Qantas will boost the quality of business class meals on flights between Perth and Sydney, Melbourne and Brisbane – the hyper-competitive ‘coast to coast’ route – in a move which the airline’s consulting chef Neil Perry says “will blow the competition out of the water.”
Update: we've now got all the details on the new menu
The ever-passionate Perry described the new menu to Australian Business Traveller as “taking east-west dining up to international standards” and tipped the new service to begin at the end of May.
Qantas' efforts promise a 'superchef smackdown' between Perry and Virgin Australia's Luke Mangan and is the latest shot in a transcontinental turf war being fought out between the airlines.
Both are upgrading their east-west flights from Boeing 737s to Airbus A330s – the big birds of their domestic fleet, and which many airlines also use for medium-range international trips.
The A330 carries close to 300 passengers, almost 100 more than the smaller Boeing 737-800s which tend to be the domestic workhorse of Qantas and Virgin.
Virgin Australia has already dedicated all Melbourne-Perth flights exclusively to the widebody A330 planes, and is considering the same ‘A330-only’ status for the Sydney-Perth route pending the arrival of a seventh new A330 later this year.
Virgin will also upgrade two daily Brisbane-Perth A330 services to the A330 from May 15.
For its part, Qantas plans to shift all weekday Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth flights to A330s next month, although the smaller Boeing 737s will run on weekends.
The aggressive A330 rollout by Qantas and Virgin will increase number of seats on the coast-to-coast route, keeping pressure on prices as the airlines compete for Australia’s transcontinental trek.
“If you look at our capacity growth, 95 per cent of that capacity growth went on Perth across the continent” says Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti.
Virgin has a clear edge in its A330 business class seats – a spacious international-grade design boasting angled lie-flat comfort, copious legroom and plenty of nooks and crannies for storing personal items.
Earlier this year Qantas CEO Alan Joyce pledged to upgrade the Red Roo’s Airbus A330s from the current and widely criticised premium economy-style recliners, with a 2-3-2 layout in which the middle seat is blocked off, to lie-flat seats based on an all-new design.
"They're very exciting, there's plenty of legroom and we're very confident that they will get an amazing reaction" Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce told Australian Business Traveller earlier this year, joking that "I certainly swim in the seats given my size!"
"They'll be the best domestic product anywhere in the world, and it leapfrogs anything our competitor's doing" Joyce continued.
However, travellers won’t see the new seats until late 2014, when Qantas will begin fitting the new seats – supplied by an as-yet-unknown manufacturer – across its entire 30-strong fleet of Airbus A330s, including those which fly to overseas ports including Singapore.
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About David Flynn
David Flynn is the editor of Australian Business Traveller and a bit of a travel tragic with a weakness for good coffee, shopping and lychee martinis.