Virgin axes free snacks for economy as hybrid plan takes shape

written by Adam Thorn | March 25, 2021
Business Class cabin_Virgin Australia. Image Paul Harris v2
Virgin Australia’s new business class offering (Paul Harris, Virgin)

Virgin Australia’s new hybrid model means it will drop free snacks for economy passengers from today but will retain complimentary tea and coffee.

Chief executive Jayne Hrdlicka said snacks “aren’t valued by our guests” and will allow the business to keep ticket prices down.

The airline has been adamant since it emerged from administration that it will not return to its Virgin Blue budget routes, giving the decision over food onboard greater significance.

Advertisement
Advertisement

While free food has been scrapped for economy, customers will still be able to buy meals from an onboard menu, which will initially include cheese and crackers and Australian wine, before expanding later in the year.

A new business class menu, still included within the ticket price, includes “simple, modern, fresh and contemporary dishes” made using locally-sourced produce.

“Dishes include a range of hot meals, healthy salads and Australian classics, served on tableware, including crockery, glassware and cutlery, providing a quality in-flight experience and further reducing single-use packaging as part of the airline’s continued commitment to sustainability,” said Virgin in a statement.

The business class offering will rotate bi-monthly and includes alcoholic beverages.

PROMOTED CONTENT

Virgin also says its cabin crew have been retrained to “new hospitality standards” that focus on “customer engagement”.

“Today’s customers are more conscious about what they consume than ever before,” said Hrdlicka. “We like to choose what we eat and what we drink throughout the day – we are simply extending that choice onboard as well.

“By removing snacks that aren’t valued by our guests we’re able to structurally reduce airfares making it even cheaper to fly. We’ll continue to offer complimentary tea, coffee and water on all flights and the opportunity for guests to purchase their favourite menu items at a reasonable price.”

The new menu comes shortly after Virgin launched its ‘lounge of the future’ in Adelaide in February.

The contemporary design features a breeze block feature wall, canopy ceilings, large light-filled spaces and sustainable furniture.

The airline said the 1,097-square-metre space, which can hold up to 283 guests, is a “relaxed, inviting and uncomplicated place” that is “delightfully Virgin”.

New menus and lounges will be seen as a reaffirmation that Virgin will continue with its plan to become a mid-market, and not budget, carrier.

“Australia already has a low-cost carrier and a traditional full-service airline, and we won’t be either,” said Hrdlicka on her first day. “Virgin Australia will be a mid-market carrier appealing to customers who are after a great value airfare and better service.”

However, the TWU’s national secretary, Michael Kaine, told the Australian Aviation Podcast that the “jury is still out” on Virgin’s plan to become a hybrid carrier.

“Virgin needs to get better at articulating what the hell mid-market means,” said Kaine. “Because it’s a source of great concern to the workforce that that’s not able to be done.”

Kaine reiterated that he believes Virgin’s intentions are genuine but hinted more work needs to be done to make it a success.

“There’s one thing crazier than having a full-throttled go at Qantas at the very, very top of the market, it’s thinking that you’re going to beat them at the bottom of the market,” Kaine said.

“Yes, you need to hit the sweet spot in the middle. But the sweet spot in the middle means that you still have to have an offering that is attractive to the Australian leisure and business markets.

“They want lounges, a good frequent flyer system, a system of points that connects beautifully with international travel when that’s available again. And they want the capacity to travel regionally.

“And if Virgin wants political support in its endeavour to become a really, really vital airline in Australia, again, it needs to make sure that it hits all of those marks.

“This all means that mid-market means something more than kind of hedging your bets. You’ve got to be viable, and at the moment, the jury’s still out I think on that point.”

Did you know that Australian Aviation Magazine comes digitally? Subscribe to Australian Aviation’s digital magazine for just $59.95 a year! Our app is available on mobile, tablet and PC devices! Subscribe now at australianaviation.com.au.

11 Comments

  • Trevor

    says:

    Why do flyers’ need a meal on an hour’s flight?
    For Virgin, it’s a way of ‘controlling’ costs, in that less food needs to be prepared, onboarded, & also saves fuel from less weight on jet.
    It also brings in much needed cash-flow to the carrier.
    Seeing they’re now owned by a multi-billion $$$$ Company, they need to save their pennies’, where they can!

  • Rod Pickin

    says:

    I can understand the actions but with respect, the end result is to benefit the balance sheet and totally ignores the customer’s wellbeing and needs. I can agree that for short sectors, say up to 2 hours a cuppa and a small biscuit pack would surely be fine; anything longer especially a transcontinental journey westbound of about 5 plus hours the facts are that the ECY pax is seated/crammed into a non fully adjustable seat of only 31inch pitch, again 5inches less than the aircraft was originally designed for and todays males are about 100kgs a piece and mostly 183cm and most certainly more than 17inches wide at the butt, again bigger and wider than originally planned and a deal of the ladies fit that bill too. Yes I know JCL is available but totally over the top price wise so again with respect VOZ, you need to rethink. Food doesn’t have to be arty farty with drizzles of whatever all over the plate, nothing wrong with a beef or chicken wet dish, many flavours and economical and nourishing to keep the punters happy over the 5 plus hours journey east west. To discount this view may well be to your commercial detriment. In addition the currently published inflight food/beverage prices to me, are way over the top and I would be looking for an alternative airline.

  • Pete

    says:

    In Business I expect a tablecloth. On quick flights within the golden triangle a one-tray offering is absolutely acceptable, but on longer flights, particularly from the east coast to WA, the presentation needs to be separate courses, good quality drinks, and a footrest. I really like a footrest.

  • Steve A

    says:

    “Guests don’t value our snacks” says Jayne Hrdlicka.
    I don’t think so. This is just a cop out for let’s not provide it to save costs. We are not that stupid to believe this sort of argument.
    After all, snacks are not being discontinued, they are just being charged for in the future.
    We heard this same sort of argument from the supermarkets over single use plastic bags.
    The only difference now is that they save themselves hundreds of millions of dollars each year by not providing free plastic bags to people, and make a profit selling them for 15 cents each.
    So now people use their 15 cent plastic bags to put their rubbish in to go into the wheelie bin , instead of the free ones.

    • Tammie

      says:

      Supermarket plastic bags were NEVER ‘free’. Their costings were factored into the price of groceries you paid for.

  • Mark

    says:

    You get the feeling Qantas & Rex are setting the market and Virgin are just there to make up the numbers.

  • Nicholas

    says:

    Why did I see someones nose grow when I read this..

    “Not Valued” I take it is code for costs too much, as to the babble about “customer engagment”..

    Oh and loved the bit about you won’t get anything for free but you now can buy (what you used to get for free I guess) stuff.

    What Airline does that also ? Jet something.

    This hybrid stuff is making my head hurt, what next???

  • Kim Knight

    says:

    “The airline has been adamant since it emerged from administration that it will not return to its Virgin Blue budget routes ….” I think this should be ‘roots’, as in ‘origin’, how it used to operate.

  • Big Willie

    says:

    Good idea, the “free” snacks I’ve had on VA’s(& most other carriers) domestic flights in Y are rubbish. Given the choices available at airports these days I would suggest inflight “snacks on all domestic flights are a waste of time & $$

  • David Lewis

    says:

    The snacks “weren’t valued” as Jayne says, because they were, to put it politely, rubbish. Inedible protein balls or snacks so small as to be pointless. One hopes that the cheese and biscuits offering is of a decent quantity. What I don’t quite understand is that if you have staff already serving beverages, what’s the issue with a “snack” offering. Lufthansa give out a little panini along with the drink, there are no extra staff, they cost next to nothing to provide and they say we want you as a customer. To provide paid food still requires a certain minimum payload and staff etc…. so then where does the difference between cheap Jetstar and medium virgin kick in? To me, faithful customer as I was/am, old Virgin was always a rung below Qantas but somewhat above Jetstar in spite of the weird snack offering.

  • Vannus

    says:

    Here we go again with the americanisation word ‘guests’.
    A ‘guest’ pays for nothing, so to call airfare PAYING people that, is not only an insult, but downright stupid.
    Virgin’s been doing it for years’, so it means that they’ve not read the Australian travelling public at all. It grates to the nth degree in OUR vernacular!

    This ‘ hybrid’ business model isn’t going to work for them, as it really means they haven’t a clue how they want to operate their airline. They’re just ‘hedging their bets’, which is a really weird way to run a so called ‘business’.

    The sooner Bain readies it to sell the better, after all, that was probably their intention from the get-go.

Leave a Comment to Kim Knight Cancel

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Each day, our subscribers are more informed with the right information.

SIGN UP to the Australian Aviation magazine for high-quality news and features for just $99.95 per year