We have taken a few recent trips with Virgin on domestic and international flights. Even better - we had the opportunity to review economy and business class flights. This made it easy for us to see how Virgin perform under a few different scenarios.

How does Virgin Australia treat its vegan passengers when it comes to snack time or meal time?

Unfortunately it's pretty slim pickings for vegan travellers when it comes to the Onboard Menu. While the original flavour Pringles don't contain animal products, you may not be a P&G consumer.

 Virgin Australia Menu

Virgin Australia Menu

If you're hoping to purchase a meal, the other bad news for VGML (vegan meal) travellers is that you are no longer able to select 'special meal' requests for domestic flights.

There is some good news though. Virgin Australia announced earlier this year that it is now serving free snacks and drinks in economy class on all flights between Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, which is expected to be extended to all domestic flights later in the year. Without being able to choose a snack, it’s a bit like a lucky dip. And on our recent flight back from Melbourne, I got lucky! J The snack offered to passengers was Carman’s Stoneground Organic Corn Chips with Spicy Tomato Salsa. Yum!

What about Virgin for international flights?

We recently flew Virgin Australia to Denpasar. I thought being an international flight, that maybe our chances of having a VGML meal might be increased somewhat. Sadly they weren’t. Virgin Australia’s current policy is to only offer special meal requests on international long haul flights. (Long haul flights include Virgin Australia international flights departing to/arriving from Abu Dhabi and Los Angeles, or passing through these ports.)

Prior to our flight, I contacted the Virgin Guest Contact Centre and was informed that there would be two meal options on the Sydney to Denpasar flight, and that one of them would be a vegetarian option. I asked if we could pre-reserve the veg option meal, but unfortunately we couldn’t. On-board, by the time the food trolley got to our row, we were told that there were no veg meals left. We were only seated in row 10 so couldn’t quite believe that the allocation of veg meals had already been exhausted. This brings me to a strange phenomenon I’ve observed over the past 15 years of being vegetarian/vegan. Quite often when omnivores are presented with a veg option and a non-veg option, they find the veg option more appealing and will go for that first. I think it’s great that veg food has mass-appeal, but at the same time just wish this demand would be better catered for, so veg travellers don't miss out.

Anyhow, it turned out that 2 more veg meals were located for us. They consisted of some sort of spinach and cheese ravioli in a tomato sauce. This meant Travis got mine and I got none. I had 99% expected that this would be the scenario, so I came prepared of course! My backup was a Dr McDougall’s Pad Thai Noodle soup. I thought this would be the perfect BYO inflight meal, as you only need to add hot/boiling water and let it sit for a while. Given they serve tea and coffee inflight, I thought this would be easy enough to achieve. I asked different staff members several times if I could get some hot water, but each time I was told it wasn’t a good time. I eventually gave up and realised I didn’t really need a meal at that point anyway. Sometimes you kind of just get caught up in the moment when everyone else around you is eating! Still, not spectacular service.

What if you fork out the extra $$$ for Virgin business class?

I'm not one to travel at the pointy end of the plane, but for a treat Travis used some of his points to upgrade to business class flights from Sydney to Melbourne recently. I’d phoned the Guest Contact Centre prior to the flight to check if you could make a meal request for business class flights. I was told there’d be a hot meal served and that they’d put a note against our booking to request a vegan meal.  Wow, this seemed a lot more promising than the response you get for economy class bookings! At the airport check-in counter, we were told that there was no note on our booking, and that they couldn’t add one from their system. We were heading to the Lounge before boarding, so were told that they would be able to put the request through from their booking system. On arrival at the Lounge we were once again told that there was no note against our booking, and that staff at the check-in counter had exactly the same system as they had access to. They however said they would contact ground staff and notify us of the outcome. A few minutes later we were advised that a hot meal would be served inflight and vegan meals had been arranged for us. I could not believe my ears. I felt so spoilt!

 Serendipity Vegan Ice Cream

Serendipity Vegan Ice Cream

But it turned out it was too good to be true. During the flight we were offered either a veg on non-veg cold meal. When we mentioned we’d been told vegan meals had been arranged, we were advised that this was not the case. It turned out the veg mezze option was almost vegan except for the cubes of feta cheese. This included olives, dolmades, hummus, and capsicum. To my delight there was also a delicious vegan sorbet – Coconut and Kaffir Lime flavour by Serendipity. Once again, not spectacular service, with lots of conflicting advice. But, vegan sorbet! I’d say winning overall.

Virgin Australia Lounge

If you or your travelling buddy holds a Virgin Australia Lounge Pass, you’re in luck. You’ll find an assortment of veg options to snack on, from fruit and nuts to salads and condiments. Our favourite is the Israeli couscous.

The cons for veg travellers:

  1. You can’t make any special meal requests for domestic or international short haul flights.
  2. If there are suitable veg options available on the flight, it is possible they will under-cater and run out of them so you could end up missing out anyway.

The pros for veg travellers:

  1. Meals/snacks are now included on most flights, you just have to cross your fingers real hard and hope that you’ll get lucky with some fruit, nuts or cruelty free chippies.
  2. Partnerships with companies like Carman’s and Serendipity means you might just be in for a treat.

Virgin Australia website: http://www.virginaustralia.com