Virgin Australia has delayed adding troubled Boeing 737MAX planes to its fleet and changed the composition of its order.
The airline has restructured its order book, deferring delivery of its first Boeing 737 MAX aircraft from November this year to July 2021 and converting an additional 15 of its 737 MAX 8 aircraft on order to 737 MAX 10s.
It comes as Boeing scrambles to have a fix approved for the plane after two crashes claiming the lives of 346 people linked to problems with new anti-stall gear fitted to the new model aircraft.
The delay will put more time between the expected fix and its use on Virgin Australia's routes, expected to initially be domestic services but with the possibility of using the plane across the Tasman.
The MAX has been grounded around the world for six weeks following the latest crash in Ethiopia. The 737MAX had been Boeing's fastest selling plane type but now is the centre of claims new systems were fitted without pilots knowing and it was rushed into service.
There are allegations of a cosy relationship between the plane maker and the US Federal Aviation Administration.
Virgin Australia group chief executive Paul Scurrah said he was ''pleased'' to have reached an agreement with Boeing.
"Safety is always the number one priority for Virgin Australia. As we have previously stated, we will not introduce any new aircraft to the fleet unless we are completely satisfied with its safety. We are confident in Boeing's commitment to returning the 737 MAX to service safely and as a long-term partner of Boeing, we will be working with them through this process,'' he said.
Virgin Australia has emerged from years of heavy losses and maintains the revised timing also resulted in a number of positive commercial benefits for the group.
''This includes a significant deferral of capital expenditure by extending the use of existing aircraft given the relatively young age of our fleet, along with providing the Group earlier access to the superior operational economics of the MAX 10 aircraft," said Scurrah.
It is understood the deferral didn't incur penalties usually imposed on airlines by plane makers. Virgin's existing fleet is 8.6 years old and the airline will stretch the planes' use for longer.
The 737 MAX 10 is the largest of the 737 fleet which allows for greater seat capacity and operating efficiencies.
Virgin has now a total of 48 of the 737 MAX planes on order.
While this is a deferral, other MAX orders have been cancelled, including one from Garuda, which has canned a $7.3b order.
Worrying for Boeing, Emirates, which operates flydubai, has this week raised the possibility of switching from MAX to Airbus narrow-body planes.
Fiji Airways had operated two MAX planes to New Zealand before they were grounded and had to charter one off a Miami-based company to cover schedules.