Published: Thu, November 08, 2018
Worldwide | By Isabel Fisher

Aussie airline aborts veterans-first boarding plan before takeoff

Aussie airline aborts veterans-first boarding plan before takeoff

"It seems to be all about branding and veterans are the brand du jour", he said.

Shanahan said the problem with adopting the USA idea without adapting it for Australia is that the veteran community "is a very broad church".

"It's a very American thing to do".

"It's just not in our nature to do stuff like that".

"We're investing a lot more money into, in particular, veterans counselling services to help them with the psychological adjustment. They would hate the notoriety of being singled out like that".

Thousands have expressed their disapproval and vowed to boycott the airline after it signalled it would give military veterans special boarding and in-flight privileges; a move endorsed by Prime Minister Scott Morrison.

Some critics said the policy could have a detrimental effect on veterans with post-traumatic stress disorder.

At least three American carriers offer some priorities or upgrades to USA military personnel, particularly those actively serving and traveling in uniform.

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

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.

On Sunday, it was reported Virgin Australia would offer ADF veterans priority boarding and acknowledge them before flights.

"With all due respect to the many veterans out there, the government needs to focus on mental health support, don't put veterans through rigorous assessment to get funding/pensions, more older vets support", said one Twitter user. "It was a gesture genuinely done to pay respects to those who have served our country", the airline said.

On Monday, Qantas, the national carrier, said it would not provide veterans with priority seats.

"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", a Qantas spokesperson told media.

Another agreed, writing: "Virgin Australia we are Australians..."

"Over the coming months, we will consult with community groups and our own team members who have served in defence to determine the best way forward".

Neil James, from the Australia Defence Association, said Virgin's idea "smacked of tokenism" and veterans would much prefer practical action over public praise.

The announcement was compared to the ways of the USA where some airlines ask that passengers stand and applaud for service men and women on board.

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