Virgin Australia will no longer serve complimentary snacks in economy class from early 2021, with the freebies replaced with a ‘buy on board’ menu of meals and refreshments.
Tea, coffee and water will remain free for all travellers on all fares.
The move was tipped by Executive Traveller last month as part of a sweeping push to lower Virgin's cost base and reduce ticket prices – framed around the airline's new 'value' proposition – while also ensuring a solid margin for the company.
Virgin says the “exciting and fresh” inflight menu will replace the previous for-purchase offerings. Previously, the airline offered both complimentary bites and other items at a charge.
There's no word yet whether afternoon 'happy hours' – where wine, beer and soft drinks are served without charge - would remain.
“Australia already has a low-cost-carrier and a traditional full-service airline, and we won’t be either,” says incoming Virgin Australia CEO Jayne Hrdlicka.
“We know that leisure travellers, small and medium businesses, and many corporates are now emerging from COVID-19 wanting better value. Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service.”
Service in business class will continue in its current form until early 2021, with Virgin Australia completing an “end-to-end review of the business class offering” before relaunching its premium proposition next year.
During its time in voluntary administration, the airline had been criticised for serving two-minute noodles in business class, before these were replaced with snack boxes.
Bring on board vs buy on board
Virgin Australia has previously considered removing complimentary meals and snacks from economy class, and in mid-2017 developed plans to partner with an airport food and beverage outlet such as Sumo Salad to offer packaged 'grab and go' meals purchased from catering carts at the departure gate.
Focus groups held in July 2017 including many of the airline's Velocity Frequent Flyers also floated higher-grade 'buy on board' meals priced at $10-$12 as an alternative to the 'bring on board' boxes.
"The grab-and-go boxes were well received in the focus group," one attendee told Executive Traveller at the time. "As long as they were of a reasonable quality without needing to be over the top, there was in-principle support."
"The idea of picking up pre-ordered boxes at the gate was interesting however, concerns surrounding gate crowding was an issue, hence why we preferred the lounge option."
"Also a lot of the time in peak flying hours we would have eaten at work or in the lounge, however the grab and go gave extra flexibility."