Virgin Australia is turning the heat up on rival Air New Zealand by giving away hundreds of burgers in Auckland as part of a wider campaign to highlight changes to its operations here.
The airline has partnered with the White Lady to hand out 500 burgers at Takutai Square, Britomart at lunchtime on Wednesday. Last week it invited New Zealand meat firms to supply beef for its transtasman flights.
The Kiwi-targeted "Got Beef" campaign comes following a widely publicised Air New Zealand partnership with the United States maker of the synthetic Impossible Burger. That meatless burger is being served to premium passengers on flights between Los Angeles and Auckland.
"New Zealand is a key market for Virgin Australia, and supporting the local meat industry is just one way in which we are reinforcing our commitment to the country, our guests and local suppliers,'' said Virgin's general manager of customer experience and product, Tash Tobias.
The airline has had responses from about 20 potential suppliers so far.
Virgin is also expected to announce changes to cabin products on Wednesday after several announcements of more transtasman flying following a bust up with current partner Air New Zealand.
The two airlines will go their separate ways from October 28 following a seven-year commercial alliance in what is becoming a rancorous divorce.
Virgin Australia has announced new flights between Newcastle and Auckland, Melbourne and Queenstown, and Sydney and Wellington as well as increased services between Auckland and major Australian cities.
Air New Zealand will also fly more transtasman services and, after October 28, will code share with Virgin's rival, Qantas, in domestic markets in this country and across the Tasman.
Virgin says it teamed up with the White Lady because the 70-year-old burger joint was such an established Kiwi institution.
The White Lady was founded by Bryan (Pop) Washer — seven years before McDonalds — to cater for the 6 o'clock swill market initially selling ''pea, pie and pud'' before moving into burgers in the 1960s.
Washer's son Peter and grandson Max now run the business from two outlets in downtown Auckland, including the traditional pie cart parked up 365 nights a year.
Max Washer said the business had operated without a break for 70 years and on the weekends was open around the clock.
Five staff would serve up its King Burger (melted cheese, beef, onions, a fried egg and lettuce) between 12 noon and 2pm. He said staff had plenty of experience at mass catering, serving up to 6000 burgers during a busy week.
''We've got pretty good systems,'' said Washer.