In a long-overdue move, Qantas is giving its domestic coach passengers some love. The airline is substantially upgrading its catering offer and overhauling the menu. Qantas will re-introduce hot meals. Best of all, beer and wine will be complimentary for all coach class passengers across Qantas domestic and regional flights.

Qantas acknowledged inflight services, including catering, were trimmed last year. But in a statement, Chief Customer Officer Stephanie Tully said;

“We’re pleased to bring back some of our most popular options as customers take to the skies with Qantas again.”

Qantas rolls out its own beer

As Qantas beefs up its inflight coach offering, Ms Tully points out that passengers flying with the airline know exactly what to expect inflight. This could be taken as a thinly veiled swipe at local arch-rival Virgin Australia.

While Qantas starts handing out roast chicken with tomato, garlic, and lemon sauce for dinner, Virgin Australia suggests its coach passengers can BYO. Even Virgin Australia’s business class passengers are currently making do with a packet of pretzels and wine in plastic cups.

Qantas notes they are the only domestic airline offering a full meal service, including at breakfast and dinner. But the shorter domestic routes, including key capital city routes between Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, will have to wait until March to see the improvements.

Cutting to the all-important matter of the beer – it’s not every day an airline has a beer bottled exclusively for onboard consumption. Simple Flying has done some research to determine whether Qantas Centenary lager passes the pub test.

Lion Nathan tells Simple Flying the beer is properly called James Squire Centenary Edition Australian Lager. There’s absolutely nothing wrong with a cold bottle of James Squire. The beer’s alcohol content is 4.2%. The brewer says the beer, made from all Australian ingredients, combines easy drinking and an uplifting taste.

“The use of Vienna malt adds flavor without added body while late addition of hops in the boil provides soft fruity and floral notes.”

Qantas updates booking policy for flight changes

Underlying the catering upgrade and free drinks is a concerted move by Qantas to hoover up as much domestic market share as it can. Within Australia, internal border restrictions have eased somewhat, and it is becoming easier to move between states. Those interstate flights form the engine room of Qantas’ revenue and profitability. Qantas is determined to get as many interstate passengers onto its planes as it possibly can.

Reinforcing the inflight service boost is a sale offering one million domestic seats from AU$99. Qantas is also updating its booking policy. Qantas will now allow unlimited flight date changes until at least January 2022 for tickets booked before the end of April 2021.

“To help manage the uncertainty, we’ve introduced the highest level of flexibility in the market so people can plan their next trip with confidence,” says Stephanie Tully.

Qantas outplays its local rivals

Coming up against Qantas is a seriously weakened Virgin Australia. That airline is now chasing a mid-market strategy. Virgin Australia axed the bulk of their inflight catering after the airline went into administration. But the airline said late last year they’d be introducing “an exciting and fresh buy onboard menu” for its coach passengers early in 2021. Still no word on that.

Inflight catering on a short domestic trip might be a little thing. But it is another piece in the bigger puzzle where Qantas is comprehensively outplaying its smaller competitor.

Meanwhile, subject to internal borders staying open, local upstart airline, Rex, is ready to begin competing against Qantas on the routes between Sydney and Melbourne and Sydney and Brisbane. Rex is also positioning itself as more mid-market than Qantas.

Simple Flying approached Rex to ask about the extent of their catering offering. Rex told us a complimentary “snack” along with water and tea or coffee is on offer for coach cabin passengers. Other drinks, including alcoholic beverages, will be available for purchase.

In addition to its Chairman’s Lounges, Qantas also advises it has reopened the vast majority of its 35 Qantas Club and Business Lounges across Australia. You’ll probably be able to find Qantas Centenary lager in there as well.

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