Instant noodles axed but Virgin's business class 'meals' still snacks

New owners Bain Capital says Virgin won't be a low-cost airline, serves "crackers and dip" snack box for business class dinner.

By David Flynn, October 20 2020
Instant noodles axed but Virgin's business class 'meals' still snacks
Executive Traveller exclusive

Stung by ridicule after offering two-minute noodles to business class passengers, Virgin Australia is moving to put 'NoodleGate' behind it with the rollout of improved food and drink options for its premium passengers.

However, travellers paying thousands of dollars for a business class ticket may feel the new snack boxes still fall well short of the mark.

In recent weeks, dwindling catering supplies saw Virgin Australia run out of everything from wine to Diet Coke for business class passengers, while some meal services were reduced to a pot of Fantastic-brand instant cup noodles ($1.60 from Woolworths).

Media coverage showing photos of the cup noodle 'meal' came at arguably the worst possible time for Virgin Australia: a day before the airline's new owners, US-based private equity firm Bain Capital, dumped CEO Paul Scurrah for former Jetstar chief Jayne Hrdlicka, while promising Virgin would not "be repositioned as a low-cost carrier."

In an internal memo to the airline's Customer Service Delivery team sighted by Executive Traveller, Sarah Adam – Virgin's General Manager for Product & Customer Experience – says "we want to acknowledge the feedback we've received on our current onboard offer for Business Class guests."

Adam maintains "the limited offer was effective in managing guests' concerns around interaction with crew onboard and was appropriate as we operated our limited flight network."

The airline has now restocked its supplied of beer, wine and soft drinks, while coffee and tea will also make their return as the noodle-free menu is rolled over the coming week.

According to the memo, from October 30, Virgin's business class passengers flying until 9.30am will receive a "breakfast snack box" with a bowl of cereal and milk, a muffin and shortbread biscuits.

The lunch and dinner meal service will be a "snack box including crackers and dip, muffin, barbecue roasted chickpea mix and Australian dark chocolate square."

By comparison, Qantas' current roster of business class meals includes the likes of lamb shank with minted onion sauce and potato mash, and chicken parmigiana with sweet potato puree and greens.

Virgin Australia appears well aware of the disconnect between the quality of its business class meals and the cost of the ticket, with Adam noting "we continue to work closely with the commercial team to ensure that pricing is reflective of the product offer."

Fortunately, this post-noodle menu shouldn't be with us for too long: Adam adds that Virgin is currently in "an interim period of limited service arrangement" and in discussions with catering providers over a revised business class menu, which Executive Traveller understands will be part of the relaunched airline's new "value proposition".

“As travel demand begins to increase we are exploring the possibilities for our onboard business class offering, whilst continuing to prioritise the safety and wellbeing of our guests and crew," a Virgin Australia spokesman said.

“We are also re-imagining what our onboard catering offer will be longer-term, and are looking forward to developing a new experience to suit customer needs.”

Having collapsed in late April from the bruising impact of Covid-19 and weighed down by almost $7 billion in debt, Virgin remains in administration until the start of November, when Bain Capital will formally assume ownership of the airline.

Also read: Virgin Australia cuts lounges, points, upgrades on partner airlines

David

David Flynn is the Editor-in-Chief of Executive Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.

AV
AV

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

16 Apr 2013

Total posts 47

Virgin seem to have a fetish for chickpeas (and no, 'barbecue roasted' doesn't make them taste any better).  It's all I've ever got on the MEL-LST evening flights for the last 2 years...

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

09 Aug 2016

Total posts 21

I'm quite fond of a flavoured roasted chickpea to be honest. Although I make them myself. Healthy alternative to chips. Would I pay a business class airfare price to have them at 38,000 ft?....well, probably not.

Tav
Tav

20 Oct 2020

Total posts 4

Virgin are going to need to get this all sorted ASAP. People are already watching and making up their minds on how they feel about Virgin 2.0 and whether it’s going to be an airline for them..

08 Feb 2018

Total posts 105

In administration during a global pandemic, we're lucky they're still in the air. Virgin 2.0 hasn't launched yet so lets not get ahead of ourselves. I'm sure most people will make up there minds once they let us know what their premium product will actually be.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1243

Why would anyone voluntarily pay good money out of their own pocket to fly business class domestically at this time?!

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 Feb 2015

Total posts 313

The phrase mutton dressed as lamb comes to mind with Virgin under Bain ownership.

13 Apr 2020

Total posts 4

Most Virgin passengers would happily eat either at this point 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 188

What a disgraceful standard of meal service being offered by VA.

I have a J Class booking to Perth and return from Brisbane  starting early Dec if the borders to WA is opened.

If the service I get is as stated in this article then it will most certainly be the last time I will fly VA!!!!

Let's hope it gets better throughout November but I would not like to be hanging in hope.

Looks like my swan song with VA is very likely.

What a bloody shame for what was once a really great Airline.

Shame on Bain but not un expected for such a bunch of predatory financiers.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 203

Again, like others have said they are not out of administration, can people chill..and if your paying business to fly at this time when lounges arent open, service and interaction is limited, the only thing your actually paying for is greater comfort of the seat.

So how about make your decisons at a time when things sorta go back to normal..like when they announce their new offerings post Nov and whAts to come

@Rod H Likely you won't be flying to WA anyway - as if McGowan will open borders for eastern states for Dec. Christmas doesn't stop COVID and not will.he WA to stop his chances of remaining in power prior to election.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

06 Nov 2014

Total posts 367

I actually prefer the 2 minute noodle than cracker dip! At least the 2 minute noodle can fill me up more. 

Just flew a rt BNE-DRW in VA J. 4 hours flight that's all you get. The return leg from DRW is especially bad as every food outlet in DRW is closed except a little coffee shop selling muffins and cakes. That 2 minute noodle was my lunch and dinner (departing 14:35 and arriving 19:05).

The seat actually isnt all that comfortable. The recline is minimal and no foot rest. For up to 2 hours is ok, anything more it's starting to get really uncomfortable. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 403

Can someone check to see what milk is being served? Is it A2 ????

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 370

Now, Now John, funny - yes, nice - no.  Naughty John !!!

(Love your work)

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 203

@John Phelan that's one for the best comments Ive seen on here in a long time

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 188

Dan22.

I think you may have missed my point.

The article referred to meals served from Oct. 30th which is when they are OUT of administration.

According to the agreement Bain Capital will take full control of VA by Oct. 31st which means they have to take over on Oct 30th.

The article quotes VA as stating that the meals described are what will be served in J Class  from Oct 30th which means that its  what we will get from then on unless things change again.

No one  is disputing that until Oct 30th it will be a very meagre service indeed.

This whole border opening is becoming a political football with all of the Premiers looking after their own re election chances and to hell with the economy and the people.

We've still a while to go before I want to travel so maybe  the WA Premier will open the border to some safe states.

Common-sense does not seem to be a great attribute with a lot of Politicians , re election takes precedence.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2435

Rod: just to clarify, while administrator Deloitte had long expected Virgin to exit administration at the end of October, that's now been pushed back to early November. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 188

Thanks David.

I did not read that anywhere.

That does make a difference to my post but does leave it open as to why VA have used the original takeover dates as the base for the article of what to expect for service from those dates. Why not leave it until the new date?

The whole thing is quite messy with snippets of info coming out all the time and some contradicting others.

Bain Capital must be aware of the concern of J class travellers so surely it's only reasonable that they let us know of their intentions.

It beggars belief to think that they don't already know exactly what they have planned.

Not a very good start for the new VA!!!

09 Sep 2020

Total posts 7

Can anyone at Virgin give a clear timeframe of when they may ,if, plan to return to long haul international flights or is not a viable proposition with Bain , are they looking at 2 yrs,3 yrs, just a question .

P1
P1

24 Apr 2017

Total posts 66

Once customer trust is lost, it'll take a very long time and a lot of money to restore.

Meanwhile all the ex-customers will by flying business on Qantas.

The longer Virgin take to fix this, the more likely they'll never recover.

QFP

22 Jan 2013

Total posts 61

Adam maintains "the limited offer was effective in managing guests' concerns around interaction with crew onboard..."

What a insult, do thy think we are stupid. Both airlines should just be honest in their coms. Cost saving and running down inventory for the new owners.

09 Sep 2020

Total posts 7

Sadly people must realise that during our current troubles things are NOT as they were and currently Virgin is reassembling itself ,so people take a CHILL PILL. Look to a new dawn and wider horizon in the future 

19 Jun 2020

Total posts 22

Virgin pretty quickly need to outline their customer strategy eg, what classes are there going to be on the planes eg Business, Economy X and Economy or whatever new version they have, they also need to clearly spell out how they manage status and what the customer gets for each level. Also from the about comments on food - what is their catering strategy and lounge strategy , finishing off with letting us know what tampering they will be doing with points and status credits (assuming still relevant) 

By being vague on these issues, they will lose customers to the opposition who are already out there offering switching options. Put what they are going to do on the record quickly and let us decide whether to stay or go otherwise some including me will just go regardless. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 188

Goodster3.

It's all very well saying VA is reassembling itself but the new owners , Bain  must have a very good idea of what the new Airline will look like and the standard of service. They have had months now to work it out and the official take over is only a few weeks away and yet we have absolutely no idea of what it will be apart from the VA response in this  article which seems to be doubtful as to it's final outcome.

VA is losing Business Class passengers in droves at the moment because of this uncertainty and it's no good them saying that they need to have a low contact between staff and the passengers therefore pitiful meals when Qantas can give a full service and yet maintain the contact rules to a sufficient degree. I don't believe that handing out such a small service would  entail any more contact problems than a full service as  the F/A's still have to handle the meal even if it is smaller.

It would seem that Bain really don't care about J class but I just wish they would come out and say so so we can move to Qantas if they persist with the abysmal service being reported in this article.

One only has to look at the huge amount of negative posts in this forum alone to see that there is a lot of concern that does need to be addressed by Bain and VA new management!

The leprechaun must be laughing all the way to the bank as the Golden rainbow surely has landed on Qantas.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 370

Whilst it's true RodH that Bain doesn't 'seem to care' about J-Class, if there's any truth in their announcement that they're not shifting to become a LCC, then getting J-Class seats full on every flight surely must be a priority.  Regardless of what gets served (or not served*) beyond row 5/6, they'd be INSANE to not offer Business (1-3) AND EconomyX in 4-6 their pre-February standard of F&B.  

* Speaking only for myself, when travelling economy fare on SHORT HAUL flights (e.g. ADL-MEL, MEL-SYD, SYD-BNE, etc.) I'd be quite fine if they didn't offer any food - provided mixed-drinks/beers/softs were available with crackers/cheese.  Of course, I'm assuming that the Virgin lounge and food courts in terminal/piers revert to 'normal' and allow me to eat something there.

But when I purchase a Business fare, I expect the crockery and hot, cooked meal w/ wine - even on a short haul flight.  

09 Sep 2020

Total posts 7

Rod H, fully agree with your comment, and like you would like someone from the Head Shed to come and tell us all what is happening, as like you ,the longer VA dither around they will  lose any and all traction will their customer base, as the will move to QANTAS, I would like them to give a heads up on International Long Haul , 1yr ,2 yr, 3 yr or not at  all. Thanks for the notes

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

The question is how much does pax want to stay “loyal” to VA, while paying a significant premium for a lesser product and knowing the new VA of 2021 will never be the same again (and likely not service at the previous standard of VA of 2019)

Usually it is the airlines who is trying to attract pax to stay loyal while some here seemed to be willing to stay loyal on the basis of what their current tier status is, with no certainty or transparency of what product Bain had planned eventually.

Not my problem, not my money, but just making an observation. 

Frankly there is already signs that QF will do some (downward) adjustment of service or reward (Platinum club call centre, points award and redemption downgrade with splitting of flexible tickets) so the troubles at VA is negatively affecting QF as well

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 188

XWu

The answer to your question is " not for very much longer at all " given the deafening silence from Bain and the dreadful excuse for a meal service proposed by VA Catering.

There's a finite limit to anyone's patience with VA and it's running out fast.

It's high time VA and Bain's Management took note of the disquiet and answered the concerns. I'm quite sure someone from Management will have read these post and report it to the top brass.

Or do they really give a stuff!!!!

Maybe not and we are wasting our time hoping for things to be better with VA.

XWu
XWu

09 May 2020

Total posts 285

@Rod H

I agree the lack of damage control by Bain at this stage is doing great damage, esp internationally 

Google something neutral like “ virgin australia business noodle”

The Noodlegate news is on NZ, US, UK, Singapore, India, Pakistan, Emirates located news websites

21 Apr 2019

Total posts 2

We will yravel QF J/C until I hear positive VA feedback. Sounds horrid at present.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 188

I think I may have found the answer to what we will get or more correctly will NOT get from VA's J class service in the coming weeks.

A few weeks ago I booked J class Brisbane- Perth return starting Dec 1st with a " Business Saver " fare of $2570, this was in anticipation of West Oz borders being open in Dec and a rush for seats occurring.

Just for curiosities sake I had a look at VA's J class fares today and they are the same price for all of Nov.

However-- On Dec 1st the " business Saver " fare drops by $400 each way , a total of $800.

This make me think that Bain actually take over on Dec 1st and have adjusted the fares according to the new standard of service the will offer  in J class.

So for $400 less I reckon we will get a very much reduced service , probably 1/2 a cup of noodles!!!!!

This really annoys me to think I have paid a premium price and only get a very much reduce service or so it would seem.

There's no way VA / Bain can drop the price by $400 each sector without a substantial reduction in service or at least that's how I see it.

One only reduces the price when the product cost less and that means less service.

What irks me is that VA wont even give me the difference as a travel credit even though I remained " loyal " to VA and decide to give them a go rather than QF.

Not looking forward to my flight like  I used to do for the many years I flew VA J class previously.

I was quite prepared to pay the higher price as long as I got good service and fully understand that the vastly reduce price will be reflected in standard of service.

If I had known this I would have booked QF and enjoyed the better service . At my age of 79 I am going to enjoy my twilight years flying in comfort but this flight doesn't look too promising.

Because of the covid -19 pandemic I had to take a punt and make this booking as there will be a huge rush once the West Oz borders reopen so wanted to secure a seat now.

Punt did not pay off!!!!!!


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