Last Wednesday, Virgin stopped offering Business class guests complimentary snacks and drinks from the Economy buy-on-board menu. Business class passengers that would like something to eat or drink in addition to the regular menu are now being asked to pull out their wallets. In fact, Virgin Business passengers even have a retail menu in their seat pockets now.
Virgin Australia still offers a complimentary meal and drinks, including soft drinks, wine, beer and some spirits, to Business class guests. The change is designed to stop Business passengers from requesting expensive items from the retail menu, such as Ink Gin and espresso martini cocktails.
Our members have been quick to criticise the cost-cutting move. Virgin claims that it has had to write-off around $2,100 worth of retail stock intended for Economy class per day. (That’s calculated on the retail price, not the cost price.) But given the price of a Business Class ticket, the change seems rather petty. If just a few passengers per day decide to book Qantas in Business class instead of Virgin over this policy, the airline will have lost more in revenue than it has saved in costs.
A day after Virgin Australia implemented the catering change, AFF member jojo was flying from Melbourne to Brisbane. Both of the passengers sitting in row one on this flight requested a Diet Coke, but only one can had been catered for Business Class. The flight attendant informed the passengers that there was only one soft drink available, and that they were not allowed to source a second drink from Economy under the new rules.
Approached by Australian Frequent Flyer, a Virgin Australia spokesperson said that this shouldn’t have happened and that the airline will investigate. The spokesperson said that Business guests are entitled to complimentary soft drinks as part of the Business class offering, and the airline is investigating the incident.
On the recent changes to Business class catering, Virgin told us “we regularly review and update our onboard food and beverage offer to ensure we continue to provide guests with variety”.
Virgin Australia says that it will be “introducing new items to the pantry in Business Class that our guests have told us they love” and rotating the Business Class menu more frequently.
Complimentary “pantry” snacks in Business class are still available upon request, and include things like nuts, chips and chocolate.
“We have also introduced the retail cart to the Business Class cabin for our guests to purchase from in addition to the current offering. We have some fantastic new products on the retail cart, which is regularly updated to ensure our guests have plenty of choice,” the spokesperson said.
We are not aware of any other full-service airline anywhere in the world that asks Business class passengers to pay for food or drinks. This includes airlines with buy-on-board menus in Economy such as British Airways, Etihad Airways and most US-based airlines.
Recently, Virgin Australia also removed the Samsung in-flight entertainment tablets from Business class on its Boeing 737 aircraft.
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: No more free items from retail menu when flying business