Virgin Australia’s long-awaited reboot of its inflight service is just around the corner. While the airline has never stopped flying, the inflight service offering was pared back to the bone last year. But now Virgin Australia is preparing to unveil what creature comforts it will offer its passengers.
New Virgin Australia inflight service offering unveiled by Easter
David Flynn in Executive Traveller has flagged a soft launch of the rebooted Virgin Australia business class product in time for Easter. That coincides with Simple Flying’s understanding that the inflight economy class offering will also be finalized and rolled out by then.
That can’t come soon enough. Virgin Australia is staring down the barrel of an aggressive Qantas. Right now, they have a far superior business class product. Also in the wings is Rex Airlines. That airline is due to start flying Boeing 737-800 services next month, complete with a business class product.
Not walking away from our premium travelers says Virgin Australia CEO
Since its sale and new direction as a mid-market carrier, Virgin Australia has been accused of walking away from its previous premium passengers. At the moment, a lot of that premium passenger traffic and several juicy corporate travel accounts are going to Qantas.
However, Virgin Australia’s Jayne Hrdlicka refutes the suggestion the airline is walking away from its former best customers.
“I think we’ll be fiercely competitive for all business travel, and we will maintain corporate accounts. We’re just going to do it differently,” the Virgin Australia CEO told an Australian Government Senate Hearing in late January.
“At the top end of town, when they get back to travel, they’re going to be much more price-conscious. So we’re very confident we will continue to be competitive.”
Virgin Australia taking its time to finalize inflight offering
With business travel subdued, Virgin Australia may have thought it could take its time reviewing its inflight service offering. But people are still traveling, even if they aren’t necessarily the all-important business travelers.
Plenty of leisure travelers with points and cash to burn also fly Virgin Australia business class. Plenty of them have landed unimpressed with the current pared-back offering.
“They really are not even trying, even as we are into February,” one flyer posted onto an Australian Frequent Flyer forum that discusses catering on Virgin Australia. “Wine in a plastic cup and pretzels or something equally nasty looking.”
That pretty much coincides with this writer’s take of a business class flight on Virgin Australia late last year. On the flip side, the surviving Virgin Australia flight attendants haven’t taken a step backward – they are still very good.
Ms Hrdlicka told the Senate Hearing that Virgin Australia was still offering food onboard. Technically, that’s correct. It’s just there’s not much of it and is not very good at the moment.
Virgin Australia business class potentially in no-mans-land
As Virgin Australia moves away from being a premium carrier to a mid-market status, some aspects of in-flight service will inevitably go. Jayne Hrdlicka repeatedly references price competitiveness as key to the future Virgin Australia business class product. On March 15, Qantas is selling its bells and whistles business class product for AU$499 on the 19:00 service between Melbourne and Sydney. In good times, that fare can reach as much as AU$1,400.
Virgin Australia is selling business class seats on their 19:00 departure that evening for AU$406. The new entrant, Rex, doesn’t have a 19:00 departure to Sydney that evening. But they do have a 20:00 departure with business class seats available from AU$199.
With Rex seriously undercutting Virgin Australia in the business class price competition stakes and Qantas leaving Virgin Australia for dead when it comes to business class bells and whistles, Virgin Australia business class is in no-mans-land right now. That makes the relaunch of the product next month something to keep an eye on.