Economy Meals on Qantas & Virgin Australia Domestic Flights

Qantas dinner boxes are served in Economy
Qantas dinner boxes are served in Economy

Enjoy a meal on your flight? Within Australia, both Qantas and Virgin Australia offer complimentary food and drinks on all flights. But exactly what you’ll get depends on the airline, time of day and length of the flight. On some flights you’ll get a full hot meal with complimentary wine and beer, while on others you’ll just get a fun-sized chocolate bar.

In this article, we break down what you can expect to eat in Economy class when flying within Australia on Qantas, Virgin Australia, Jetstar and Tigerair.

 

Qantas Economy Class Meals

Qantas serves complimentary meals on most domestic flights departing at certain times throughout the day. Outside these times, a less substantial snack such as crackers, slices or an apple is served.

Here are the Qantas Economy meal times:

  • 5am to 8.59am – Breakfast box
  • 9am to 11.59am – refreshment
  • 12pm to 1.30pm – lunch
  • 1.31pm to 5.29pm – refreshment
  • 5.30pm to 8pm – dinner box
  • 8.01pm until 4.59am – refreshment

Refreshments are served on all very short flights, such as Sydney-Canberra and Melbourne-Canberra. Full meals are served on all longer flights including the trans-continental flights to and from Perth, except for the overnight redeye flights where a bag of snacks is handed out.

Lunch options typically include sandwiches, pastries or steamed buns. For dinner, there is usually a choice of a hot or cold boxed meal followed by a Lindt chocolate for dessert.

Unlike Virgin, Qantas does allow passengers to order special meals in advance.

Alcohol on Qantas Domestic Flights

Complimentary non-alcoholic drinks are available on all Qantas flights. Beer and wine is generally available for $6, but is complimentary on all afternoon flights between Perth and other capital cities. It’s also free on flights after 4pm between Sydney and Melbourne, Brisbane or Adelaide, as well as any flight to/from Canberra after 4pm daily.

Catering on QantasLink Flights

There are no hot meals on regional QantasLink Dash 8 flights, but refreshment boxes are served. Alcohol is complimentary on all QantasLink flights departing from mid-afternoon.

QantasLink snack box
QantasLink snack box

A Recent Drop in Qantas Meal Standards?

Some AFF members believe the standard of Qantas’ meals has dropped lately. In one example, Popeye recently flew on a dinnertime Qantas flight from Cairns to Sydney. The meal choices on the 3-hour flight were three steamed chicken buns or a small burrito.

The dinner served on Popeye's recent Qantas flight. Photo: Popeye.
The dinner served on Popeye’s recent Qantas flight. Photo: Popeye.

Join the discussion about Qantas meal standards on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: This is dinner on QF CNS – Sydney (SYD)

 

Virgin Australia Economy Food and Drinks

Virgin Australia also advertises free food and drinks for all domestic flights. But on most flights, this consists of a small snack and a choice of tea, coffee, juice or water.

Hot meals and complimentary soft drinks, beer or wine are only served on trans-continental Virgin flights to/from Perth. On all other flights, a snack is served depending on the length of the flight:

  • Flights up to 1 hour, 20 minutes: 1 bite-sized snack
  • Flights from 1 hour, 20 minutes to 2 hours, 45 minutes: 1 snack
  • Flights from 2 hours, 45 minutes to 3 hours: 2 café-style snacks
  • Flights over 3 hours: “Café Plus” service with 3 items
Typical Virgin Australia "snack" on shorter flights
Typical Virgin Australia “snack” on shorter flights

Virgin Australia Happy Hour

In addition to the complimentary tea, coffee, juice or water on all flights, Happy Hour drinks are available on all flights departing from 5pm to 7pm, Monday to Friday. Complimentary beer, wine and small soft drinks are available during Happy Hour.

Additional Food for Purchase on Virgin Australia

While Virgin Economy catering is clearly inferior to Qantas, Virgin does offer additional snacks and drinks (including spirits) for purchase on all flights. Both cash and credit cards are accepted.

 

Food for Purchase on Jetstar and Tigerair

As low-cost carriers, Jetstar and Tigerair do not offer any complimentary food or drinks except for water, which is available on request. However, both airlines offer snacks and drinks for purchase on all flights. Tigerair accepts both cash and credit cards for in-flight purchases, while Jetstar accepts only card payments.

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Matt Graham
The editor of Australian Frequent Flyer, Matt's passion for travel has taken him to over 60 countries… with the help of frequent flyer points, of course!
Matt's favourite destinations (so far) are Germany, Brazil, New Zealand & Kazakhstan. His interests include economics, aviation & foreign languages, and he has a soft spot for good food and red wine.

You can contact Matt at [email protected]