In a move reminiscent of US airlines, Virgin Australia has announced it will give Aussie war veterans priority boarding as well as publicly thank them during flights.
Though on the surface a noble gesture, the initiative has received as much (or more) criticism as it has praise from veterans, politicians and the public.
Speaking to ABC Radio Melbourne, Australian Defence Association (ADA) head Neil James called the move “tokenistic” and said it overlooked the roles of others in the community.
"The first problem is that there's other forms of service to the community … like policemen and ambos, and so would you actually start a queue of such announcements? That's a real worry," he remarked.
Veteran Affairs Minister Darren Chester was more open to the idea, but acknowledged other suggestions that veterans would rather have discounted airfares.
"Australians, by nature, tend to keep their light under a bushel, so I think some of the veterans would be happy to get on a plane without anyone knowing that they're there," he told the ABC's Insiders.
Catherine McGregor, formerly Australia's highest ranking transgender military officer, described Virgin's move as "faux-American bollocks".
"I would not dream of walking on to an aircraft ahead of the other passengers as a veteran," she tweeted.
"Can't imagine too many people I served with doing this either. Spend more on suicide prevention and health support."
Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo was among those to laud the move, telling Sky News Qantas should follow Virgin’s example.
"I think it's tremendous that they come on board and that they honour and salute the service of those men and women who have served our nation in uniform putting themselves in harm's way," he said.
But Qantas has already ruled out following VA’s lead, saying it carried "exceptional people every day".
"We have utmost respect for current and former Defence Force personnel, and we honour their service in a few ways during the year, including special announcements on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, and through our partnership with the Australian War Memorial," a spokesman said.
"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 difficult to single out a particular group as part of the boarding process."
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