Fresh out of Boeing’s Seattle factory, Virgin Australia’s first Boeing 737-8 MAX was showcased at a Brisbane hanger event today. The jet, dubbed Monkey Mia or more accurately VH-8IA, was delivered to the airline just last week and is preparing to enter commercial service in two days.
The delivery of Boeing 737-8 aircraft marks an exciting new milestone for Virgin Australia, with its fleet renewal program now underway as the airline works towards net zero emissions by 2050. Thanks mostly to some fancy new CFM Leap-1B engines, the 737 MAX 8 is at least 15 percent more fuel efficient than the existing 737-800 type.
Virgin is waiting on another seven MAX 8 aircraft, which can seat a total of 182 passengers, eight of those in business class. From 2024, the airline expects to receive the first of 25 larger 737-10 MAX variants, which have space for 197 passengers. That’s 16 in business and 181 in economy, of which 35 seats are designated EconomyX with additional legroom.
Today’s launch of the 737-8 also revealed Virgin Australia’s new cabin interior, as well as confirmed plans to refresh seating on the airline’s remaining Boeing fleet as part of a $110 million investment to improve the flying experience for customers.
Virgin Australia CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka was excited to welcome the first 737-8 aircraft into the fleet.
“Our people are the special sauce at Virgin Australia, and we are thrilled to be giving them and their families the first look at this aircraft and its new interior. It is hard not to feel excited and inspired when you are in a hangar with a new aircraft, and maybe today we will inspire the next generation of Virgin Australia employees,” said Ms Hrdlicka.
Paul Jones, Virgin Australia’s Chief Customer and Digital Officer, said the airline has worked hard to provide new cabin enhancements for customers.
“In 2021 we introduced a prototype cabin interior on two Boeing 737-800 aircraft, and over the last couple of years we’ve been able to obtain feedback from our guests, which enables us to enhance our entire Boeing fleet with the features that are most important to them,” said Mr Jones.
“With the reconfiguration of our cabin interior, we are also able to add more seats to the market without changing the legroom,” he added.
Today’s announcement follows the launch of Virgin Australia’s new service to Tokyo Haneda, the first time Virgin has operated flights between Australia and Japan. The new Boeing 737-8 aircraft is scheduled to start flying on this route on 30 July 2023.
Want to travel on Virgin Australia’s brand-new 737-8 MAX before it takes over the Cairns to Tokyo service? An airline executive told Flight Hacks today that Monkey Mia would “operate on the golden triangle before Haneda operations” – so look out for VH-8IA on flights between Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.
First Look: Virgin Australia’s 737-8 MAX Cabin
Enhancements to Virgin Australia’s 737-8 MAX cabin includes;
- In-seat power for every business and Economy passenger.
- Larger overhead lockers that can handle up to 50 per cent more carry-on baggage.
- Wider business seating which feature leg rests, extendable footrests, lowerable armrests, storage compartments,
- tablet/device holders and water bottle holders.
- All-new economy seats featuring a ribbed backing to elevate passenger comfort.
- A personal tablet/device holder for all economy passengers.
- Purple seatbelts (yes, I consider this a feature!).
Existing Virgin 737’s To See Cabin Refresh
Virgin Australia will refresh cabins in its older Boeing jets, adding fresh seating and increasing capacity. The introduction of a newly designed cabin divider between business and economy will allow for greater floor space and enable the airline to squeeze in an additional 6 to 12 economy seats. Boeing 737-800 aircraft will see an additional row added to fit 174 economy and 8 business seats. Two rows will be added to the shorter Boeing 737-700 to fit 126 economy and 8 business passengers. The program includes the introduction of a business class cabin on existing 737-700 aircraft which are currently fitted with economy seating only.
One ExonomyX row will be scrapped on 737-800 aircraft, reducing the number of extra legroom seats to 24. This is no doubt most disappointing for Platinum-level frequent flyers, who will soon find it harder to select a complimentary EconomyX seat.
Virgin Australia expects to begin updating cabins on their older 737s towards the end of the year. That cabin refresh includes;
- Installation of updated business and economy seats (same as MAX 8 aircraft).
- In-seat power for both business and economy passengers.
- In-flight Wi-Fi and in-flight entertainment (via own device) to most aircraft.
Once the cabin refresh program is complete, the unified in-flight offering will deliver a consistent guest experience across all flights operated by Virgin Australia Boeing 737 aircraft.