Virgin Airlines, founded by Sir Richard Branson in 1984, is one of the world’s most recognizable airline brands. Known for their high quality service and fun, youthful image, Virgin aims to make flying an enjoyable experience for all passengers. One of the perks Virgin is best known for is their complimentary food and beverages, including alcoholic drinks, on many flights. But do all Virgin flights serve free alcohol, and what types of drinks can you expect? Here is an in-depth look at Virgin’s alcohol policy.
Do you get free alcoholic drinks on all Virgin flights?
The short answer is no, not all Virgin flights include complimentary alcoholic beverages. Virgin’s alcohol policy varies based on the airline (Virgin Atlantic, Virgin Australia, etc), flight length, and travel class. Here are some general guidelines:
- On Virgin Atlantic long haul international flights, alcohol is free in Upper Class and Premium Economy. In Economy it is only free during one service.
- On Virgin Atlantic short haul international and domestic UK flights, alcohol is free in Upper Class only.
- On Virgin Australia international and domestic flights, alcohol is free in Business Class on flights over 3 hours. It is buy-on-board in Economy.
- On Virgin America domestic US flights, alcohol is free in First Class and Main Cabin Select. It is buy-on-board in Main Cabin.
So while every passenger can purchase alcohol on flights for a fee, complimentary drinks are primarily offered to Upper Class/Business Class passengers on longer haul routes. Even in Economy, international travelers enjoy alcohol with at least one meal service. But domestic Economy fliers should expect to pay.
What types of complimentary alcohol are available?
The selection of free alcoholic drinks varies by airline and cabin. Here are some examples of what’s on offer:
- Upper Class – Wide range of premium liquor brands, champagne, wine, beer, cocktails
- Premium Economy – Beer, wine, limited selection of liquors and cocktails
- Economy – Beer, wine, and a cocktail during meal services
Popular choices include Gordon’s gin, Grey Goose vodka, Bombay Sapphire gin, Bacardi rum, and champagne from a rotating selection of Moët & Chandon, Veuve Clicquot and Laurent-Perrier.
- Business Class – Quality Australian and international wines, beers, spirits, champagne
- Economy – Ability to purchase from a Buy-on-Board menu
Standard options include wines from Jacob’s Creek or Tyrrell’s, Pure Blonde beer, and Baileys, Johnnie Walker or Smirnoff spirits.
- First Class – Premium wines and cocktails curated by designer Julianna Bass
- Main Cabin Select – Regional craft beers and premium wines
- Main Cabin – Ability to purchase from a Buy-on-Board menu
Virgin America partners with respected California vineyards to offer private label reds and whites. Their cocktails feature trendy ingredients like elderflower, basil, and ginger beer.
So while selection varies, passengers in premium cabins can expect a high quality, diverse range of popular alcohol choices included. Even in Economy, the complimentary drinks provided are generally brand-name and quite drinkable.
How much alcohol can you drink on a Virgin flight?
There is no set limit on the number of alcoholic drinks passengers can consume aboard a Virgin flight. However, flight attendants are trained to politely cut off passengers who appear extremely intoxicated as a safety precaution. Some general policies include:
- Passengers may continue ordering drinks as long as flight attendants judge them to not be dangerously impaired.
- Intoxicated passengers may be moved to a different seat or denied further alcohol service.
- Drinking your own duty free alcohol is prohibited on flights.
- Alcohol may not be served to passengers under legal drinking age.
So while you won’t get a quantified maximum number of drinks, flight attendants will monitor passenger behavior and curtail extreme overconsumption. Legally, they have authority to protect passenger safety in the air.
Virgin also promotes responsible drinking with reminders like “Jet lag and alcohol don’t mix, so drink wisely.” Dehydration at altitude can increase intoxication effects, so crew may suggest water instead of another cocktail. But for the average passenger enjoying a few glasses of wine or beer responsibly with a meal or to unwind, there are generally no restrictions.
Can you access the free alcohol in Economy?
As outlined above, Virgin’s alcohol policy provides complimentary drinks in Economy Class on international flights only, during main meal services. If you are hoping to enjoy free-flowing alcohol in Economy on a Virgin flight, here are a few tips:
- Only order alcohol during mealtimes when it is free. In between meals, you will need to pay.
- Politely request a second cocktail, wine, or beer when crews come through the cabin for drink orders.
- If you want more than two drinks with a meal, you will probably need to pay.
- Order higher quantity or higher proof drinks (double gin and tonic vs wine) to maximize your free alcohol.
While crews want to provide good service, they also need to limit overconsumption. So choose your free drinks wisely, enjoy them with your meal, accept any “cut offs” gracefully, and you can make the most of the complimentary alcohol policy in Economy.
What’s the best way to guarantee free alcohol in-flight?
The guaranteed way to enjoy unlimited free alcoholic drinks on your Virgin flight is to book into Upper Class or Business Class cabins on long haul routes. Only premium cabin passengers have unfettered access to top-shelf liquor, champagne, cocktails, wines, and beers. Here are a few pointers for accessing free alcohol:
- Book Upper Class on Virgin Atlantic, or Business Class on Virgin Australia for routes longer than 3 hours.
- Request premium cabins when redeeming miles for an upgrade.
- Look for discounted Premium Economy fares, which sometimes come with drinks.
- Travel during off-peak times and ask nicely for a cabin upgrade at the airport.
While there are never guarantees with upgrades, booking the highest class your budget allows is the surest way to enjoy free flowing champagne, wine, and spirits in-flight on Virgin.
What about special occasions – can you celebrate with alcohol?
Not only does Virgin serve free drinks to Upper Class and Business Class passengers, they often celebrate special occasions with complimentary alcohol as well. Examples include:
- On transatlantic flights, Virgin Atlantic serves a welcome cocktail to all passengers after take-off to “toast the journey.”
- On holidays like Valentine’s Day or Christmas, all passengers may receive a themed surprise cocktail.
- Upper Class passengers can preorder gift bottles of champagne or wine to celebrate anniversaries, birthdays, honeymoons, etc.
- Passengers who identify themselves as newlyweds often receive free champagne from crew.
So if you are flying Virgin on a special occasion like your birthday or anniversary, let the crew know! There is a good chance you will be offered a complimentary celebratory glass of bubbly. It’s part of the Virgin ethos to make travel memorable and fun.
Can you drink alcohol purchased duty-free on the plane?
One important note is that while Virgin sells duty-free liquor on board, passengers are prohibited from consuming any duty free alcohol during the flight. All alcoholic beverages must be served by flight attendants only. Some reasons for this policy include:
- Crews need to monitor passenger alcohol intake.
- Outside containers can seem suspicious for security reasons.
- Airlines want to make profit from alcohol sales.
- Serving your own alcohol disrupts the service flow.
So while you might be tempted to purchase a nice bottle of Grey Goose from duty free to drink in-flight, know that this is strictly forbidden. Any duty free alcohol is meant to be enjoyed at your destination. On board, stick to the drinks served by the professionals and avoid getting in trouble with crews!
While not every Virgin flight offers unlimited free pours, their alcohol policy is generally seen as generous by airline standards, especially for Upper Class and Business Class travellers. On long haul routes, premium cabins can expect top-notch liquor and wines at no extra cost, while Economy has the ability to indulge in a drink or two during mealtimes. By choosing your cabin, flight length, and drink options wisely, you can maximize the complimentary alcohol allowances Virgin provides. So while not every passenger receives free-flowing champagne, Virgin does make efforts to create a spirited, celebratory in-flight experience when possible. Moderation, politeness, and sticking to crew instructions will ensure your journey with Virgin is as memorable, enjoyable and responsible as possible.