Virgin Australia has copped some backlash after it announced it would give priority boarding to military veterans. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled
Virgin Australia has copped some backlash after it announced it would give priority boarding to military veterans. Picture: AAP/Dan Peled

Backlash to Virgin’s new boarding rule

VIRGIN Australia has copped unexpected heat over its decision to honour Australian war veterans on its flights.

In a move similar to what is seen in the United States, Australian military veterans on Virgin Australia flights will get priority boarding and their presence publicly acknowledged during in-flight announcements.

"We acknowledge the important contribution veterans have made to keeping our country safe and the role they play in our community," Virgin Australia chief executive officer John Borghetti told Brisbane's Sunday Mail.

"Once the veterans have their cards and lapel pins, they will simply need to present them during the boarding process to be given priority boarding and be recognised on board."

The plan does not appear to include airfare discounts for veterans.

American airlines have long asked passengers to stand and applaud service men and women on flights and thank them for their service. Many carriers also offer discounts on prices and special deals on baggage.

The federal government this week announced a discount card for returned service men and women, along with a jobs program to connect veterans with suitable employers.

Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo said it was "tremendous" for the airline to salute the service of soldiers.

"If we can get though not just airlines, but if we can do this across the board, I think that is part of reinforcing respect in the Australian community for these men and women," Mr Ciobo told Sky News.

"I want to congratulate Virgin for, in many respects, being a trailblazer." Mr Chester also welcomed the announcement, but acknowledged many veterans would sooner embrace discounted airfares.

"Australians, by nature, tend to keep their light under a bushel. Some would be happy to get on the plane without anyone knowing they are there," he said.

But not everyone is thrilled with Virgin Australia's announcement.

"Correct me if I'm wrong, but surely there are far better, more suitable ways of honouring and thanking our war veterans? This all feels like one big ad for Virgin Australia," Leo James commented on Twitter.

"Honouring #ausdef veterans if they choose to fly Virgin Australia? Sounds like commercialising Australians service personnel to me. Most I've met + know are pretty humble, they don't want a fuss," Andrew Heslop wrote.

"Are we also going to thank paramedics, nurses, doctors, teachers, social workers - those who also serve society? It elevates one group of people above others," Collette Snowdon tweeted. "Where does it end? American nonsense. Will not fly @Virgin if this goes ahead."

 

The Australian War Memorial in Canberra will get a $500 million facelift. Picture: iStock
The Australian War Memorial in Canberra will get a $500 million facelift. Picture: iStock

Virgin Australia's announcement came as the Federal Government revealed a suite of new measures for veterans, including a discount card for returned service men and women and a program to help them find suitable work.

The Government has also committed $500 million to an expansion of the Australian War Memorial.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the need to nurture respect for veterans was "brought home for me heavily during the Invictus Games" in Sydney in October.

"When I talk to veterans from other countries, they are just so touched by the culture of respect Australians have for veterans," he said.

"Prince Harry said the same thing to me (at the Games). It was really on display and I just don't want to take that for granted.

"And as a government I want to ensure we are doing everything we can to protect, preserve and facilitate it."

- with AAP


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