Do You Care About Luxury In-Flight Meal Services?

Do You Care About Luxury In-Flight Meal Services?

Virgin Atlantic has introduced a ‘high tea’ service for its business class travellers, complete with mini cake stand and ‘coupe’ champagne glasses. When you’re paying upwards of four or five times the cost of an economy class ticket, you naturally expect some perks to come with it. But is the airline wasting effort on a British tradition nobody cares for either way, or do passengers expect, demand and deserve a little in-flight glamour?

While Virgin Atlantic isn’t the first airline to offer its premium customers an afternoon tea service, it does aim to recreate the experience of a traditional British high tea, serving scones with jam and cream, mini cupcakes, a gourmet tea selection and finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off. The service is only offered to Virgin Atlantic’s Upper Class passengers on long-haul flights between Sydney and London via Hong Kong, where a return ticket will cost upwards of $8000. That price not only gets you the high tea service, but also all the benefits of flying business class, which is Virgin Atlantic’s top level of service. (There is no traditional first class cabin service on any of Virgin’s planes.)

The way I see it, travelling in business class is all about the extra legroom, not having to climb over people to get to the toilets and being able to sleep at least semi-reclined without interruptions. The frozen, defrosted and reheated food that you get on aeroplanes is usually memorable for all the wrong reasons, with food safety being more important than taste for obvious litigious reasons. And the food preparation process is the same for everyone, regardless of how much you paid for your ticket. There’s no reason to believe that Virgin Atlantic’s high tea food items will be prepared any differently, but if the main point of such a service is to make customers feel pampered, then that’s a strategy that I can’t argue against.

Do you appreciate being romanced by luxury in-flight meal services in business or first class? Or would you rather see airlines spending money on other things? Tell us in the comments.


  • I like high tea… but probably not on a plane. Then again, I’m way too cheap to ever pay more than economy prices so I’m clearly not their target market.

  • What you’re describing is not ‘high tea’, it’s afternoon tea. High tea is a (traditionally working class) evening meal, roughly equivalent to supper. Though often erroneously assumed to mean ‘fancy’, the ‘high’ in high tea refers to eating at the main ‘high’ table. Afternoon tea, intended to be light refreshment in the mid-afternoon, is generally served in the parlour where one finds ‘low’ tables.

  • I think that sounds really lovely -especially for the price of the tickets! I wouldn’t say no if I was offered that.
    But then, I am a total Anglophile. If it came with Pimm’s I’d swoon.

  • “wasting effort on a British tradition nobody cares for either way”
    The author might not, but I think you will find that High-Tea is very popular and many people care for it.

    What’s the point of this ‘article’? It just seems like an excuse to complain about something that the author doesn’t like and doesnt really matter…

  • High tea, afternoon tea… who’s going to say “No, I don’t want nice sandwiches and cakes and stuff”?

    That $8k is already paying for a lot extra,vs say $2k for cattle class. They don’t have to get rid of the little food service extras to save a few pennies to bump up the service somewhere else. You’ve already got a good seat, you’re already some distance from the riff-raff, you’ve got champagne… what else could you possibly want apart from a steady stream of nice food?

    Business class – and above – is not just about extra legroom.

  • Not a fan of high tea as such, and TBH I was quite happy with the economy food when I was flying last year. I found the quality of the food to be quite sufficient – if I were to fly Business Class all I’d want in addition to first pick of the food (i.e., never being told “we’re out of xyz, sorry”) would be greater availability of tasty snacks and drinks.

  • the couple of times i’ve flown premium economy have freaked me out…the difference in service between that and economy is HUGE and you walk out of the plane feeling like a human being rather than a piece of kaka…so i can’t imagine what the service is like in beyond premium…i think airline and staff have a lot more to answer for far beyond finger sandwiches with the crusts cut off

  • It’s a nice touch.. it certainly takes away a bit of the sting for the tickets.. but having luxury in the form of full-recline plush seats, iPad entertainment.. and all the stuff that is usually available on the high-end tickets is what people really care about.

  • All airplane food is not created equal. Anyone who thinks that obviously has never flown in first class. They have several courses, they cook the food individually (not that nasty pasta with sauce and meat in the same metal tray) and it is of higher quality.

  • Totally agree. Not all airline food is created equal. There is even a significant difference between how domestic and international economy and business is prepared.

  • Yeah but 4X the ticket price?Think how much that $6K would improve your hotel room.I guess being reletivly short at 5’9″ and not really needing the legroom I would never fly 1st class and it’s certainly not worth it for the food.

  • every one chooses an airlines for a reason, price, then when you travel business it’s price then flat bed then service on board if one is not up to scratch they never come back so attention to details is important and for a british airline afternoon tea is important
    same as when you flight from europe to india you will get mainly curries and not pasta, attention to passenger needs and wants

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