Virgin Australia "mindful" of reactions to veterans recognition initiative

Virgin Australia priority boarding for veterans derided by defence association

After criticism of the policy being "tokenistic", Virgin Australia has said it will rethink its pledge to give ADF veterans priority seating on flights.

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

The prime minister, Scott Morrision, and the defence industry minister, Steven Ciobo, have welcomed the move but the ADA said "it would be better to improve the practical assistance veterans need rather than increase tokenism".

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.

American Airlines automatically offers upgrades to troops traveling in uniform, United Airlines offers service members discounted tickets, and JetBlue offers discounts and priority boarding.

"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 said in an interview with Brisbane's Sunday Mail.

On social media, some veterans expressed they would simply be happy with discounted flights and that they would probably not feel comfortable getting special acknowledgement every time they boarded a plane.

A Qantas spokesperson said in a statement that although the airline has the utmost respect for current and former defence force personnel, they have no desire to follow in Virgin's footsteps.

"Australians, by nature, tend to keep their light under a bushel".

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"Some veterans would be embarrassed by this - in fact, many would be - and some of them with psychological conditions, you actually risk making their problem worse".

"Honouring #ausdef veterans if they choose to fly Virgin Australia?"

While military service is respected, and major anniversaries of the Battle of the Coral Sea and World War I have heightened awareness of past sacrifice, Australians are broadly low-key in their praise.

Hours later, Virgin Australia seemed to suggest it was reversing its decision.

However, callers to Andrew Dickens were more mixed about where or not the same treatment should be given here. "American nonsense. Will not fly @Virgin if this goes ahead".

"We're conscious that we carry a lot of exceptional people every day, including veterans, police, paramedics, nurses, firefighters and others and so we find it hard to single out a particular group as part of the boarding process", Qantas said in a statement.

"Prince Harry said the same thing to me (at the Games)".

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

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