Review: Virgin Australia's new business class meals

The glossy PR photos look enticing, but how do the meals measure up when served in a Boeing 737 at 30,000 feet?

Overall Rating

By David Flynn, March 30 2021
Virgin Australia's new business class meals
Notes
The Good
  • Contemporary cafe-style dishes
The Bad
  • For now, sides seem to be missing in action
X-Factor
  • These dishes make Virgin Australia business class a solid value proposition

Introduction

Virgin Australia's new business class menu promises simple, contemporary dishes with casual cafe flair rather than fine dining fuss.

We've already highlighted a selection of breakfast, lunch and dinner dishes, and they look great in the airline-approved and studio-shot publicity photos – but how do they rate in real life?

A great studio photo, but do Virgin's new meals delivery in reality?
A great studio photo, but do Virgin's new meals delivery in reality?

Here are our observations, and those of other Executive Traveller readers, on first impressions during the first week of Virgin's new domestic business class meals.

Virgin cannily chose to lead off its new business class breakfast menu (available until 10am) with a pair of crowd-pleasing classics: a ham and scrambled egg brioche, and smashed avocado with crumbed feta on sourdough toast.

Both appear to have been a hit: they plated up well in the air, and readers were unanimous in praising the delicious starters to the day.

However, while Virgin's press release promised both dishes would be "served alongside Greek yoghurt with mango coulis and seasonal fresh fruit," neither of those additions made an appearance.

"If this were a transcontinental flight I may have been a bit hungry after five hours," one reader noted, indicating that coast-to-coast flights might need a two-part meal service, such as a main meal and a lighter refreshment closer to landing.

Virgin's business class lunch menu (for flights departing between 10am and 4pm) includes a turkey, brie and fig jam sourdough melt.

We also sampled this at Virgin's media launch of the new menu held at the airline's Brisbane hangar, although the dish was served fully-plated from Boeing 737 meal carts by Virgin crew.

Several readers have sampled the melt on recent Virgin Australia flights, with mixed results.

Like like a good toasted sandwich, a good melt is comfort food which warms the soul as well as the stomach – but some of the photos we've been sent show a presentation less appetising than those above, with the melt also slightly overdone in the galley oven.

Two dishes on the lunch menu – lamb and rosemary pie with pumpkin and feta smash, and haloumi and quinoa salad – are carried over to the dinner menu (6pm onwards).

We chose the pie when flying on the day of Virgin's business class menu launch, and while some have suggested a pie is not very 'premium' or 'business class', as far as pies go, this one hit the spot: light pastry, enough meat in the filling, and a tomato relish that helped rather than hindered.

(In the photo below you can also see a pour of the St Hallett Black Clay Shiraz.)

The haloumi and quinoa salad is proving a popular lighter alternative, although one reader noted his serve tasted "dried out" and suggested a sauce or relish could help.

And again, there was no sign of the antipasto plate or chocolate delight cake which the press release promised would accompany both these dishes, despite their being served to media at the official launch – indicating there are still a few kinks to be worked out with Virgin's catering supplier Gate Gourmet.

Overall, as one reader noted, it's hard to fault these as business class fare on the Sydney-Melbourne-Brisbane 'triangle'.

"Serving size and freshness was definite plus, and there was no feeling of stodginess – well presented, and delivered with great service."

Also: Get ready to fly business class by pocketing up to 120,000 bonus Velocity Points from a single credit card application.

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.

13 Apr 2020

Total posts 9

I had the lamb pie the other day and thought it was quite nice too. I get the feeling that virgin will differentiate catering between shorter and longer flights by adding the sides (prosciutto and/or dessert) so the promo pics might reflect a coast to coast flight but be trimmed to what you had for syd-mel etc, as was my experience.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Mar 2015

Total posts 229

No one could really complain about the meals for the so called " Triangle " flights but the longer flights particularly trans continental need a much improved style and quantity of catering from what has been portrayed and others have reported.

Nowhere near enough for the 5 hour flight unless one has starters in the lounge but at this time their does not seem to be very much on offer there.

I suppose it will take quite a bit of fine tuning so one would hope that VA do improve this over time.

Mind you ATM there is not much travelling from VA's home base state of Qld. due to this repulsive bug!!!!

Life is not very easy right now for quite a lot of people.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

26 Nov 2012

Total posts 83

I flew MEL CNS on QF and got the chook pie (which was mainly gravy and a smidge of chewy beige stuff).  A slice of bread (which WAS very tasty but was ONE slice) No salad. No dessert. A ridiculous Lindt chocolate ball (and I don’t like chocolate). I was hungry by the time I arrived. Goodness knows what happened up the back.  

VA are certainly not in competition with a premium meal and I will try VA when I’ve reqaulified for WP which will happen well before 12 months so QF’s loss. I like what I see. 

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Aug 2017

Total posts 65

I flew from Cairns to Melbourne on Qantas a month or so ago... "up the back", as you put it. For the three-hour flight I was initially given a packet of nibblies. When I asked politely whether more food was a possibility, the very friendly flight attendant gave me a second of the same packet of nibblies. Then he hesitated, and gave me a third.

I'm now with Qantas - I'm not paying for Virgin's so-called Business service - a pie and a few other cheap and nasty morsels. 

13 Apr 2020

Total posts 9

I'm a LTG with Qantas and over the last few years have changed my tune (Virgin administration period withstanding).

In the past week I've flown both virgin's new J product on a short flight and Qantas J on a 4hr+ flight. The latter had better quality wine but less choice (1 white, 1 red and a sparkling vs 2 choices of both red and white on virgin). Food was slightly more substantial on Qantas, as expected on a longer flight, but was more stodgy and uninteresting - sausage and mash with gravy for dinner as an example. Service was equally attentive just more formal on Qantas, although Qantas lacked a pre departure service unlike Virgin.

Boarding was one long line for all on qantas (except for two business passengers walking like peacocks and pushing into the front) while virgin had a defined priority system.

As you know seating identical except Qantas offer foot rests (not particularly useful in my experience) and has a less intimate cabin with up to 50% more guests.

While there will obviously be variation flight to flight, in general I find it hard to justify the usually substantial premium that Qantas charges, if both options are a 737. They really do target public servants and others who are not travelling on their own dime. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

07 Aug 2013

Total posts 231

Would have Iiked to read QF had up'd their game and gone back to their previous business meal service now Virgin was offering something to compete with.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Feb 2017

Total posts 35

yep - no reason for qantas not to provide spirits now. 

KC
KC

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 23

Plane Crazy, you seem to be on the money, I had it confirmed today that the dessert is added to mid length flights and the antipasto platters (and similar items,) are added to long flights.

As for the turkey melt they said today that it had been reviewed and new cooking instructions are in place to improve its presentation.

Likewise this menu is only the first one which they got on line as quickly as possible with huge work going into the next round of offerings.

I would also assume that to some degree as this caterer is only an ‘interim’ contract then we may see further changes.

I do rather like the roasted pumpkin and prosciutto salad myself. And as I avoid bread I don’t miss the bakery. 

At least the bar is back to a good standard, I can get a whisky, which my last QF flight didn’t have as it was quote, “too early.”

Best of all I’m loving the pricing structure for J class, I’ve flown nothing but business since December, with exception of two flights. Some really good prices out there with VA, helped clearly by Rex’s presence!

09 Jun 2017

Total posts 27

I flew Qantas 2 days ago on the 6PM A330 SYD - MEL after flying VA on the 1st day of the new Business class service. Qantas service didn't come close to Virgin unfortunately. The Virgin flight came complete with a friendly Cabin Supervisor, hot meal and SPIRITS! 

Qantas was red or white wine and a pretty sad food option. I also managed to score an FA who didn't really give a toss and portrayed it quite comprehensively with her interactions. It all reminded me of the 2000's when Qantas was enjoying the monopoly while Virgin was growing. 

Landing in Melbourne didn't add any positive points as there was no available gate. We sat for 45 minutes as I watched the later 737 flight from Sydney arrive and park at a gate for narrows. We landed 10 minutes early but arrived 35 minutes late. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Aug 2016

Total posts 63

Mon 29/3 VA308 BNE/MEL

I opted for something light - avocado and feta on sourdough. Slightly disappointing as avo had no taste (still slightly green) but feta lifted it. Needed the salt & pepper sachets (no shakers). The pastry was the best part of the meal. QF WP rating: 7/10

Mon 29/3 VA221 MEL/ADL

Chose the turkey, Brie and fig jam sourdough melt. The subtle flavor of the turkey was there but the fig jam zing was missing, the (flavour and size of the) piece of Brie was the saving grace in this dish. You’ll need the cutlery to eat it. The side dish of cheese and crackers was tasty. QF WP rating: 7.5/10

I seems you are easily pleased David.

A *pie* that I could piue for 5 dollars and a few other morsels?

This is why I no longer fly Virgin business.

24 Oct 2010

Total posts 2502

Hi Ted: I wouldn't say I am easily pleased, but I am mindful of Virgin's mid-market proposition and that it's gearing business class catering to suit, and I certainly don't expect five-course fine dining, especially on the short hop between east coast capital cities. I think this is all about context, and that context also includes the price delta between Virgin and Qantas business class (around 30-50% on SYD-MEL, for example, based on a check last month).

Some readers have enjoyed the pie - and it's worth noting that even under Luke Mangan, Virgin offered a delicious pie in domestic business class - while I know others are of a mind with you and less enthused about a pie being considered 'premium' fare.

The take-away is that at least Virgin has now left those paltry snack boxes behind, fleshed out more of its new business class proposition and is putting some choice and differentiation back in the air. From then on, it's a choice for travellers as to which airline's domestic business class they prefer.

21 Apr 2019

Total posts 10

Virgin needs to be a little less skimpy with servings and choice. Otherwise a decent start.

16 Oct 2012

Total posts 27

Rex are doing dessert! Better than QF business class where they are only offering a mean little chocolate.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Mar 2021

Total posts 3

In the last 5 days I’ve done a return business flight OOL - SYD. Both times only had one meal option by the time they came to me. I was in 2C each time. It’s not what it used to be. Asked if I could get something from the menu because I don’t eat salmon (all that was left for me to eat - both times) I was told I’d have to pay for it.

Business class meals have become a lucky dip on VA.

13 Apr 2020

Total posts 9

Ive just travelled this route in 2D. Came down to one last vegetable wrap and the salmon (I chose the latter). What stood out was the excellent crew who did rounds before and after meal service with a tray of snacks. I enjoyed the chips with a g&t post salmon. Others also enjoyed the offering and no payment needed. 


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