Aussie airline aborts veterans-first boarding plan before takeoff

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

AN Australian airline has announced plans to allow priority boarding for members of the Australian Defence Force. However, many veterans and regular citizens have voiced their concern about such a move, calling it a political stunt to boost Morrison's flagging popularity in the lead up to the next election.

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.

Prominent Australia veteran Catherine McGregor tweeted her distaste with Virgin's decision saying she would not dream of walking on an aircraft ahead of other passengers and more time and money should be spent on suicide prevention and health support.

Returned Services League president James Brown, meanwhile, said he would be "embarrassed" to be on the receiving end of Virgin's plans, and pointed out that "our priority list for veterans is clearly very different to the government's".

"You could include me in that".

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"They do work that I could never have contemplated doing, but are providing more of a service to more people than I ever did".

Qantas said in a statement on its website it would not be offering veterans priority boarding.

However, Neil James, the head of the Australian Defence Association, called the move "tokenistic", adding that it was an aspect of American culture that would translate well in Australia.

TALKING POINT | "Thank you for your service". "That's a really worry", he told ABC Radio Melbourne.

Virgin CEO John Borghetti put the chocks back on the plan.

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The government scheme would see members of Australia's armed forces receive a discount card and lapel pin so that participating businesses can offer discounts or benefits to veterans (putting aside that in Australia we traditionally use the term veterans to describe retired members of the armed services).

"Once the veterans have their cards and lapel pins, they will simply need to present them during the boarding process to be given priority boarding and be recognised on board". "I fly Virgin. This puts me off".

Defence Industry Minister Steven Ciobo says it's part of a wide-ranging approach to supporting veterans.

"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".

On Monday afternoon, Virgin Australia noted the pushback its proposal, taking to social media to saying it was "very mindful of the response that our announcement about recognising people who have served in defence has had today" and was prepared to drop in-flight announcements if that was the feedback from consultation.

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