This week marks exactly 100 years since the end of World War One. As you would expect, there have been a flurry of announcements to mark the occasion. But a recent move by Virgin Australia has caused quite a stir.
Virgin Australia has announced that it will offer priority boarding to military veterans. The airline would also acknowledge their service to the country with special in-flight announcements.
In the United States, special treatment and public recognition for military veterans is common practice. When flying on American airlines, US military personnel receive priority boarding, special lounge access, free checked baggage and flight discounts. It’s not uncommon for this public recognition to result in a standing ovation from a plane full of passengers.
But Australia is not America. Our culture is vastly different. Australians, as a whole, have great respect for those that serve in the military. But we have a very different way of showing this. As one AFF member puts it:
As the son and grandson of veterans, I hate this idea. Maybe the [priority boarding] is ok, but some sort of announcement on-board would be just way over the top and smacks of that American-ness that I find a bit sickly. Of course I do respect those who serve, but I don’t need this shoved down my throat.
Many AFF members agree that this announcement by Virgin Australia, although well-intentioned, is misguided. Some members suggest that, if the airline wanted to offer something meaningful, they could instead provide members of the military with complimentary lounge access or flight discounts. Others have advocated a large donation to a charity that supports veterans.
As the wife of a Vietnam Vet, aunt of a Timor vet, daughter of a Battle of Britain vet and being ex Army nursing myself, I would cringe at the prospect of getting Priority Boarding… I would be more interested in a 5-10 % discount off airfares and perhaps even lounge access perks for the Vet and their spouse/carer.
It’s one of the most tokenistic, patronising ideas I’ve ever heard… if they really cared about veterans they’d do something useful like a donation to a support group. The rates of mental health issues and suicide among ADF veterans is disturbingly high and fixing that should be the focus, not a round of applause and priority boarding.
But others believe this is a good idea…
I think pro active recognition of those who have served their country – especially those who have come off the worse for it – is admirable. Just got to find the right balance.
Quite happy to see VA making this gesture for veterens, and I hope many others do something as well.
Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo has welcomed the proposal, congratulating Virgin Australia on being a “trailblazer”.
But Veterans’ Affairs Minister, Darren Chester, acknowledges that offering a discount might be more appropriate in an Australian context than public recognition.“ 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,” Chester said.
Virgin Australia has since announced it will rethink the policy and consult with the community after a public backlash.
What do you think – is this a respectful move by Virgin Australia, or misguided and opportunistic?
Join the discussion on the Australian Frequent Flyer forum: Veterans to receive Priority Boarding & “thank you for your service”