After criticism of the policy being ‘tokenistic’, Virgin Australia has said it will rethink its pledge to give ADF veterans priority seating on flights.
The pledge would have also seen any veterans who boarded a flight be given a special acknowledgement in pre-flight announcements. The announcement of the new policy closely followed an announcement by the Government to issue discount cards and lapel pins to veterans as well as organise a half-a-billion dollar upgrade to the War Memorial in Canberra.
Despite the policy’s apparent good intentions, it was met with criticism from several veterans as well as the Australian Defence Association. Following this, Virgin Australia issued a series of tweets that said it would review its policy decision with respect to the opinions of veterans on its own staff as well a “community groups”.
It said that it would discontinue the policy if it was found not to be “appropriate” by their review process.
The head of the Australia Defence Association, Neil James, said that the move from Virgin Australia was “tokenistic” and compared it to American cultural values about the military that were not necessarily shared by Australians.
In an interview with ABC radio Melbourne, Mr James questioned if the policy would create an issue where individuals with similarly valued careers (such as ambulance drivers and police) would also need to be added to a “queue of such announcements”.
Qantas, which said it would not follow suit with Virgin Australia, explained its decision by saying that the airline carried “exceptional people every day” and that it would be hard to single out a single group for special priority boarding and public acknowledgment.
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.