Virgin Australia is looking to grow its fleet of 58 aircraft as it anticipates stronger than expected domestic demand.

The country’s second largest airline has a “really positive” outlook and is in advanced discussions to lease additional Boeing 737s, said Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka in a Sydney Morning Herald interview.

A Virgin Australia spokesperson confirmed the plan in a statement to Business Traveller:

“To support Virgin Australia’s increase in capacity over the coming months as part of our Covid-19 recovery plans, we are currently negotiating leases for nine additional aircraft.”

Prior to its bankruptcy, Virgin had 84 aircraft across its domestic operations.

The airline currently operates at about half of its pre-pandemic capacity, but is expected to reach 65 per cent in April and 80 per cent by mid-2021.

“There’s a lot of pent-up demand – Australians just wanting to get out of the house and get back to normal, and have the opportunity to travel,” Hrdlicka told the Sydney Morning Herald.

“I’m very confident that state premiers are going to do the right thing now and protect the community while also keeping the borders open.”

Hrdlicka expects fares to remain low for the foreseeable future as it competes with flag carrier Qantas and new challenger Rex Airlines on trunk routes such as Sydney to Melbourne. 

It also comes amid an announcement by the Australian government which will offer AU$1.2 billion in support for the tourism and aviation sector, including half-price airfares to stimulate domestic travel.