Virgin Australia did more than launch a class war today with its nation wide business class, but a drinks war, with free alcohol for the cheap seats.

Today’s announcement by Virgin Australia of near national coverage with its business class product had been promised some time ago, but in a sign of the all out nature of the contest for domestic travellers with Qantas and Jetstar, it also declared free beer and wine for all Saver fare economy flyers between Adelaide, Brisbane, Canberra, Melbourne, Perth and Sydney Mondays through Fridays between 4pm-7pm.

Of course this probably means that everyone of legal age flying at any fare level anywhere in Australia at any time other than the morning will be offered complimentary alcohol by Virgin Australia and Qantas before too long, as the incumbent raises the bar higher, so to speak.

Quite what Jetstar and Tiger do remains to be seen. The word ‘free’ isn’t in their lexicons.  Maybe they will make a virtue out of being alcohol free family friendly zones, for anyone shorter than 150 cms.

But plying travellers with complimentary drinks seems likely to be only a part of the coming struggle for ascendancy in the corporate or comfort-oriented market segment.

Maybe Qantas will get Miranda Kerr to model her latest lingerie on random services as part of her new gig as a flying kangaroo ambassador?

On the day when Virgin Australia’s rather select business class takes its official place as a competitor to the larger business class cabins of Qantas domestic flights the free drinks offer is a reminder that both carriers see economy flyers as vital to their plans as well.

If anyone can get a seat that is. A quick run through some of the more popular interstate offerings this afternoon showed Virgin Blue sold out on Friday on some flights, and with neither business class nor ‘saver’ seats available on others.

For some sky warriors who can never plan their Friday flights with precision a day in advance, it will be enough to drive them to drink, or, shudder, Jetstar or Tiger.