Virgin Australia: Food Service is down, down. Flight credit restrictions
We are beginning to get indications of what Virgin Australia will be like once it is fully controlled by the installed management of new owners Bain Capital. They performed a superb ‘bait and switch’ manoeuvre earlier this month by removing Paul Scurrah and replacing him with Jayne Hrdlicka – alumni of Qantas and Bain & Company, not to mention a brief and press-worthy stint at A2Milk.
Virgin Australia appears to be going from Qantas competitor, to mid-level non-competitor, or even budget airline.
Content of this Post:
Budget back end, and preserved front end – without Luke Mangan
It looks like Virgin Australia (VA) will unbundle its economy class, removing food and beverage inclusions. Don’t count on baggage inclusions either.
Virgin Australia only included snack/meals and drink service in Economy to compete with Qantas. They even went through a hybrid period, where food service was included for some top paying economy tickets, but not for discount tickets. So this sounds a little ‘Back to the Future’.
As for Business Class, indications are this will be preserved, with some kind of appropriate included catering. Virgin we hope won’t make the same misstep it did recently when passengers at the front of the plane were served noodles-in-a-cup because VA had ended its contract with Gate Gourmet. That ‘Noodle-Gate’ mistake was reported globally.
Indications are that these will be maintained – although maybe not all and entry qualification may change. Speculation is that the invitation-only The Club – the rival to the Qantas Chairman’s Lounge may close. It could be a mistake for VA to close the private space where business titans, senior government bureaucrats and politicians spend their time making important decisions about air transport policy and travel budgets.
Future Flight Credits
These were announced back in August, and are what VA is now calling the credit that passengers received due to COVID-19 related flight cancellations (including Tiger flights). However, this is no free-for-all when booking flights with these credits. It’s important to remember what you can and can’t do:
- CAN be used to book Economy and Business class tickets – except full-fare Business Class
- CANNOT be used to book codeshare flights with partners (Alliance, Singapore and Etihad etc)
- CANNOT be booked after 31 July 2022, but travel can be until 30 June 2023
- RESTRICTED number of seats available for Future Flight Credits bookings per flight
- CAN combine your Future Flight Credit with additional cash
- CANNOT combine with Velocity Points
- CAN be used for extra items like Economy X, pre-paid luggage, lounge access and change fees
- CAN be used across multiple bookings
So these credits with VA are not the same as credits with other airlines including Qantas, where they can usually be applied to any available seat. You can find full details on the VA website.
What about Rex?
This opens an opportunity for REX depending on where the formerly regional airline wants to position itself when it commences B737-800 capital city services down the east coast of Australia in March 2021. They have already flagged having some kind of premium cabin, a new frequent flyer scheme and they already have some lounges. I think they will also need to re-vamp their loyalty recognition program to compete with VA and Qantas.
The aviation industry has a difficult road ahead when it comes to sustainability. It’s going to require a relative revolution in technology, with ‘electric planes’ or hydrogen planes, or some form of jet engine that doesn’t require a carbon based fuel. And that is going to require the development of an alternative to jet engines probably.
It’s a big ask. It will take time to develop.
This move to home grown and manufactured SAF is a first step – maybe even a baby step in a very long road of innovation. In the long run, US$200 million won’t even touch the sides.
I have changed my thinking about Virgin Australia. As a Qantas fanboy, I am always aware that I have a bias. I intended to patronise the reborn VA from November this year. Now, I’m not so sure. I’ll give it a go, just to see what it feels like, and to report back to you, dear readers.
Interestingly, VA wants to compete on price and this move will force me to use the same measure since it doesn’t look like they will be competing on catering, baggage or service. I hope they don’t turn into another Jetstar, where if you want the same benefits as I get on Qantas, you end up paying more for the privilege of receiving far less professional and personable service.
What did you say?