Virgin Australia’s business class passengers used to enjoy chef-inspired meals by Luke Mangan, but since the airline’s acquisition by Bain Capital in 2020, the experience has changed. Nowadays, the airline offers a more affordable option onboard, but some may argue that the “je ne sais quoi” is missing.
For economy class travelers, the airline does not provide complimentary meals. Instead, you can purchase an array of items from their onboard menu. Here’s a glimpse of what was available on their menu in December 2022:
Their fresh food choices included wraps and sandwiches for AUD$12 or noodles for AUD$8.00. As for cocktails, expect to pay around AUD$13-17, with beer and wine starting at AUD$12. On the bright side, they cater to specific dietary needs such as Halal, Gluten-Free, and Vegan/Vegetarian options.
Having flown with the airline in both February 2022 and December 2022 – once in business class from Melbourne to Sydney and then again in December 2022 from Brisbane to Denpasar – I’m happy to share my experience.
THE LOUNGE MELBOURNE
Let’s start with the lounge in Melbourne. Virgin’s fare between Melbourne and Sydney was $500 cheaper than Qantas’s. Although mask-wearing was still mandatory, the lounge provided a limited self-service option due to the pandemic. The Melbourne lounge had undergone a facelift in 2020 and opened in November 2020 after being closed for some time. It boasts of all-day dining options, with breakfast served until 10:30 am, the Wake Up coffee station, and the Wind Down wine bar.
The lounge can seat up to 500 people, making it one of the biggest in the airline’s network. Unfortunately, the food offerings at the time were all pre-packaged/single-serve options. For breakfast, I had some scrambled eggs and coffee, but it wasn’t as good as I expected. The food had the taste and quality of hospital/canteen food.
It was my first experience with the airline’s domestic business-class product before taking off a choice of juice or water was offered.
Ten minutes after take-off, Karen, the cabin manager, offered me a choice of a Turkish Pide or quesadilla, and I went for the quesadilla. Although the food was average, Karen’s service was exceptional.
Now, let’s move on to a bizarre experience I had on my next flight from Brisbane to Denpasar.
BRISBANE TO DENPASAR
I flew this route in December 2022 to connect with Malaysia Airlines to Manila. Unfortunately, lounge access wasn’t available at Brisbane International Airport.
On the ground sparkling wine or water was offered by the cabin manager.
Ten minutes after take-off, I ordered some white wine, and shortly after, the cabin manager took meal orders. However, I wasn’t given a choice of hot meals; instead, I was served chicken. (The options were mustard chicken with mashed potatoes and vegetables or gnocchi with creamy mushroom sauce.)
I wasn’t given the option to choose; instead, I was informed that chicken was the only available meal for me. The meal tray included bread with zaatar-seasoned cream cheese and a walnut cake for dessert.
The inflight meal was decent, though not outstanding, but it did satisfy my hunger. The meal service lasted for around 50 minutes, and there were no additional services provided throughout the six-hour flight
Although it wasn’t an issue for me, the cabin manager offered the gnocchi to the two people sitting opposite me after serving me. I can only assume that they were either airline staff, top-tier frequent flyers, or acquaintances of the cabin manager.
The situation was awkward, to say the least, but the cabin manager looked after them well, delivering alcohol and snacks to their seat regularly.
Overall, Virgin Australia’s onboard offerings and service may not be as remarkable as it once was. However, their affordable fares may be a worthy trade-off for some.