Airline meals can be the difference of a great or mediocre flight. I’ve written previously of our experiences with Air New Zealand and Qantas. But without further ado, Virgin Australia… For this journey, we had 8 of us including 3 children and 2 vegetarians. Virgin Australia offers a number of special meal choices and I recommend choosing one of these, as usually they are much better than the regular economy meals – and obviously they also then cater for special dietary restrictions.
I ordered the Oriental Vegetarian meal, this is a non-spicy (usually) meal in a Chinese style. It’s also usually a vegan meal so BYO dessert. My partner ordered the Lacto-ovo Vegetarian Meal which is a Western style meal including dairy and eggs. The children all got Child’s meals. The other 3 adults in our group took their chances on the standard offerings in economy.
Our first flight from Christchurch to Brisbane didn’t include a meal, so we made do with breakfast at Burger King before we left and took our own snacks on the flight. We grabbed a meal at the food court at Brisbane airport while waiting for our flight to LAX.
For our long haul, 13 hour flight from Brisbane to LAX we had two meals served. First up was lunch. One advantage of getting a special meal is you get it ahead of the rest of the passengers…
First up was the children’s meal – they had Bolognese with pasta and cheese, caramel mousse (the same dessert was served with all meals except for my vegan Oriental Vegetarian meal), bread roll and a juice box drink. Not sure how the child’s meal tasted but it smelled wonderful! I have a sneaky suspicion my brother may have been very pleased that the children couldn’t finish it.
My Vegetarian Oriental Meal was fried rice with tofu, red capsicum, eggplant and green beans. It tasted ok, it was a little dry. I didn’t like the dressing with the salad – a Lemon and oil one. The salad was just green leaves and tomato. The fruit salad was very nice. As this was a vegan meal, I had margarine instead of butter and a small pottle of soy milk instead of milk for my hot drink. Note – no dessert here… but this is a good meal choice for vegans or those with dairy or egg allergies.
The best dish for this round went to Robert’s Vegetarian Meal. Eggplant Parmesan which he pronounced “Yum” and by the time I blinked, it had disappeared. I was also envious of his salad – dolmades and humus with a slice of lemon. Also a bread roll, cheese and crackers and the caramel mousse.
The other 3 adults in our group enjoy some excitement and mystery in their meals, so ordered from the cart. They had 3 choices – beef with mashed potatoes, chicken with rice and asian greens, or gnocchi, which sounded like a vegetarian meal. I was very disappointed that they all chose the beef. Seriously – do they not think about these things in advance? Next time I will demand they all order something different. 🙂
The beef however got a thumbs up all round. Their salad included beans, and Mum who is a little picky, said she liked it. Again the caramel mousse, cheese and crackers and a bread roll.
As this was also a long flight, packaged chips and similar as well as drink were available upon request during the flight.
Around halfway through the flight I got given an “Oriental Vegetarian” labelled sandwich. This was underwhelming with tomato and cucumber and some type of spread. Not particularly tasty. Meanwhile the rest of the cabin, including those who had other special meals were given a hot Quiche with ricotta and peas. Luckily the children couldn’t eat all of theirs so I helped reduce waste by consuming leftovers. It was delicious!
Handy hint – my brother told the kids it was a bacon and egg pie without a top, and as the cabin lights were dimmed, they
fell for ate it …
The next meal, a couple of hours from landing was breakfast, we lost dinner somewhere in the time changes.
(Apologies for the photos, the cabin lights were still dimmed and the overhead lights were off due to a restart of the entertainment system.)
First up was my meal, the Oriental Vegetarian meal. This was far and away the best meal for this round. It was amazing, not just for airline food but if I ordered this at a restaurant, I would have been delighted. The meal itself was a tofu dish with beans – I’ll say black bean or similar, noodles and cabbage rolls. This was so good! Again a fruit salad, an interesting salad thingo – not sure what it was, but it was yummy. Also orange juice, soya milk for a hot drink, bread roll, crisp breads.
I am not sure what the children’s meal was, lets just say I saw a number of packets on a tray. I was too busy making groaning noises over mine that I didn’t ask… or care.
Robert’s regular vegetarian meal was not so good this time. Baked beans, some type of mystery vegetable patty, pumpkin and potato. The pumpkin he said was hardly cooked. He also got a fruit salad and Yoplait yogurt. He didn’t check the ingredients on this but Yoplait in New Zealand is not a vegetarian friendly brand for most of their range. You might want to double-check the ingredients if this is important to you (it usually contains gelatine).
For those playing meal roulette, they had two choices this round, bacon frittata with mushrooms, fruit salad and muffin…
Or Zucchini fritters.
By all accounts, the frittata was excellent (said my brother), the zucchini fritters lacked flavour (said Mum).
Also Mum was supremely disappointed upon unwrapping what she thought was a chocolate muffin to find it wasn’t – it was blueberry or similar, but they had sneakily wrapped it in brown paper inside the plastic.
The final leg of our journey from LAX to Orlando also didn’t have a meal provided so we grabbed a gold-plated sandwich before boarding. They served soft drinks and pretzels on the flight as a snack. I missed most of the flight as I was sleeping.
So would I choose Virgin again for long haul? First up the good. For the most part, I was impressed with the meals. I’d definitely order either of these Vegetarian options again. I think its wise to consider where your meals are likely to be made and make your decision on the type of meal based on this (if you have a choice). I know the Asian style Indian meals out of New Zealand aren’t great, but out of Singapore they are amazing!
Another bonus was leg room, we had way more leg room on this flight than our last long haul with Air New Zealand back in July.
Although it seemed a bit backwards going via Australia to get to the US, the travel time wasn’t more than about an hour or so longer than going with Air New Zealand due to the short connections. Also we flew during the day with an early morning rather than late night flight which was great! Every single departure was on time too.
Lastly, it was considerably cheaper to fly with Virgin than Air New Zealand.
The not so good? The entertainment system wasn’t as good as Air New Zealand, just not the same amount of TV and movie choices. There was very limited children’s selections also. One of my nephews watched Inside Out repeatedly because there was nothing else he wanted to see. Air New Zealand have dozens of children’s movie options.
They were also having some issues with it and twice during the flight had a to do a full reboot of the system. I remember the days of a movie or two being played on the big screen and the thought of doing a long haul without entertainment fills me with dread.
So we will see how the flights home go and make a decision about whether to go with Air New Zealand next year or Virgin. Based on these flights though, it will purely come down to cost and flight connections at at the end of the day. Air New Zealand has some competition here…Follow @paula_from_nz