For many years, Virgin Australia has treated its business class passengers on domestic and short-range international flights (including New Zealand) to a free selection of meals, snacks and drinks from the ‘buy on board’ retail menu offered in economy class.
This comes on top of the standard meal service and pantry in business class, and is a handy option on longer domestic flights such as the trans-continental ‘coast to coast’ routes.
Although not a widely-known perk, it’s one that’s long been enjoyed by many of Virgin’s regular passengers in the pointy end. The same courtesy has been extended to members of Virgin’s invitation-only The Club, if they are travelling in economy.
That all comes to an end on October 9, when the ‘buy on board’ menu will be rolled out in business class, and those passengers – along with members of The Club – will be asked to pull out their credit card for extras that were formerly free.
According to an instruction circulated to Virgin Australia cabin crew on September 26, and sighted by Executive Traveller, “effective 9 October, complimentary offering of retail items to Business and VIP guests will not be permitted.”
The airline says the move “is due to the high levels of retail items being supplied free of charge, impacting revenue opportunities which exceeds $780,000 in annual lost revenue.”
“Retail items will be available for purchase, should the guest prefer additional options. Retail menus will be loaded in business class seat pockets and crew should introduce the retail menu when taking meal orders after take-off.”
Virgin’s retail menu includes a wide variety of items from snacks such as chips, chocolates, biscuits and nuts to cheese platters, wraps, toasted sandwiches and pies.
Especially popular among high flyers have been recent new items such as an Espresso Martini (priced at $12 in economy), and an Ink gin with Fevertree tonic ($16).
Virgin Australia confirmed the forthcoming changes to business class meal options, with a spokesperson telling Executive Traveller it would introduce “the retail cart to the Business Class cabin for our guests to purchase from in addition to the current offering. We have some fantastic new products on the retail cart, which is regularly updated to ensure our guests have plenty of choice.”
The spokesperson added “we’ll be introducing new items to the pantry in Business Class that our guests have told us they love,” while “the Business Class menu will be rotated more frequently to ensure our regular travellers have more options.”
The cabin crew instruction also notes that last-minute upgrades, which are often categorised as ‘catering not assured’, “are entitled to the standard economy offering’ but suggest that crew should “where possible, offer residual business class meals or the pantry, with retail items available for purchase.”