Virgin Australia now offering free snacks, drinks in economy

By David Flynn, February 5 2014

It's a food fight at 40,000 feet as Virgin Australia takes on Qantas by serving free snacks and drinks in economy class on all flights between Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane this week.

The free service 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.

Virgin will be serving a range of snacks from banana bread (below) to muffins, biscuits, cheese and crackers across all flights on the popular 'triangle' routes and seeking customer feedback on each meal.

Free soft drinks, beer and wine will also be offered on weekdays between 4pm and 7pm, on top of the current all-day free drinks selection of tea, coffee, water and fruit juice.

The move will further close the gap between Virgin Australia and Qantas. The Flying Kangaroo offers 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.

Virgin already offers free meals for all passengers on its transcontinental 'Coast to Coast' routes between Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth, but travellers on other flights within Australia have to pay for meals and most drinks.

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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.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

09 May 2011

Total posts 335

Do their headreats follow or pattern or are the colours sparatic? It's sending my OCD into overdrive

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

originally...they did follow a 'pattern' (as per the grey and purple headrests you can see to the right of the F/As)...but I gather, over time as headrests needed replacing due to damage/supply etc, It is more of a case of 'whack on' whatever colour headrest is available at the time (more prevalent on the left side of the F/As)  

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

17 Aug 2012

Total posts 2221

Why not have all the headrests have an identical three-colour pattern?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

30 May 2013

Total posts 305

I like how their headrests are in a random order throughout the cabin. What really does my head in is that honeycomb pattern on the Qantas domestic fleet seats. Looking at the back of the seat covers in front makes me feel ill!

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

how 'generous' of VA to offer free soft drinks ONLY from 4-7pm weekdays (yes, I know it's a 'trial' period)....so i'll still stick to QF where i can get free soft drinks/juice on EVERY flight., EVERY day

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 May 2012

Total posts 582

I'm almost 100% certain that catering doesn't stock Qantas flights with soft drinks until flights departing from 10:30am (after breakfast service), but I concede that Virgin is being stingy on not offering free soft drinks throughout the day.

26 Nov 2011

Total posts 6

Soft drinks are loaded on all Qantas domestic (mainline) flights. They not actively offered on every flight however.

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

It's worth noting that CBR flights have had this for a little while.

undertheradar Banned
undertheradar Banned

28 Oct 2011

Total posts 662

in summary, QF EVERY flight/EVERY day verses VA,  a bit here n there if you're fortunate enough to travel from/to 'certain' cities...please note I am referring to FREE SOFT DRINKS/JUICE.

VA supposedly went 'full service/'premium'' in 2011..still not seeing it in 2014...just my observation (referring to Y/C)

07 Oct 2012

Total posts 1229

Hey, I fly the roo most of the time... just adding some more info

LR
LR

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

28 May 2012

Total posts 76

Could not agree more! Virgin want to play with the big boys and be full service, its about time they match service levels with price. Include baggage, meals, snacks, drinks etc "all inclusive" not add on like JQ and TT

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

02 Jul 2011

Total posts 1381

Had been hoping that they would be at least consistent with 4-7pm everyday. Afterall flights often aren't any cheaper on weekends.

And also restrict to routes, like QFs old CityFlyer services.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Sep 2013

Total posts 1137

VA sure are edging in on QF's turf.

Qantas

05 Feb 2014

Total posts 2

Whats the old saying...You can put lipstick on a pig...etc etc....This wont stop me flying QF!  They are still leading the way for inflight service.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

15 Aug 2012

Total posts 171

I love all the Qantas die hards carrying on here. Qantas is a great airline, no doubt about it, but you all seem to forget that VA started less than 15 years ago as a 'Budget' airline with one second hand 737 in its fleet.  From that to seriously knocking on The door to the behometh that is Qantas and providing real competition is quite impressive. And all Qantas passengers are enjoying a better product, for instance, looking forward to the new business seats to Perth on Qantas a330's? Thank Virgin.

05 Feb 2014

Total posts 1

Extremely underwhelming experience today on Sydney-Melbourne.

Had a booked a Flexi ticked only to receive an apple...

Was told Flexi meals are no longer served as "everyone receives a snack"

Great way of look after your premium paying customers Virgin

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

25 Jan 2013

Total posts 246

The 4pm to 7pm thing is a bit wierd, but I get that they are just dipping their toe in the water.  If this is just another step on their way to taking on the red roo, then great, but I share the view of people who want to see like-for-like in the service offerings.

25 Jul 2011

Total posts 12

It seems to me that both QF and VA are a little hit and miss with their meals offering on short haul. If they are using food as a differentiator they should actually make an effort and not just hand you a plastic bag with a bite size muffin and an apple or a piece of anaemic looking chicken on a bed of lettuce. I am not bothered at all with onboard dining. I prefer to eat in the lounge before boarding and for me QF wins hands down over VA in that department.

Virgin Australia - Velocity Rewards

19 Jul 2012

Total posts 35

I moved to Virgin two years ago and haven't looked back. Nothing wrong with QF just a bit 'stale'.

I flew SYD-MEL yesterday evening, on a flexi fare, and the snack service was cheese and biscuits and an apple. So for saver fares this is a step up and for flexi a slight step down as to be honest the flxi meals were very hit and miss - and I won't miss the pesto in everything!

VA have been serving free alcohol between 4 and 7 Monday to Friday, like QF, for a long time now its only the inclusion of soft drinks that is new.

I flew QF two weeks ago and BNE-MEL. I am still a lowly Gold FF so had lounge access. The QF lounge in BNE does still win over VA in terms of space and partial airport views. The actual offering was not noticably different though. What I noticed was that despite prioirty boarding being limited to Plats and Business the queue was massive and as only one Flight Attendant was scanning - alternately from priority and non priority queues - the whole process took forever. The plane itself was an older 738 and the upholstery on the seats backs had torn in places and looked very shabby.

Dinner was a cardboard box with 'chicken' slices on some salad leaves. What happended to the hot meal with a roll and chocolate. This is not what I would expect for paying a premium. Overall the experience was incredibly lacklustre and a serious downgrade since I last flew domestically. The crew whilst they performed their duties, more wine was asked for and recieved, were noticably older than a typical VA crew and far less interactive with the passengers.

 

QF serve complimentary alcohol from 4pm until last flight of the day, Monday to Friday, not up to 7pm.

AlG
AlG

04 Nov 2010

Total posts 674

What's this obsession with having ANY food served on a short flight like Sydney-Melbourne or Sydney-Brisbane? Sure if you're in business class then that is part of the fare and the service, you can enjoy a really good meal or a really nice snack. Especially the longer flights like Sydney to Brisbane or Melbourne to Brisbane. But in economy, really, why bother at all? Especially when it's just a bit of banana bread or a muffin. Sure, nice enough with a cool drink or a cuppa but I'd rather pay less for my economy ticket and not have anything served. This is where I think Air New Zealand's 'Works' approach makes sense, they unbundle things and then put them back in a simple package structure like a low-cost airline but better. You can buy JUST the seat, or the seat and a meal, or add a bag (and inflight entertainment).

VA

17 Dec 2013

Total posts 51

Been travelling MEL - NTL a fair lately and using VA as QF don't run on that route. Being travelling on my own dime so down in the cheap sets. Generally, I think  VA are running a fairly decent product. But, on a flexi fare the other day, I got offered a 'meal' and it was a muffin and a juice. Still laughing. Call it what it is guys. It's not a meal, it's a muffin.

On VA1594, the mid afternoon NTL - MEL flight, a free glass of wine and maybe some cheese and crackers would be great.

A VA lounge in NTL would also hit the spot and probably pull some passengers back from the busier JQ flights.

QF - Red

23 Nov 2012

Total posts 32

The in flight meals services are worlds apart for va and QF firstly the ability to pre order your meal online for Qantas is very helpful to those who have specific dietary  requirements both voluntary and involuntary ie. Gluten free or vegetarian. As for the drinks cart Virgin offer a measly choice of pure blonde or James boags vs QF James Squire, VB and one other and study drinks VA offer coke diet coke and lemonade Not even soda water which I was informed was only offered as a mixer with spirits vs QF Premium selection including ginger beer, appletiser and all your standard soft drinks. Really is time VA matched that service if they can do the Pre flight Meal selection internationally I see no reason they can't implement it domestically too!!!

Qantas

10 Sep 2011

Total posts 162

Time for in-flight Soda Stream and mobile Japanese beer dispensers

25 Jul 2011

Total posts 12

I agree that pre-ordering of special meals is a great option from QF. However they are only available on breakfast, lunch and dinner services. QF very rarely have gluten free options on refreshment services while VA and even JQ usually do have something gluten free to choose e.g. a cookie.  A few months ago I journeyed on QF from Canberra to Cairns, stopping in both Sydney and Brisbane, all 4 flights were refreshment services and I got NOTHING to eat. I have had some great gluten free dinners on QF but I do wish they would look for some tastier alternatives and stop automatically giving me soy milk without asking.

QF - Red

23 Nov 2012

Total posts 32

I have received special 'snack' meals through pre ordering in the past but on domestic long haul it's the difference between having a meal and bringing along a packed meal as there are no kosher meal options available in or around the airports.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

What really gets me angry is when I am booked on a VA flight on a fare that costs the same or a nominal amount less than the QF equivalent and then I still have to stump up for a snack and drink on-board!  

I'm platinum with both VA and QF, but only on QF do I get offered a free beer or wine irrespective of time of day and often its an option from the Business Class selection if I'm in Economy.

Despite going "full service" a while ago, VA still has a LCC attitude and feel in some areas...in-flight catering most notably.

If I'm spending my own money, I'll always chose QF over VA.

26 Nov 2011

Total posts 6

AWA, I think you will find that the official Qantas policy is that Platinums are not entitled to free drinks above those that are afforded to every other passenger. You may have been lucky with crew going above and beyond (and in doing so, going against their employer's written policy). Unless it was some form of service recovery?

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

Oh wow! That's interesting to hear its against company policy for FA's to give Platinums anything more than what their class of travel permits! There's an awful lot of FA's breaking the rules then....they clearly know more about securing customer loyalty than the bean counters making up the policies. It seriously happens on at least every second domestic economy class flight I take and has been happening ever since I went Platinum about 8 years ago! I've had one major service issue 11 years ago when I was Silver so can't imagine that's still on record.

26 Nov 2011

Total posts 6

I believe most FAs will just hand over the wine/beer once a customers says "but I'm platinum." I think you will find that most FAs have a vested interest in keeping high value customers happy (it secures their job!).

There is no policy at QF to give any form of amenity to any premium customer other than offering for jackets to be hung (space permitting) and offering newspapers where they are available onboard (pretty much only trans con now).

Free drinks domestically, cheese and wine from J and noise-cancelling headsets are all off the FA's own back or a direction from their manager on board.

FAs have recently been told to curb such behaviour. I think you will find that most FAs are obliging with most requests as they are still directed to avoid saying no.

QF - Red

23 Nov 2012

Total posts 32

AWA: my wife and I are platinum VA but we won't fly them domestically if we think there is a chance we'd need a meal.

Qantas - Qantas Frequent Flyer

29 Jul 2013

Total posts 209

Understandable! Particularly if you've been in back to back meetings all day, missed lunch and race through the terminal without a stop in the lounge, by the time you sit down onboard you're really quite hungry! Tragically, some days an airline meal is often the only thing I get to eat :-(


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