Qantas woos passengers with Wagyu

13 Nov, 2014 07:19 AM
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CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, with his new economy class meal. Photo: Peter Rae
A sample menu for US flights included smoky barbecue beef, barramundi curry and chicken salad
CEO of Qantas, Alan Joyce, with his new economy class meal. Photo: Peter Rae

WAGYU beef isn't your typical airline food, particularly in economy.

But as Qantas Airways looks for new ways to entice international passengers and combat the perception that its $2 billion cost-cutting drive will hurt the flying experience, it plans to offer the gourmet option to those in even the cheapest seats.

But they will have to book ahead through the Select on Q-Eat website.

If you don't book ahead, there will be three other options, versus the two it had provided previously.

The new meals, served on a new white serving plate similar to a microwave dish, are 50 per cent larger than their tray-based predecessors.

But they dispense with the traditional side salad, cheese and biscuits.

The new meals will cost 40pc more to produce than the old ones, but the airline will save money by eliminating waste, making it a neutral cost outcome. A sample menu for US flights included smoky barbecue beef, barramundi curry and chicken salad. The menu will change seasonally.

"The Wagyu beef will go until next March and in March we will come up with a new choice," Qantas chief executive Alan Joyce said after eating the beef dish at a media launch of the new service.

The bread rolls will be pre-buttered in an environmentally friendly move that cuts down on the packaging.

Those passengers selecting special meals should get higher-quality food, such as vegetarian Asian noodles with tofu, vegetable and chilli.

The new meals will be rolled out progressively on international flights – including short trans-Tasman hops – from November 25.

Mr Joyce said with the new serving plates, the crew would be able to serve and clear meals up to 30 minutes faster, giving them more time for passengers.

Some other airlines offer three meal choices in economy class, including Virgin Australia Holdings and Etihad Airways on long-haul flights. But the fourth online-only option is unique to Qantas among its rivals.

Mr Joyce said there would continue to be a differentiation between meals in economy class and premium economy, although the gap would close.

"But we think people buy premium economy for that little bit of extra quality in the wine, that little bit of extra quality in the meals, but also the size of the seats," he said. "So we don't think this will have any impact between premium and economy."

The pre-selection option – now chosen by 20pc of the premium passengers for which it is available – will benefit Qantas and customers. It allows Qantas to load fewer meals and passengers to get their first choice. Qantas serves 5 million passengers in economy class on international flights each year.

Qantas has placed particular focus on serving food from its more than 1500 Australian suppliers. Passengers in economy class will be offered a welcome drink made by Bickford's, such as a lemon and elderflower concoction, after the seatbelt signs are turned off.

There will be Ruby and Roy's chocolate mousse for dessert and Weis ice cream for an in-flight snack.

Other snack options on the sample menu included beef sliders, cheese and biscuits, fresh fruit and Maltesers.

"We have a lot of first- and business-class suppliers who have helped to improve the product in economy," Mr Joyce said.

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