Virgin Australia will introduce nine additional Boeing 737-800 aircraft into its fleet from October this year in preparation for an expected increase in domestic travel as vaccination rates rise and interstate borders re-open.
The aircraft are planned for operation over the peak summer season to accommodate expected holiday travel, with an aim for all nine to be in the air by mid-February 2022.
Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka said the additional aircraft reflected Virgin Australia’s commitment to its customers, team members and Australia’s aviation sector in the long term, despite the significant challenges currently presented by COVID-19 and associated border closures.
“Airlines around the world have had to bend and stretch over the past 18 months as our fleets, teams and wider operations have responded to unprecedented border restrictions and demand volatility. But we at Virgin Australia are crystal clear that the underlying consumer desire for travel is strong,” Ms Hrdlicka said.
“While our recent efforts have been directed toward adapting to and managing through a very difficult few months for communities and businesses throughout the country, we’ve also maintained a consistent focus on our strategy and medium-term growth opportunities.
“These extra aircraft are an important part of our planning and ensure we’re ready to ramp up flying and meet the pent-up demand for domestic travel as soon as the opportunity presents itself.”
Ms Hrdlicka said the additional aircraft will bring Virgin Australia’s total mainline fleet to 77 and will support hundreds of jobs across the business.
“With this extra fleet capacity, we will be well-positioned to reach our target share of 33 per cent of the domestic market, and service the destinations that our customers want with the frequency they expect,” she said.
Virgin Australia has also commenced planning for the mid-2023 arrival of its first Boeing 737 MAX 10 aircraft, which the airlines says will deliver greater operational efficiencies and enhanced product and design features for customers and the environment.
Currently, Virgin Australia has 2 x Boeing 737-700s and 66 x Boeing 737-800, totalling 68 with the new additions taking the fleet to 77 with the addition of 9 extra Boeing 737-800s.
A vaccinated Virgin Australia frontline crew
Virgin Australia has announced consultation will begin shortly with employees and unions about a proposal requiring all frontline workers to get vaccinated by November 15 and all office-based staff by March 31, 2022.
Those with medical issues “that can be substantiated” will be managed on a case-by-case basis, Virgin said in a statement.
Virgin Australia chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said the vaccination policy was “vital” in keeping its workforce safe.
“The majority of our team at Virgin Australia are already vaccinated, and we will be listening to our team members to ensure we find the best fit policy for our organisation,” she said.
The airline said a final policy will be announced next month after all feedback is considered.
Virgin also said it will begin an internal education campaign about the vaccines with qualified experts and said it will help workers to secure appointments and provide flexible working arrangements to allow staff to get vaccinated.
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