Virgin Australia to trial free meals, drinks from February

Virgin Australia to trial free meals, drinks from February

Virgin Australia will begin serving free meals and drinks in economy class on selected flights in February 2014.

The free dining will be offered to passengers on selected Sydney-Melbourne and Sydney-Brisbane flights as 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 light meals, snacks and vegetarian options across a number of different flights on the two routes and seeking customer feedback on each meal.

The move will further close the gap between Virgin Australia and Qantas. The Flying Kangaroo currently offers free food and drink to all passengers on all domestic flights and has held this up as 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.

This 'food fight at 40,000 feet' is another volley in the ongoing dogfight between Qantas and Virgin Australia, which has escalated in recent months with Qantas challenging extensive investment in Virgin from its partners Air New Zealand, Etihad and Singapore Airlines.

If you're travelling in economy on a domestic flight such as Sydney-Melbourne or Brisbane-Melbourne, what meals and drinks would you like to be offered?

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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.


  • Alvin Tse


    23 Dec, 2013 02:50 pm

    How splendid - it partially rids the only flaw of Virgin Australia domestic.

    No member give thanks

  • Peter Loh


    23 Dec, 2013 03:44 pm

    I wouldn't call the lack of included meals the only flaw of Virgin Australia. There is also:

    • The lack of seat-back IFEs on their 738s, which are now on a growing number of Qantas' 738s. Sure this is made up for by Virgin BYO Device Wireless Entertainment, but this lacks convenience.
    • The lack of regional lounges (eg. Hobart). Virgin operates 9 lounges Australia wide versus Qantas' 24.
    • The regularity of service on some routes (especially regional).
    No member give thanks

  • X


    23 Dec, 2013 04:18 pm

    I'd hardly call the apple pieces and yoghurt offered by QF on my 0630am flight a selling point for QF. Or the Corn chips and salsa on my 1625 flight from BNE which arrived in SYD at 7pm substantial.

    No member give thanks

  • Marky Naidoo


    23 Dec, 2013 09:21 pm

    Not to mention the bland tomato puree w/ rice on their 2000 flight from from SYD to MEL. Put me off Qantas altogether. 

    No member give thanks

  • watson374


    30 Dec, 2013 01:41 am

    Shame. I've had a good run so far. For dinner, I have managed to get fusili with chicken in cream sauce, stewed beef with grains, and lemon chicken with seasonal greens and steamed rice.

    For breakfast, I have managed to get muesli, muffin, milk, OJ and coffee each breakfast flight I have.

    I actively avoid flights that are not either breakfast or dinner, because frankly the snack (two biscuits and an apple, anyone?) and lunch (mini calzone, seriously?) are disgraceful - but the breakfast and dinner can be surprisingly good.

    No member give thanks

  • smit0847


    23 Dec, 2013 04:36 pm

    Anyone with status eats in the Lounge beforehand as the food is much better than what is served in the air. The 'refreshments' QF serve are not meals.

    No member give thanks

  • tjtecoma


    23 Dec, 2013 04:43 pm

    I think that's good in theory, but despite being QF platinum (who flys economy domestically) I rarely get to the lounges before my flights because I don't have the time (ie. I get to the airport just in time for my flights).  I'd rather have something substantial on the flight as it's more efficient time wise for me.

    No member give thanks

  • Amjid


    24 Dec, 2013 10:14 am

    I agree with X, Marky & smit0847 the servings portions are a little small and can be quite skimpy... However going to the lounge before is probably the better thing to do if you're flying a 'refreshment' flight.

    When booking, I always try to fly during a 'Meal' service... Generally speaking 6am-9am Breakfast, 12pm-1.30pm Lunch, 6-8pm Dinner.

    I personally hate how sometimes QF operate a 05.55am flight, not offering Breakfast or 20.05 not a Dinner... But at other times of the year, the flights are 06.05 and 19.55 respectivelu... The meals is a huge different. As for even more 'inconsistency' the last departure in CNS is 17.10 for Arrival in BNE at 19.20 and yet this is a Dinner Meal...

    No member give thanks

  • julius-grafton


    23 Dec, 2013 06:47 pm

    Sydney - Melbourne food on board? We are spoiled rotten in Australia. I actually prefer the option to buy cheese and crackers on VA to the one snack fits-all on QF.

    No member give thanks

  • moa999


    23 Dec, 2013 09:08 pm

    Nice cameo on the Ch 7 news spot on this for David - particularly liked his "knife and fork" line

    No member give thanks

  • moa999


    23 Dec, 2013 09:09 pm

    Methinks this announcement may see a quick change of plan from Qantas about its new 'in a box' meal service.

    No member give thanks

  • Darkavid99


    23 Dec, 2013 10:25 pm

    Platinums should be getting free meals anyway in economy. I think what virgin really need to look at is it's j class meals. Both domestically and short haul international. Timings are woeful for example leave at 11:50am no lunch just a poor snack. Luke margin inspired but I doubt he would want to eat it.

    No member give thanks

  • willvill


    24 Dec, 2013 09:18 am

    I am a happy convert from Qantas to VA from about 3 years ago so it will take a fair bit to get me back to QF where I was a Platinum. In the scheme of things this sounds a bit picky but I have flown J Sydney to Perth and back many times. Great service, meals and crew always. But I think VA let themselves down on the 9.25am departure Sydney to Perth. Apparently being 9.25 and not after 9.30 departure means it is a breakfast flight. As good as it is it is not in keeping with the length of flight or the sentiment of most on board ( or the crew as it turned out during a discussion) Lets be honest at 10,30am when the meal service is underway in the sky, everyone has had breakfast. And that it. is not substantial, yet by the time you get to Perth its 2.30pm Sydney time. I think VA should roll with the flow with this one and do lunch service. Thoughts anyone....

    No member give thanks

  • RobL


    24 Dec, 2013 08:41 pm

    I actually like the VA buy on board products. This can be beneficial when travelling on 'snack' flights when food is wanted due to either missing previous or later meals due to work committments.

    My only 'wish' is that these new VA meals are not realiant on pesto for flavouring as I, and a number of colleagues, am fed up with the current pesto drowned flexi fare inclusions.

    No member give thanks

  • dazzaredroo


    26 Dec, 2013 10:40 pm

    I so love these subjective criticisms, it's simple really get off the soapboxes and travel with whom you like for the reasons you choose  some of you really need to spend more time in the regionals to really get an understanding or an appreciation of what some airlines don't provide despite their flashy advertising and hyperbole. Townsville is a major regional with large business market (above the transient tourist market of Cairns) Yet VA doesn't value this market and is still yet to put a club here and ditto for many other regional centres. Some of these criticisms smack of the spoilt child syndrome I'll take QF over VA any day and will continue to do so for a longer while yet.

    No member give thanks


21 Jul, 2019 04:35 am


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