Virgin to reconsider policy to give priority seating to Vets


On social media, some veterans expressed they would simply be happy with discounted flights and that they would probably not feel comfortable getting special acknowledgement every time they boarded a plane.

Neil James, from the Australia Defence Association, said Virgin's idea "smacked of tokenism" and veterans would much prefer practical action over public praise. Many carriers also offer discounts on prices and special deals on baggage.

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".

Mr Chester also welcomed the announcement, but acknowledged many veterans would sooner embrace discounted airfares.

Critics, including many veterans, said the policy was at odds with Australia's egalitarian national ethos. "American nonsense. Will not fly @Virgin if this goes ahead".

Twenty-five year military veteran Rodger Shanahan, now a research fellow at the respected Lowy Institute think tank, said the ploy would be studied as an example of how not to handle public relations.

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

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"When I talk to veterans from other countries, they are just so touched by the culture of respect Australians have for veterans. We're not quite as loud or noisy as that", said Mike Carlton, the author of several books about Australia's military history. "Nearly any veteran I can think of would be hideously embarrassed by being singled out like that", Carlton added.

"A commonsense idea would have been providing assistance like restoring the service discount that used to apply on domestic airlines up to the early 1980s", he said.

"That is, there are so few Australians now with any understanding of military service and war", he said.

Qantas decided against following Virgin's lead.

The bigger problem with putting military personnel on "an impossibly tall pedestal" is that failing to thank so many others who serve the community in sometimes risky, high-pressure and potentially traumatic situations, such as emergency service workers, as well as aged care and disability workers, and special-needs teachers leaves him feeling "very uneasy" when there's already a range of support for ex-servicepeople ranging from the Department of Veteran's Affairs toe advocacy groups such as the RSL, and Legacy.

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

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