Virgin's mile-high tea club

RPBERT UPE
Last updated 08:47 15/10/2013
Virgin Landscape

MILE HIGH TEA: Luke Mangan surprises passengers on board a Virgin flight on Monday.

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Virgin Australia flight VA555 to Perth took off as usual from Sydney on Monday morning, but the 250 passengers on board weren't in for the usual in-flight morning snack.

At 40,000 feet, flight attendants rolled out the highest high tea ever served in Australia.

The traditional three tiers of cakes, scones and sandwiches was prepared by the airline's celebrity chef, Luke Mangan, and his team who made more than 300 scones with homemade preserves and cream, 580 ribbon sandwiches and brewed more than 270 cups of English Breakfast tea.

The treat was served to the surprised passengers on the five-hour-35-minute transcontinental flight to mark Mangan's third year with the airline.

It also marked the arrival of Virgin Australia's seventh wide-bodied Airbus A330 aircraft, which from this month will operate on all Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth weekday services and two out of three Brisbane-Perth weekday services.

The wide-bodied A330s have replaced 737s progressively since 2012 and include seatback in-flight entertainment, leather seats, LED mood lighting and lie-flat beds in business class.

Virgin Australia's chief customer officer, Mark Hassell, said: "Our partnership with Luke Mangan and the expansion of the Airbus A330 fleet have been key to the airline's transformation [to a premium airline] over the past three years."

The expansion has included the introduction of business class from January 2012, including the only lie-flat beds on the transcontinental route.

Next year, Virgin Australia will move into a new terminal at Perth Airport.

Food has become a new battleground for airlines with Virgin using Luke Mangan as a selling point for its services while Qantas has a long-standing relationship with Neil Perry. The two airlines are locked in a battle over Australia's premium business travellers.

Other high profile chefs working with airlines include Heston Blumenthal with British Airways, Michelin superstar Joel Robuchon with Air France, Carlo Cracco of Milan for Singapore Airlines and Peter Gordon with Air New Zealand.

Qantas recently introduced 'pop-up' restaurants at airports across Australia featuring food from different high-profile restaurants and chefs.

Meanwhile, even Tigerair has taken a step-up in its on-board catering by introducing hot breakfast items to its menu.

Robert Upe travelled courtesy of Virgin Australia.

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- Sydney Morning Herald

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