After Boeing missed its deadline for delivering the airline’s first B737-8s, Virgin Australia will not debut the B737-8 on its first Cairns-Tokyo Haneda service in June. Instead, it will use the B737-700 on the route.
“Due to an issue related to a Boeing supplier, there will be a short delay in the delivery of our first B737-8 aircraft,” says a statement released by Virgin Australia on 9 May. “Due to the delay, we will operate our Cairns-Haneda (Tokyo) service using our existing B737-700 aircraft for a short period, starting from the inaugural flight on 28 June 2023.”
The first four B737-8s scheduled for delivery this year were expected to arrive at the airline in February. They have not given up on their 2023 timeline for the four aeroplanes due this year but have no confirmed exact delivery dates. Virgin Australia has placed an order of twenty-five B737-10s.
The Haneda flights were launched to coincide with the arrival of the first MAX aircraft. With the end of Covid-19-related exemptions, restarting the Haneda flights has become a time-sensitive requirement under the use-it-or-lose-it slot system. After securing landing rights in Japan, Virgin Australia planned to launch an A330-200 service between Brisbane and Tokyo Haneda in early 2020. However, following Virgin Australia’s voluntary administration and transfer to Bain Capital later that year, all of the A330s were retired.
Virgin Australia currently predominantly uses B737-800s, which lack the range to fly the 5,864-kilometer distance between Cairns and Tokyo Haneda, let alone the lengthier Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda sector. On the other hand, the airline’s seven B737-700s can fly from Cairns to Tokyo in one hop, although with a slightly reduced passenger load.
According to Virgin Australia, customers will detect no difference between the two operating types besides a renovated interior and upgraded seats. “The good news is that Virgin Australia customers will not be impacted, and our schedule of Japan services will continue as planned,” the statement added.
The nearly eight-hour journey from Cairns to Tokyo Haneda will be Virgin Australia’s longest. Aside from domestic passenger and charter operations across Australia, the airline also serves short-haul overseas destinations such as Indonesia, New Zealand, Vanuatu, Fiji, and Samoa.