But despite the well-documented woes of the Boeing 787, now in its sixth week of a worldwide grounding, Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti says the Dreamliner remains a contender for Virgin’s future fleet.
“It hasn’t dented my views on how good I think the 787 is” Borghetti told Australian Business Traveller. “I think the 787 is a wonderful airplane, just as much as I believe the A350 will be.”
Borghetti says the Boeing-or-Airbus question “will be more an end-of-year decision”, despite indicating in August last year that “sometime within the next 12 months we’d like to make a call.”
“We don’t have to rush into this” Borghetti stresses. “We’re talking about fleet composition beyond 2017. Admittedly we have to make a call soon, but we’ve still got a year or so up our sleeves.”
Whichever of the two next-gen jetliners gets the nod, it will take over from Virgin Australia’s current mix of Airbus A330s and Boeing 777s, which respectively fly on the transcontinental coast to coast route as well as internationally to Los Angeles and Abu Dhabi, the hub of partner Etihad.
On the domestic front the star of Virgin’s fleet will be the Boeing 737 MAX 8, designed as a next-gen replacement for the Boeing 737-800.
The airline has 23 of the jets on order, with options for four more – a shopping list worth some A$2.7 billion based on Boeing’s sticker price.
Still under development, the 737 MAX isn’t due to take to the skies until 2017, with Virgin’s first deliveries not slated until 2019.
Boeing predicts the 737 MAX will deliver lower fuel burn and CO2 emissions that are some 13 percent lower compared to "today's most fuel-efficient single-aisle aircraft", as well as quiet engine technology to "signficantly reduce its noise footprint".
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