Tuesday, 23 April, 2019

Virgin Australia to offer priority boarding to military veterans

Virgin Australia priority boarding for veterans derided by defence association 'I'd never dream of it': Virgin's plan to board veterans before others divides opinion
Jeannette Daniel | 07 November, 2018, 08:44

The airline announced they would be taking a leaf out of U.S. airlines and honour defence force veterans on its flights before take-off.

A move by Virgin to give priority boarding to veterans and thank them publicly for their service has been derided by the Australia Defence Association (ADA) as lacking commonsense.

"I would not dream of walking on to an aircraft ahead of the other passengers as a veteran", Ms McGregor said on Twitter and called for more money to be spent on suicide prevention and health care.

Oh, and as several veterans themselves have already pointed out, it also offers priority boarding to vets at the expense of people who actually need it, like people with disabilities, or parents with kids.

The proposal echoes similar acknowledgment in the United States, although some carriers also offer discounts to veterans.

However, Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester acknowledged some veterans would be uneasy about the extra attention, and would prefer discounted airfares. "I don't think veterans want to use priority boarding".

"We are very mindful of the response that our announcement about recognising people who have served in defence has had today", he said.

Twenty-five year military veteran Rodger Shanahan, now a research fellow at the respected Lowy Institute think tank, said the ploy would be studied as an example of how not to handle public relations.

More news: Falcons Fly Past Redskins, 38-14

Mr James said the airline's idea was a symptom of a deeper problem.

"It would be a good idea to specify in the contract that as a precedent and example to civil industry make sure you employ some veterans", he said. I won't fly you. The ledger was square.

The bigger problem with putting military personnel on "an impossibly tall pedestal" is that failing to thank so many others who serve the community in sometimes risky, high-pressure and potentially traumatic situations, such as emergency service workers, as well as aged care and disability workers, and special-needs teachers leaves him feeling "very uneasy" when there's already a range of support for ex-servicepeople ranging from the Department of Veteran's Affairs toe advocacy groups such as the RSL, and Legacy.

"Most of my cohort would rather not be defined by their military service", he said.

Moves to introduce a similar salute on Australian airlines are gathering momentum, with Virgin Australia joining a Federal Government campaign to recognise defence force members and Qantas facing predictable pressure to follow suit.

"Ideas like this float to the top, whereas in the old days when almost every family had someone who had served in the defence force, common sense would have cut in a lot earlier". Following this, Virgin Australia issued a series of tweets that said it would review its policy decision with respect to the opinions of veterans on its own staff as well a "community groups". Another agreed, writing: "Virgin Australia we are Australians..."

"A spokesperson for Qantas said the airline had the "utmost respect for current and former defence force personnel" and special announcements were made on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day".

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