Virgin Australia has today announced the final three shortlisted beef suppliers who are in the running to supply their produce in meals on flights from New Zealand to Australia starting from October.
It is the latest step in Virgin's preparations to take on current partner Air New Zealand on routes across the Tasman. The two airlines will become direct competitors from October 28 after the New Zealand airline ditched Virgin after a seven-year partnership.
The shortlisted farms are: Beaumont Station, in Central Otago; Hinterland Fodds, a grouping of sheep and beef farmers in the central North Island, and Moreish Ltd, in Palmerston North.
Virgin Australia general manager, customer experience and product, Tash Tobias, said the airline was impressed with the quality and creativity of the applications.
"We received more than 45 high-quality applications from farmers all over New Zealand which shows the breadth of the amazing local farms and produce here," said Tobias.
The finalists would offer the best produce for new menu items which include beef tagine with cous cous and a beef salad.
Virgin Australia and its airline caterer, LSG Chefs, are now undergoing testing of the shortlisted suppliers' produce, assessing the taste characteristics, the quality of the product and the compatibility with the onboard menu.
Economy passengers would be able to choose from two hot options and a cold option, with selected dishes featuring beef.
Virgin Australia announced last month that guests would enjoy an all-inclusive fare on all transtasman flights from October 28, providing each guest with up to 23kg baggage, as well as a drink and a meal, and complementary inflight wi-fi for 15 minutes.
Qantas, now a domestic code share partner with Air New Zealand, offers full meals for all passengers as part of the ticket price while Air New Zealand and Jetstar offer food and beverages for sale.
Air New Zealand chief executive Christopher Luxon told the Herald last month the decision to not renew the Virgin deal was customer-led.
''Our customers were saying to us they didn't want to travel on the Virgin planes - we had issues around getting consistent product and service.''
But Virgin chief executive John Borghetti has said the alliance with Air New Zealand ''held back'' product on his airline across the Tasman.