In 2018, Qantas caused quite a stir by axing music from its in-flight entertainment program on domestic flights. Key figures in the Australian music industry were quick to criticise the decision, which appears to have been made to save money on music licensing fees, and Qantas received a huge backlash at the time on social media.
Within days of Qantas making headlines for axing music on its flights, Virgin Australia pounced on its rival by publicly reaffirming its support for the Australian music industry. Virgin said at the time that it was “a proud supporter of the Australian music industry”, and boasted about its extensive support of local artists and sponsorship of music festivals.
“We are delighted to offer a platform for new and emerging artists on our In-Flight Entertainment to showcase their talent to the 24 million passengers we transport each year,” Virgin Australia said at the time.
Following a disastorous year of cancelled concerts, festivals and live events, Australia’s music industry now needs more support than ever. But Virgin Australia has recently followed Qantas and removed all music from its in-flight entertainment content as well.
The Virgin Australia Entertainment streaming app still features a limited number of movies, TV shows, games and podcasts, but there is no longer any music.
In fairness to Virgin, the airline industry has suffered just as badly as the music industry during COVID-19. Virgin Australia has been forced to ruthlessly cut costs in many parts of the business over the past year – not just in its in-flight entertainment. But it does show that the airline’s claimed support for the music industry is not unconditional.
Virgin Australia says that it is currently reviewing its in-flight entertainment and wifi offerings alongside other changes it is making to the customer experience. Virgin is expected to make further announcements about changes to its in-flight service, including a relaunch of its Business Class, in the coming months.
Qantas has currently suspended in-flight entertainement entirely (presumably also to save money on content licencing costs), although wi-fi continues to be available on most Qantas jet services.
Virgin’s new boarding music
In September 2020, Virgin Australia also replaced the pop music previously played during boarding and disembarkation with an original composition. Virgin’s new bespoke boarding music, licenced from Stellar Entertainment, is also now being played to customers waiting on hold with the airline’s call centre.
Although the new boarding music may allow Virgin to further save money on commercial music licensing fees, it is not unusual for an airline to do this. Indeed, many other airlines including Emirates, United Airlines and Qantas also have unique boarding music that passengers can identify with that brands.
“Bespoke boarding music offers airlines an opportunity to create their own unique brand identity and sound, one that passengers can always relate to their experience onboard that airline,” Stellar Entertainment said when announcing their work with Virgin Australia.
Extra baggage allowance for musicians
In the past, Virgin Australia also proudly advertised that it gave a complimentary 64kg baggage allowance to musicians, to make it easier for them to travel around the country.
Music Victoria reported last year that Virgin was no longer honouring the baggage allowance upgrade for musicians. However, Virgin Australia has confirmed the higher baggage allowance for travelling musicians was reinstated after the airline exited voluntary administration in November.
According to Music Victoria, Qantas is still honouring its higher Musicians Allowance for touring members of eligible music associations.