Qantas is facing pressure to give priority boarding to war veterans and salute them before take-off after Virgin made a commitment to do so.
Virgin’s new commitment comes off the back of the government’s decision to give veterans discount cards and lapel pins along with a half-a-billion dollar extension of the War Memorial.
Defence Industry Minister Steve Ciobo has congratulated Virgin for being a “trailblazer” and said it “would be terrific” if Qantas matched Virgin’s pledge, according to Fairfax.
Under the new campaign, veterans will be given first access to Virgin aircraft and saluted at take-off.
“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,” Virgin Australia CEO John Borghetti said on Sunday.
But not all veterans are happy with the new commitment.
Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester told the ABC some may be more appreciative of discounted air tickets.
“Australians by nature tend to keep their light under a bushel. Some of our veterans would be quite happy to get on the plane without anyone knowing they are there,” he said.
Retired army officer Ray Martin told Fairfax veterans need practical support, not lapels and gestures.
NSW RSL President James Brown echoed Martin’s sentiment, urging the government to match its $500 million War Memorial boost with funding for mental health and disability services.
A Qantas spokesman has told Fairfax the airline is conscious that they 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.”
Many Australians, veterans included, have taken to Twitter to voice their disapproval of the push for Qantas to match Virgin’s commitment:
Oh this has to stop. Returned Service members deserve our respect, not imported sentimental nonsense. Cheap flights? Great. More money on their health, kids education, housing – do it.
Daily flag waving? $500m memorials? It’s not us, just stop it. https://t.co/3c2Xz1fRqO
— Julian McMahon (@jmcmahonlawyer) November 4, 2018
Has this been thought through? Why just one airline & not the ‘national carrier’. Has it been checked with veteran focus groups? I couldn’t think of anything more discomforting for vets. Isn’t this just wafting around patriotism US-style without substance? https://t.co/ykgb4OKqkB
— Roman Quaedvlieg (@quaedvliegs) November 4, 2018
I would not dream of walking on to an aircraft ahead of the other passengers as a veteran. Can’t imagine too many people I served with doing this either. Spend more on suicide prevention and health support. Faux American bollocks 👎👎
— Catherine McGregor (@CateMc3273) November 4, 2018
— James Scullin (@JamesScullin) November 4, 2018
.@VirginAustralia I am a veteran and a Gold Virgin frequent flyer. You can shove your priority boarding and onboard greeting. If you want to help veterans, sponsor a medical institute. WE ARE NOT AMERICANS. If you go ahead with this disgrace, I’m moving to @Qantas #auspol
— Old Galoot (@OldGaloot) November 4, 2018