Virgin Australia said on Thursday that it would add seven additional Boeing Co 737 NG aircraft to its fleet, practically returning it to pre-pandemic levels, to achieve a one-third share of Australia’s domestic travel market.
The accepted letters of intent would give Australia’s second-largest airline a fleet of 84 737 NGs, just one short of the 85 it flew before entering voluntary administration last year and handing back many of its jets to lessors.
The airline, currently controlled by the U.S. private equity firm Bain Capital, competes in a domestic market that is recovering as states open their borders against Qantas Airways Ltd and Regional Express Holdings Ltd (Rex).
“This fleet expansion demonstrates our confidence in the future of our company and the industry as a whole,” Virgin Australia Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka said in a statement. “Vaccination rates are increasing, borders are opening, and demand is increasing.”
The airline said that all employees would be back at work by next month and would be hiring for an additional 600 positions across the board. Due to a lack of demand, several staff members were put on unpaid leave.
Qantas will also return all personnel by next month, despite a surge in reservations as states open their borders.
Rex revealed last week that flights on the heavily trafficked Sydney-Brisbane and Melbourne-Brisbane routes would begin next month.
In a challenge to mid-market Virgin Australia and Qantas’ low-cost arm Jetstar, Rex announced it would offer one-way flights as low as A$69.