Virgin Australia was sprung last week for serving two-minute noodles in business class.
Passengers took to Facebook, outraged at receiving a $2 meal after paying $2,500 for their tickets.
However, in a case of ‘be careful what you wish for,’ some business class customers are claiming the healthier option that has since been provided is even less filling.
“I think Bain is on a cost cutting spree and these days you can get away with almost anything in the name of Covid.”
“Virgin used to have (in my opinion) the world’s best domestic business class product in terms of food, service and seats. Now we’re seeing the ‘Americanisation’ of business class.”
“Aussies are used to getting better so it’s no wonder the Bain ‘budget carrier’ approach won’t go down well unless the prices of the tickets reflect the actual service.”
The saga also raised questions around the uniquely Australian phenomenon of providing passengers with international style business class on domestic trips, suggesting the business class arms race between Virgin Australia and Qantas is now over, and that we may all need to adjust our expectations.
Virgin at the time claimed the limited onboard service was part of its plan to minimise interactions between flight crew and passengers, with a spokesperson saying, “We are… re-imagining what our onboard catering offer will be longer-term, and are looking forward to developing a new experience to suit customer needs.”
In the interim, however, the airline keeps getting scalded, with some business class enthusiasts complaining the new lunch is worse.
“I actually prefer the 2 minute noodle than cracker dip! At least the 2 minute noodle can fill me up more,” one user wrote in the comments of Executive Traveller’s article, “Instant Noodles axed but Virgin’s business class ‘meals’ still snacks.”
Frequent flyer Immanuel Debeer told DMARGE, “Personally I think instant noodles are better than ‘crackers and dip,’ unless said crackers are truly exquisite.”
The new ‘interim’ lunch and dinner offering is a snack box of crackers and dip, a muffin, barbecue roasted chickpea mix and a square of Australian dark chocolate.
“By comparison, Executive Traveller points out, “Qantas’ current roster of business class meals includes the likes of lamb shank with minted onion sauce and potato mash, and chicken parmigiana with sweet potato puree and greens.”
This led into a broader discussion (between Executive Traveller commenters) around the various excuses that can be made for, and gripes that can be had with, Virgin Australia.
“Virgin seem to have a fetish for chickpeas (and no, ‘barbecue roasted’ doesn’t make them taste any better). It’s all I’ve ever got on the MEL-LST evening flights for the last 2 years,” one commenter wrote.
“In administration during a global pandemic, we’re lucky they’re still in the air. Virgin 2.0 hasn’t launched yet so lets not get ahead of ourselves. I’m sure most people will make up there minds once they let us know what their premium product will actually be,” commented another.
The highlight of the discussion? The comment “the phrase mutton dressed as lamb comes to mind with Virgin under Bain ownership” being responded to with “most Virgin passengers would happily eat either at this point.”
All up? As one commenter concluded: “Virgin are going to need to get this all sorted ASAP. People are already watching and making up their minds on how they feel about Virgin 2.0 and whether it’s going to be an airline for them.”
Given the other comments kicking around (see: “Do they think we are stupid? Both airlines should just be honest in their coms. Cost saving and running down inventory for the new owners,”) this time appears more crucial than ever for both Virgin Australia and Qantas to set expectations correctly.
Rico Merkert, USYD Professor of Transport and Supply Chain Management, told DMARGE this shakeup is part of Virgin Australia’s transition to a middle market carrier: “The new CEO of Virgin will position to airline closer to the LCC business model and passengers (say business) will be able to add extra services to their seat a la carte and will be expected to pay for those add-ons.”
“As such, you could argue that Qantas has won the business traveller market in the domestic Australian market. There may be a little bit of competition with Rex and Alliance though and to some extent even with Virgin as some corporate travellers may now at least initially be price sensitive.”
“International[ly],” however, Merkert told us, “it is a totally different picture as Qatar, Emirates, Singapore Airlines, Air New Zealand and a few others pose strong competition to Qantas, in particular as they are currently flying in and out of Australia while Qantas is not.”
As for the food, though David Attenborough would be proud of Virgin Australia’s latest low key offerings, perhaps if they stopped serving crackers and chickpeas, and started serving meat, premium passengers will stop cracking jokes at their expense?