Virgin Atlantic shakes up economy meals

By John Walton, January 31 2012
Virgin Atlantic shakes up economy meals

As much as business class -- and, increasingly, premium economy -- are on the business traveller's radar, sometimes you just can't avoid flying at the back of the bus.

But Virgin Atlantic has brought some of its trademark glam to economy, glitzing up the long haul from Sydney to Hong Kong and Heathrow and making it a little more cheerful and bearable.

Let's hope that this is part of a trend improving long-haul economy service, since it's trickier to make alternative arrangements for a 24-hour trip to London.

The first thing you'll notice is the welcome fruit juice cocktail (with or without vodka), served in a snazzy purple glass with a Virgin swizzle stick.

But the main difference is when it comes time to eat: there's a smaller main tray, however the dessert has grown in size and is served separately.

Virgin's new meal tray is a third smaller than the old version -- welcome if you're watching TV or a movie on your phone or small tablet on your table -- with a salad, roll, and the same economy-style hot main course.

But don't worry: you won't end up with less dinner!

In addition to the larger desserts, you'll also see a hot drink: tea, coffee or (taking a leaf out of Qantas' overnight flight book) hot chocolate, in a decent-sized insulated paper cup, which Virgin Atlantic says is "much more like something you would get from a coffee shop on the ground."

And the ice cream service has been snazzed up too: instead of passing around with a basket, you'll see the crew wearing old-school usherette trays. We reckon that's a nice touch that stops an economy class food revamp from seeming just like a cost-cutting exercise.

For breakfast or afternoon tea, you'll pick up a deli-style box containing either a continental breakfast or that quintessentially British high tea with clotted cream and jam.

What's the best economy class food you've ever had? And what's the worst? Share your experiences with fellow readers in a comment below.

Hungry for more of Australian Business Traveller's Food Week articles? You'll find them all this week — and keep an eye on our @AusBT Twitter account for the very latest.

John Walton

Aviation journalist and travel columnist John took his first long-haul flight when he was eight weeks old and hasn't looked back since. Well, except when facing rearwards in business class.

27 Jan 2012

Total posts 5

Absolute best economy food was with Singapore Airlines, crisp pork with a very tasty salad of some description. Worst, well, I very rarely talk about this near-death experience, but it was with an Air New Zealand old 747-400 service to L.A, the inedible pasta dish with a bland cashew salad was topped off by a live cockroach. Enough said.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

03 Jul 2011

Total posts 186

The worst food is often the vegitarian option on QF, it used to be ok. But I've stopped counting the number of times I get a chickpea curry.  So I stopped ordering it, and now just eat half the normal meals.  PE on QF from LAX-MEL was great, loved the fact you could order a mini pizza at any time.

The "buy" options of DJ and JQ on domestic flights in Oz are sometimes much better than the "free" food on QF, at least you get a half decent choice of something other than a cookie.

MAS still do peanuts and a juice on domestic flights.

Somedays I miss the old QF "lunchbox" so I do like the VAtlantic high tea idea :)


10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

Cold vegetarian soba noodles on JAL with their special "Skytime" drink. Cold Soba noodles are perfect airline food - you aren't moving much, so you don't need much, and it's not going to stew in the back of the place.

The noodles followed with green tea Ice-cream for the subtitled Japanese movie in the days before seat-back screens was bliss!

That said, I think I'm going to be a minority with this opinion.

10 Jun 2011

Total posts 56

Best economy meals in my experience SQ, EK, TK and OZ, all these airlines although cost cutting like everyone still provide full meal service with all the little extras that make a difference, cheese and crackers, starter and desert etc.  On a recent trip Syd/Sin - on the SQ 212 morning flight - drink and pretzels followed by hot breakfast service, followed by drink service then a hot lunch prior to arrival.  Travelling EK DXB/LHR on the EK1 again drink service, great Arab mezze breakfast and drink service and full hot lunch prior to arrival. 

Do the same flight length between Europe and the US East Coast, and you will get a small hot meal and if very lucky some sort of basic cold snack before landing

Worst meal - Virgin once they started their major cost cutting drive - its good to see they are starting to enhance their economy offering back towards the way they were at their peak - although from the article above it doesnt look like a huge improvement, look at how tiny the main meal is........


Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

06 Feb 2012

Total posts 9

The Best Economy food I have had was on Singapore Airlines:  Vegetarian Oriental Meal (VOML) as I don't eat eggs allergies!  It was also nice to have Singapore Sling as a cocktail onboard too.

The Child Meals (CHML) for my son who is 3 , his meals were nearly as big as mine. Really great food for young ones Chicken nuggets, potato gems.


Worst food I have to say was BA: Frozen Salad, soggy, salad sandwich, and mushy chicpea curry

Flights SYD-LHR

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

24 Jan 2018

Total posts 689

It was 20 years ago today, Sergeant Branson taught the crew to play . . . . . . 

Hi Guest, join in the discussion on Virgin Atlantic shakes up economy meals