Virgin Australia starts Boeing 737 MAX operations

Virgin Australia Airlines today (July 10) started Boeing 737-8 MAX 8 operations with VH-8IA on the Brisbane-Melbourne-Sydney-Brisbane route.

Fresh from the Boeing factory in Seattle and featuring that new plane smell, the Boeing 737-8 aircraft marks an exciting new milestone in the transformation of Virgin Australia with its fleet renewal program well underway as the airline continues to work towards its net zero emissions target by 2050.

The aircraft is one of 33 fuel-efficient Boeing 737-8 and 737-10 aircraft Virgin Australia has on order, with more fuel-efficient aircraft set to be delivered in the coming months (Refer Notes to Editor).*With the arrival of the Boeing 737-8, Virgin Australia has also revealed its highly anticipated new Business Class and Economy cabin interior as well as confirming plans to refresh the interior cabins on the airline’s remaining Boeing fleet, as part of an investment of approximately $110 million to improve the flying experience for customers.Highlight features of the new Boeing 737-8 cabin interior include:

  • In-seat power for all Business Class and Economy seats.
  • Larger overhead lockers, with capacity to stow up to 50 per cent more carry-on baggage (individual guest carry-on luggage limits will not increase).**
  • Wider Business Class seats which also feature leg rests with extendable footrests, storage compartments, tablet/device holders and water bottle holders.
  • A new Economy seat design, featuring a ribbed backing to elevate comfort and ergonomics.
  • A personal tablet/device holder for all Economy seats, making it easy to view Virgin Australia in-flight entertainment, movies and TV shows.

The interior refresh and product upgrade across Virgin Australia’s remaining Boeing fleet will commence later this year, with the work set to be complete in the next two years, subject to operational requirements. The upgrade includes:

  • Installation of in-seat power for all Business Class and Economy seats.
  • Installation of new Business Class seats, consistent with the new Boeing 737-8 aircraft.
  • Installation of new or refreshed Economy seats, with seat design to be consistent with the new Boeing 737-8 aircraft.
  • Introduction of in-flight Wi-Fi and complimentary in-flight entertainment (via a guest’s own personal device) to majority of remaining fleet.

An entirely new seat configuration will also be rolled out through the introduction of a new design cabin divider between Business Class and Economy. The new divider will allow for greater floor space in the Economy cabin and the subsequent installation of between six and 12 additional Economy seats. The refurbishment will also include the replacement of one Economy X row with Economy seating on all Boeing 737-800 aircraft. Once the cabin refresh program is complete, the unified in-flight offering will deliver more seats for travellers and a consistent guest experience across all flights operated by Virgin Australia Boeing 737 aircraft.  

Virgin Australia will add the following fuel-efficient* Boeing aircraft to its fleet:

  • Eight Boeing 737-8 aircraft (one aircraft delivered in June 2023, 7 to be delivered by Q1 2024)
  • 25 Boeing 737-10 aircraft (planned delivery from late 2024)

Virgin Australia Boeing 737 seat capacity once cabin refresh is complete:

  • Boeing 737-800 and 737-8 aircraft (31 rows, 8 Business Class seats, 174 Economy seats)
  • Boeing 737-700 aircraft (23 rows, 8 Business Class seats, 126 Economy seats). This includes the introduction of a Business Class cabin on 7 existing Boeing 737-700 aircraft which are currently fitted with Economy seating only.

FOOT NOTES* Boeing 737-8 aircraft are at least 15 percent more fuel efficient per flight when compared to the Virgin Australia Boeing 737-800 NG fleet.**Carry-on luggage limits for each passenger will remain the same. These can be found here.***Virgin Australia relaunched in November 2020 with 58 aircraft. With the addition of the latest Boeing 737-8, there are now 85 aircraft in the airline’s fleet.#Virgin Australia carried 17.7 million customers domestically in FY19.


The name of Virgin Australia’s newest airplane and first-ever 737-8 has taken inspiration from the sea.“Monkey Mia,” (pronounced “Monkey Maya”) registered VH-8IA, is named after the seaside location in the Shark Bay region of Western Australia, which became the state’s first World Heritage-listed site in 1991. Famous for the wild dolphins in the area, Monkey Mia’s red dunes and white sandy beaches make it a popular tourist destination.The airplane is currently flying the fifth-longest non-stop route operated by the 737 MAX from Cairns to Tokyo (Haneda) and is the first of 33 737 MAX family aircraft Virgin Australia will take delivery of over the next five years. 

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June 28 Ribbon Cutting for “Monkey Mia” at the Seattle Delivery Center

The 737-8, delivered from Boeing’s Seattle Delivery Center on June 28, follows Virgin Australia’s tradition of naming their airplanes after Australian bodies of water. Names of other airplanes already in operation include “Cable Beach,” “Cottesloe Beach,” and “Bondi Beach.”Previously, when the airline was known as Virgin Blue, aircraft names incorporated female names and words connected with Australian cities and localities, including “Brissie Lizzie,” “Sassy Sydney,” and “Mackay-be Diva.”Flying into Australia, “Monkey Mia” was officially welcomed into the airline’s fleet in July, in front of 2,000 team members and their families at the company’s Brisbane Hangar.