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.