With hot food back, are Virgin business class redemptions worth it?
A domestic business class trip in 2021 might be more tempting now there's a fresh menu, but how much value can you get?
Virgin Australia launched its new business class menu today, which includes proper meals and drinks for guests at the front of the cabin.
It also announced cheaper business class fares from June 2021 but there were fewer details about how much lower they'd go, apart from the fact that this follows on from price cuts of up to 20% in November 2020.
Both these factors affect how much value you'll get from using Velocity Points for a business class flight (or when you pay for them). So we've unpacked the details to help you decide when it's worth it and when it's not.
Is it worth it?
Realistically, a new menu isn't going to add hundreds of dollars of value to a domestic business class fare. But the overall business class experience can be worth it – if you follow our suggestions and choose your flights well.
The new menu
During the pandemic, Virgin Australia was offering business class customers individually-packaged snacks and drinks that left some frequent flyers very disappointed.
Comments on one Facebook group for frequent flyer tips described the service as "very dismal", with "cardboard-like boxes containing cardboard-like snacks".
The new menu gives you two choices on every flight, with a focus on meals suited to the time of day and flight length. Meals shared at the launch include:
- Breakfast: Smashed avocado and feta on sourdough, served alongside Greek yoghurt with mango coulis, seasonal fresh fruit and a Danish pastry.
- Lunch: Pumpkin and prosciutto salad, served with cheese, crackers and chocolate cake.
- Dinner: Lamb and rosemary pie with a pumpkin and feta smash, served alongside an antipasto plate with prosciutto, cheese, crackers and chocolate cake.
- Drinks: Premium tea, coffee, juice and sparkling water. Australian wines and craft beers, as well as popular spirits including vodka, gin, scotch, bourbon and rum.
At the launch of the menu, Virgin Australia's general manager for product and customers, Sarah Adam, said that the new business class menu "not only looks great but tastes great in the air".
"We've really dialled-up the flavours in the food with the right seasoning and textures to provide a very competitive Business Class experience for domestic travel in Australia," she said.
"Supporting Australian farmers and producers was another important factor in designing the menu so we'll have seasonal Australian produce from local producers in dishes throughout the year."
Lower business class prices
Virgin Australia used today as an opportunity to announce "a further review of its business and economy fare brands".
"We're continuing to write a new chapter at Virgin Australia and we're incredibly focused on creating great experiences for our guests," Virgin Australia Group CEO and managing director Jayne Hrdlicka said in a statement.
"The launch of our new Business Class food experience and a commitment to reduce airfares even further by the middle of this year, is a really great example of just how irresistible it is to fly with Virgin Australia."
What does this mean for frequent flyers?
The new menu follows on from Virgin Australia re-opening its domestic lounges earlier in 2021, giving people a complete business class experience.
With no solid news on when international borders will open (beyond New Zealand), is it time to look at using some Velocity Frequent Flyer points on a business class flight somewhere in Australia? And what will changes to fare prices mean? We did some number-crunching to find out.
Short flight: Sydney to Melbourne
A flight from Sydney to Melbourne in full-service business class (not Business Saver) was $399 one-way when we checked for this story. Through Velocity, it would be 15,500 points (plus fees and taxes).
That works out to $25.74 in value for every 1,000 points you used on this flight. If business class fares were reduced by another 20%, to $319.20, the rewards value would drop to $20.50 for every 1,000 points used. (We're assuming redemption points won't be reduced, because that rarely happens). That's still a respectable amount of value.
But considering the Sydney to Melbourne flight is very busy, and only 1 hour and 35 minutes long, you'll have less time to actually enjoy being in business class.
"On short-term legs, business class flights never represent a great use of points," said Finder's editor in chief and points expert Angus Kidman. "You're spending double the points but you're not getting an experience that's twice as good."
Longer flight: Brisbane to Perth
If you booked today, you could get a one-way business class flight between Brisbane and Perth for $1,299. If you used your Velocity Points, it would cost 35,500 points plus fees and taxes.
That gives you $37.11 value for every 1,000 points used – much more than you'd get for that Sydney to Melbourne reward.
If the fare was reduced by 20% to $1,039.20, you'd still get $29.27 for every 1,000 points used on a Velocity business class reward.
Even if you take costs out of it, this flight reward gives you better value than the Sydney-Melbourne example because the flight time between Brisbane and Perth is 5 hours and 55 minutes. That's enough time to actually enjoy the business class menu, comfy seats and space.
"With current flight restrictions, flights to Western Australia and far North Queensland are the best value points options for Virgin customers," Finder's Kidman said. "If you've been accruing points through a Velocity credit card or Flybuys, that's the place to spend them."
Images: Supplied (Virgin Australia/Paul Harris)