SYDNEY, April 15 (Reuters) – Virgin Australia, the country’s No. 2 carrier, said on Thursday that 10 chartered Boeing Co 737 planes would return to its fleet as part of a plan that would see it reach more than 80% pre-pandemic. domestic capacity by mid-June.
The airline, now owned by US private equity group Bain Capital, last year entered voluntary administration after the pandemic hit and sent many of its 737s back to lessors.
The outlook for Australia’s domestic market is now improving after teetering for months by the pandemic-related closure of state borders.
“More planes means more flights, and with travel restrictions easing, there are more opportunities to support domestic tourism and the country’s economic recovery from COVID-19,” Virgin Australia Chief Executive Jayne Hrdlicka said in a statement.
Bigger rival, Qantas Airways Ltd expects an average of around 80% of pre-pandemic capacity in the quarter ending June 30 due in part to strong demand for tourist travel in a country where local transmission of COVID-19 is nearly eliminated.
Virgin Australia said it had finalized a deal to reintroduce 10 Boeing 737-800s previously operated, with further additions being investigated.
The first three will join the airline’s fleet this month, with the rest due to enter service gradually in October, the airline said.
Virgin Australia has suspended sales of most New Zealand services until October 31 even though the two-way travel bubble opened on April 19 as it focuses on strengthening its position in the domestic market.
Rival Regional Express Holdings Ltd last month launched a Sydney-Melbourne flight using a chartered 737 previously operated by Virgin Australia as a challenge to the incumbent. (Reporting by Jamie Freed Editing by David Holmes)