FlyerTalk members based in the United States have long discussed and debated about passengers who are military personnel receiving special treatment and benefits when traveling on domestic airlines — such as a complimentary upgrade to a seat in the premium class cabin or priority boarding — leading to the question of whether or not they should receive these perks simply because they are military personnel.
Some FlyerTalk members believe that because military personnel sacrifice their lives defending their country while deployed in some war-torn area for months at a time away from their families in spartan conditions, they should be thanked by civilians and airline employees with gestures of appreciation — such as relinquishing their seats to military personnel when upgraded whether during the holidays or other times of the year, for example.
Other FlyerTalk members, however, believe that life in the military is a chosen profession paid by collecting taxes from civilians and companies such as airlines where the risks and living conditions are known. They argue further as to why military personnel should warrant special treatment when people in professions where they risk their lives — such as police officers and firefighters — do not. The argument has even been extended to include passengers whose professions are in fields where lives are saved every day, such as doctors and nurses.
Still other FlyerTalk members argue that when a person actively serving in the military is given an upgrade by a fellow passenger, their own upgrades have supposedly been taken away from them. This, of course, leads to a separate argument as to whether or not passengers have the right to give away their upgrades once awarded to them — but that is an issue for another time.
Military personnel have been recognized in numerous ways aboard aircraft. They have not been charged for beverages, where passengers applauded after hearing an announcement to that effect. They have enjoyed priority boarding — in some cases, even before passengers seated in the premium class cabin. There are cases where military personnel pay special airfares when they book their flights in appreciation for their service.
You might have noticed that some of the links in this article are for discussions on FlyerTalk which have been closed and locked. The reason is because the debate pertaining to perks and benefits for military personnel can be rather contentious…
…but I noticed something else in my research for this article: most of the discussions regarding the debate over perks and benefits for military personnel are primarily in the forums on FlyerTalk dedicated to domestic airlines in the United States.
Why is that the case?
Could the reason be the patriotism many Americans feel with regard to everything that has to do with the United States? Is there something about saluting a red, white and blue flag with stars and stripes as opposed to saluting flags with a red maple leaf, three colored bars or a red circle?
I am proud to be an American, but I do not adorn my car with American flags or attend Independence Day parades. That is simply my choice, which does not mean I like or appreciate the United States any less than those who do those things — nor do I disparage them in any way. That is part of the beauty of living in the United States: the supposed freedom to celebrate or commemorate any holiday or milestone of significance any way that you choose.
All right — for those of you who bring up airport security checkpoints and the Transportation Security Administration, the “loss of freedom” and “security theater” arguments and debates are for a different discussion on a different day.
So, as I asked before: is the passionate debate about perks and benefits for military personnel rooted in patriotism? A love for a country which is arguably one of the best in which to live? A pride which swells to the point of being perceived as pompous, perhaps? Is it about showing an appreciation and respect for a special group of people who sacrifice themselves to protect the freedoms and the ways of life in the United States? Is the debate steeped in politics?
What about military personnel themselves — should they accept the gift of a free upgrade, whether by a fellow passenger or a flight attendant? Are they violating any rules or breaching any ethics or morals when they do so?
Why is it that you do not see people based outside of the United States embroiled in a debate over whether or not military personnel should be given an upgraded seat in the premium class cabin aboard an airplane simply because they are in the armed forces?
I am not sure of the answers to these questions — nor have I taken any sides in this debate. Believe me when I say I am definitely not passionate either way about this issue, despite the contrary for many FlyerTalk members based in the United States. However, I do want to hear your thoughts.