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As tipped by Australian Business Traveller last week, Virgin Blue has hired Australian chef Luke Mangan to overhaul its inflight menu.
Mangan’s meals will initially be offered in economy class – and yes, you’ll still have to pay for them – but the menu will now include fresh salads and paninis, ‘gourmet chunky beef pies with tomato relish’ and ice-cream sandwiches – most of which will come from Mangan’s own branded range.
(You can see the full economy menu along with several economy and business class dishes at our photo gallery.)
Mangan says that he wants his economy meals to be “high-quality food that travellers actually want to buy”.
The awarded Aussie masterchef will also create an all-new domestic business class menu to be launched on Virgin Blue’s new Airbus 330 in May, which will run between the east coast and Perth, although business class passengers will not have to fork out for their food.
“When we launch Virgin Blue domestic business class, guests can look forward to a food service of unrivalled quality, with a fresh seasonal menu that draws on Luke’s extensive experience” commented Virgin Blue chief John Borghetti.
Virgin Blue has signed award-winning Australian chef Luke Mangan to oversee inflight meals and catering at the new Virgin Blue lounges.
The official announcement of Mangan's role will be made next Wednesday at a media event in Sydney, but a Virgin Blue PR spokeswoman confirmed his appointment to Australian Business Traveller today.
Mangan is already chef for V Australia and Virgin America's first class cabin, and the Virgin Blue signing will pit him head-to-head with Qantas' consultant chef Neil Perry in a business class battle of the masterchefs.
It's another canny play by Virgin Blue CEO John Borghetti as he moves the airline upmarket in an attempt to chase a larger slice of the lucrative business travel market. The airline has already revealed new business class seats to launch in May on Sydney-Perth flights and will open a 'fast-track' business lounge at Sydney Airport well as upgrading the Melbourne and Brisbane lounges.
The Melbourne-born Mangan runs a number of award-winning restaurants including The Palace in South Melbourne, glass brasserie at the Hilton Sydney, and Salt and the adjoining World Wine Bar in Tokyo. His empire also extends to the Luke Mangan Providores range of spices, oils, vinegars, condiments, wines, tea, coffee and desserts.
For more on the push for expert chefs to transform airline food from being merely edible to totally enjoyable, read our interview with Neil Perry and our update on what's happening in the galleys of Cathay Pacific, Asiana and Lufthansa.
And if you’re keen for a peek behind the scenes, Australian food blogger Lorraine Elliot reveals how the in-flight food from award-winning Emirates gets from the airline’s on-ground kitchen to your seat as you cruise 30,000 feet above the ground at her Not Quite Nigella blog.