we align fit-for-purpose aircraft to markets and maintain maximum flexibility in capacity management,” Borghetti said.