Inflight bite: Virgin Australia

By Chris Chamberlin, March 13 2014
Inflight bite: Virgin Australia

All Virgin Australia flights between Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne now include free food and drinks for economy passengers – but exactly what can you expect to find on your tray table?

The menu selections vary by route and time of day, but at the core it's a snack rather than a full meal.

You can expect the likes of banana bread, muffins, biscuits, cheese and crackers, plus free soft drinks, beer and wine on weekdays between 5pm and 7pm (tea, coffee and water are free on all flights).

Australian Business Traveller took Virgin's snack service for a spin on a day trip between Brisbane and Sydney.

Brisbane-Sydney, 7am departure: VA916

Each passenger in economy was offered a carrot and ginger muffin plus a muesli and honey finger slice, and their choice of tea, coffee, juice or water.

Sydney-Brisbane, 7pm departure: VA981

The evening snack was a packet of Mainland Tasty cheese and crackers with a choice of beer, cider, wine or soft drink (along with the usual coffee, tea or water).

From the bar, interstate travellers will find Pure Blonde Premium, Carlton Dry and Strongbow Cider (Original), along with red and white wine selections from the Talinga Park vineyard in Riverina, New South Wales.

The crew didn’t seem to offer anyone a second round – in fact, the rubbish collection began before I’d had time to finish my first and only drink.

That's a stark difference to many Qantas domestic flights of a similar length, where the crew often provide a second drink.

Virgin Australia's refreshments are a welcome change to the previous ‘user pays’ scenario with the snacks well-suited to the time of day, although charging passengers for soft drinks outside of the 5pm-7pm window is a bit rough.

Your next Virgin Australia flight

Virgin Australia's economy passengers are currently being offered a snack item and selected non-alcoholic beverages on the following flights:

  • Between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane
  • Between Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne
  • Selected services within Western Australia (including Christmas and Cocos Islands)
  • Flights operated by ATR Turboprop regional aircraft
  • Port Headland to Denpasar
  • Melbourne to Kalgoorlie

A handful of flights come with a full meal and beverage service, with spirits and additional snacks available for purchase. These include:

  • 'Coast to Coast' flights between Perth and Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne
  • Direct flights to and from Denpasar (Bali), Phuket and Nadi (Fiji)

Travellers on direct flights between Australia’s mainland capital cities see beer, cider, wine and soft drink included between 5pm and 7pm on weekdays, while passengers on all routes not mentioned above are left with the existing water, tea and coffee freebies at the back of the bus.

Food fight at 40,000 feet

The free snack service on the Brisbane-Sydney-Melbourne 'triangle' route is part of a trial to help shape the airline's new inflight menu, a spokesman for Virgin Australia told Australian Business Traveller, ahead of the introduction of free meals and drinks on all domestic Virgin Australia flights later in the year.

That move is intended to further close the gap between Virgin Australia and Qantas as both airlines continue their tussle for Australia's travelling public.

Qantas has long offered free food and drink to all passengers on all domestic flights and often holds this up as a differentiator against Virgin, along with the inclusion of free checked baggage on all tickets.

Additional reporting by David Flynn

Follow Australian Business Traveller on Twitter: we're @AusBT

Chris Chamberlin

Chris Chamberlin is the Associate Editor of Executive Traveller, and lives by the motto that a journey of a thousand miles begins not just with a single step, but also a strong latte, a theatre ticket, and later in the day, a good gin and tonic.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 356

This is what I absolutely hate most about Virgin. Inconsistency. Everything depends on the route, time of day, length of flight or the way you hold your tongue. You never know what you can expect to get because it's always different

AlG
AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

And Qantas is better how, exactly? Depending on route and time of day you'll get a 'meal' or a 'snack' with them, just as with Virgin. Except that Virgin is open in calling it a 'snack' while Qantas calls it 'a meal on every flight' when most of the time it's no more than what Virgin serves.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 356

The difference is: whether I'm flying from Auckland, Wellington, Sydney, Dubai, Jakarta, Broome or Cairns I know that I will get something to eat (whether it be a snack or meal) and bags included. I don't have to break it down in my head and think "ok so I'm flying from this city to this city at this time which means I get this and not that".

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

"And Qantas is better how, exactly?"

For an evening peak departure, I assure you that getting a hot dinner of Cantonese lemon chicken with seasonal Asian greens and steamed jasmine rice with multiple drinks, a roll and a chocolate on a tray is a damn sight better than a mini-pack 'tasty' cheese and crackers.

AlG
AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

And you get this on a domestic economy flight between, say, Sydney and Melbourne? Because that's what this article is about, and what I thought this discussion is about. Or are you looking to compare apples with dried apple slices?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Apr 2015

Total posts 2

I travelled Qantas economy on a late evening flight and was served a bbef steak on a bed of mashed potatoes. Certainly way better than Cheese & Crackers.

On my morning Qantas economy flights I normally get served a bowl of cereal with a small packet of milk & choice of coffee/tea etc.

On one occaision I got a container of youghurt & a museli bar. Plus choice tea/coffee etc

After breakfast is served, they sually then come around handing out apples in addition to breakfast already served.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

16 Apr 2015

Total posts 2

Oh & yes the flights I am speaking of were between Sydney & Melbourne which is the orute I normally fly.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

Hear, Hear Watson374. Multiple times flying Business on Qantas during designated meal times (and described as lunch or dinner 'to be served' during FA announcement over tannoy) I've been stuck with a choice of soup or cheese box both of which are, at best, entrees or dessert dishes, not main meals! Unless you sit in the first row of a narrow body, any proper meal disappears, and when you've paid for a business seat (not an on-departure upgrade, where catering is not promised) it's a real annoying thing. 

This doesn't happen when I'm on Virgin - I always get a real meal in Business, always during main meal times and practically always during non-main meal times. No sad cheese box or soup here.

There are times on Qantas where those in Economy get better meal choices than those in Business - it's just crazy! And I really wish that Qantas took its practice on international Business flights, to serve meals in Business according to your Frequent Flyer status, and used it in the domestic Business cabin - so that loyalty was at least rewarded when it came to fighting it out for the two or three actual lunches/dinners loaded on board you actually had a chance (instead of having to take 1A - which isn't always a great seat - to increase your chances).

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

21 Feb 2012

Total posts 30

"... and I really wish that Qantas took it's practise on international Business flights to serve meals according to the Frequent Flyer status ..."

Are you kidding me?    If you are just a full fare paying passenger with no FF status with Qantas you somehow get less of a meal...???

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Jan 2013

Total posts 715

If you'd paid attention Alan, I'm suggesting that Qantas take what it already does on International, and apply to Domestic (if it can't/won't cater enough real meals).

So if you're a P1 travelling on a paid J ticket, your order is taken before that of someone on an on-departure upgrade (given catering is not confirmed for these pax) - and yes, even before a bronze (or no status) pax with a paid J ticket. Loyalty by fare paid priority.

Get off your socialist high horse comrade, loyalty status already determines priority over seat allocation for domestic, and as stated this is nothing new on QFi - it's certainly better than punishing anyone for not selecting 1A.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Apr 2013

Total posts 47

The snacks on qantas are usually a higher quality, bigger and are either listed and refreshment, lunch, breakfast or dinner. 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

Al: Absolutely. Since you don't seem to fly QF very much, I'll let you in on my notes. Let's take three random dinners I can recall off the top of my head on Qantas domestic I've had on SYD-MEL were:

  • Cantonese lemon chicken with seasonal Asian greens and steamed jasmine rice.
  • Braised beef with barley/sago-like boiled grain.
  • Chicken, sundried tomato and pasta spirals in white cream sauce.

All meals were served with a small roll, butter and condiments, water, a drink of your choice (soft drink, beer or wine) and a chocolate to finish.

Here, look at the chicken pasta meal. It's on QF 490, the 20:00 flight from Melbourne to Sydney on 02 Dec 2013.

AlG
AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

Watson: you're right, I have mostly flown Virgin domestic since a few years ago. The meals above and in the photo look great, but that looks like a business class seat in the photo , not eocnomy?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2223

I was in the bulkhead seat, which is why you see a bulkhead in front, and why my tray table was of the fold-out variety.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 356

Al, you would absolutely not get plastic cutlery in business!

30 Aug 2013

Total posts 448

I completely agree, @aklrunway. I love VA and they've been great to me but their policies are confusing and inconsistent (I still don't understand their lounge policy when flying VA intl short-haul and I've been WP for almost a year).

Either do something properly or dont do it at all. If you customers dont understand a policy it is not working.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Dec 2012

Total posts 172

Does this mean if you pay for a Flexi fare which usually includes a meal, that you now no longer get a meal because VA are providing "food"? So in essence if this is the case the increase cost of the Flexi over the lowest Saver fare is now completely devoted to the flexibilty of the fare?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1390

Flexi fares have definitely been downgraded to this same 'meal'... despite the fact that the price gap between Saver and Flexi has been continuosly expanding.

13 Mar 2014

Total posts 7

Dont forget they flexi fare is the Flexibality of the ticket. If you want the flexability of the ticket and the food why not fly business.. I did. 

Virgin Australia = Inconsistency re the In-flight service products. I hate to think what a new traveller to this airline thinks. 

They say "ohh cause the flight is longer" Mel-Per... what bout Mel-Drw ?? 

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 334

Not all capital city services receive beer, cider, wine and soft drinks as inclusions between 5pm and 7pm, as the article states. One again, Hobart customers are left out and will still need to purchase these items. Why is Virgin so inconsistent with their inflight service?

KC
KC

09 Nov 2011

Total posts 21

Actually you need to make a correction. The beer, wine, soft drink and cider inclusion is now on all flights between 5 and 7pm, it has been expanded from just capital cities, so HBA and even LST are included.

Hi KC,

This is the latest from Virgin Australia:

"In addition we also offer a selection of complimentary beer, cider and wine on flights departing between 5pm and 7pm, Monday to Friday between Australian mainland capital cities and other selected routes."

I've already pinged them to ask what these other 'selected routes' are, although your comments would show Launceston flights to be one of them.

Selected routes = Routes we think that Qantas has more market share and who we would like to unseat as the new Top Dog of Australian aviation.

Unselected routes = You poor thing...but really you're not that important enough for us to have consistent service, because as you know serving you food and drink is expensive! Don't blame us please...It's your fault really you're flying from city pairs that are not significant to us. Be glad we're offering you choice at all!

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards (Plat)

03 Jan 2012

Total posts 10

The quality/consistency of the food offering itself is a bit of a worry.

The muffin has a used by date over a YEAR after it is dished out. What on EARTH is in it to make it last that long?? Gross!

The banana bread has about a week's worth of sugar in it. I gave it back last time.

Some Hobart flights everyone has been given food, some flights I only get it on the flexi tickets. 

Consistency please.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

28 Jul 2013

Total posts 81

I assume their is no Gluten-Free option of a snack solution? Safer option to chow down on GF toast in the VA Lounge prior? There should be an option like QF to add dietary needs..?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

10 Apr 2012

Total posts 306

Haven't flown Virgin in years... flew them for the first time from Perth to Adelaide yesterday, and had to pay almost $10 for a coke and small tin of pringles... it was a 16:50 flight, would have expected that a dinner meal would have been provided.  For a 3 hours flight, would have thought they would have offered more.  

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

04 Mar 2014

Total posts 11

The Snacks are Ok,  but need to be improved if they intend on becoming a 'full service' airline.  In all honesty, do you really need any sort of food for an hour flight.

Even more weird, I was on a evening flight from Melbourne to Sydney recently. Virigin offered free tea , coffee, beer and wine. Since i dont drink and did not want a hot beverage, i requested a soft drink. I was then advised that these were not free, and i would have to pay for this..   I just shook my head and said, but the beer and wine would be more costly to Virgin, yet that is provided fee.   The stewardess agreed and after about 5 minutes, did return and surprised me with a can of soft drink (to share with my partner). Whilst unexpected, this was very nice of her..

How do Virgin justify providing free beer and wine, but not soft drink.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 May 2013

Total posts 2

We were offered wine, beer, etc plus a snack (corn chips ... no choice) on the 6:30pm flight last Sunday from Melbourne to Sydney.  No reason given.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards Platinum

01 Jul 2013

Total posts 13

So I had the joy of being on aflexi fare today only to discover that they have abolished the meal that flexi passengers used to get.  I was advised that flexi now get the same service as everyone else, this inlcuded their very lacking offer of a glass of tea, coffe, water or orange/apple juice.  I asked for a coke zero and was told that would be $4.  I'm astonished that someone in the echelons of virgin thought that this chnage to the service was a good idea.  I always fly a flexi fair on my return leg to sydney and sometimes don't have time to get to the lounge.  If anything virgin should have improved this part of their offering as I'm sure im not the only business traveller who is disappointed to get a now pathetic excuse for a snack and charged $4 for a coke.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

18 Mar 2014

Total posts 2

Well between PER-DRW  which is a on a full flexi its fruit and cake for breakfast on flexi ticket in comparison with Qantas which offers this service as Cityflyer service! While VA prvoide great planes and IFE through iPads and Laptops...in the other sections it totally lacks! Works sends on VA on the way up and QF on the way down to perth and I can tell you they are light years apart

28 May 2012

Total posts 1

Virgin need to sort out and define what a "snack is" - recent flight between Syd & Brisbane offered a Chocolate Mousse. really Virgin - you can do better than that.


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