Virgin Australia Is Rethinking Its US-Style Plan To Thank Veterans Onboard

Virgin Australia appears to have wound back plans to give priority boarding status and public thanks to Australian military veterans, one day after the airline’s chief executive revealed it would acknowledge former service members before take-off.

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The carrier today announced it will put CEO John Borghetti‘s plan on ice, pending further consultation with veterans groups.

Virgin Australia was slated to join other brands, including Foxtel, as part of a new private-sector push to recognise Australian veterans.

The move has been supported by Prime Minister Scott Morrison and Minister for Defence Industry Steve Ciobo, the latter of whom told Sky News “it’s tremendous that they come on board and that they honour and salute the service of those men and women”.

However, it has faced opposition from some of the people it was intended to honour.

Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester told ABC some veterans may feel uncomfortable at the spectacle at the departure gate, and that sentiment was echoed elsewhere.

Speaking to The Guardian, Neil James, executive director of the Australia Defence Association, said the American-style praise of veterans could be an odd fit in Australia’s cultural landscape.

James also suggested that kind of effusive public thanks, as proposed by Borghetti, may actually have negative effects on some veterans.

“There’s a fine line between embarrassing them and thanking them and, in some cases, where they’re suffering a psychological illness, effusively thanking them in public might not necessarily help them,” James said.

Meanwhile, John King, the interim national chair of the Retired Servicemen’s League, also told ABC that discounted fares for veterans would be pretty handy, too.

Judging by the instant response to the proposal, it seems unlikely Virgin Australia will go ahead with the plan, but anything is possible under Morrison’s new fair dinkum dogmatism.