Executive Traveller exclusive
Virgin Australia is set to unveil an overhaul of its inflight business class dining this month, leaving behind those two-minute noodles and snack boxes for meals more worthy of the pointy end of the plane.
Executive Traveller understands the new inflight dining service, which will be part of the airline's business class 'reboot', sees a return to the airline's pre-collapse and pre-COVID mode of individually plated dishes delivered on a single tray.
Virgin cabin crew are reportedly being trained up in the new service ahead of its launch by the beginning of April, with the promise of a fresh approach to contemporary dining.
Sarah Adam, Virgin's General Manager of Product and Customer Experience, coyly tells Executive Traveller "I can't give too many secrets away at this stage, but 'watch this space'..."
As to catering for a broader variety of travellers' tastes, such as vegetarians, Adam says "we want to be able to cater to guests' needs as best as we can."
"Sometimes we are restricted to the space that we have on board, but we will make sure that there are options that will suit the majority of guests."
Adam also declined to say if the new business class meals might be presented as a partnership with either a specific chef or a retail brand.
Virgin previously collaborated with Luke Mangan on domestic and international business class meals which were well-regarded by frequent flyers.
Mangan also lent his expertise to designing menus for the airline's elite invitation-only The Club lounges, which have been shuttered since March 2020 and could be a casualty of Virgin's move away from well-heeled corporate accounts and towards a more mid-market position.
However, there's plenty of room between the utility of snack boxes and five-star fine dining at 30,000 feet, and here – as with the rest of its restart under new owners Bain Capital – Virgin is determined to find the 'sweet spot' of value for the asking price and customer expectations of a business class fare.
Those fares remain highly competitive against Qantas, with Virgin still listing one-way Sydney-Melbourne business class at the back end of April at $300 and $600, with Sydney-Brisbane at $450 and $600 (Qantas currently shows a flat $716 for Sydney-Melbourne and $900 for Sydney-Brisbane).
It's not known if Virgin will differ its approach for business class meals on the longer transcontinental routes, where it previously offered a menu even on Boeing 737 flights, while Qantas will maintain a solid edge due to its Airbus A330 jets with spacious business class suites and a larger, better-equipped kitchen galley.
Virgin's culinary rebound began with those infamous Fantastic-brand instant noodles, which were a very short-term fix to address supply issues as the airline emerged from administration but became a outsized image problem when business class passengers shared photos of the pot noodles on social media.
In the wake of #NoodleGate, Virgin has since November 2020 served rudimentary snack boxes typically containing assorted nibbles, crackers and a dip, a muffin and, during morning flights, a bowl of cereal.
While Virgin's business class passengers will clearly have something to look forward to from April, the news isn't as cheery for economy flyers, who'll see free snacks and most drinks axed in favour of a fully 'buy on board' model.
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