Virgin Australia officials are walking back an announcement that the airline would offer priority boarding and an inflight recognition for those who have served in the military. This, after some veterans groups objected to being singled out for attention. The carrier said it would rework its plans after consulting with current and former service members.
Virgin Australia officials were caught off guard after announcing new policies intended to honor military veterans. The plan to offer priority boarding and a welcome message for current and former service members was widely panned by veterans groups and the airline was forced to reconsider the move entirely.
“We are very mindful of the response that our announcement about recognizing people who have served in defense has had today,” the airline said in a mea culpa posted to Twitter on Sunday.
If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding or any announcement is not appropriate, then we will certainly be respectful of that. 3/3
— Virgin Australia (@VirginAustralia) November 5, 2018
“It was a gesture genuinely done to pay respects to those who have served our country. Over the coming months, we will consult with community groups and our own team members who have served in defense to determine the best way forward. If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding or any announcement is not appropriate, then we will certainly be respectful of that.”
Many of the world’s largest airlines, including the largest, American Airlines, offer special recognitions for current service members as well as armed forces veterans, but this fact may have contributed to Virgin Australia’s predicament. Some veterans who objected to the perks for service members policy found the whole thing to be just a little too American.
“It’s a very American thing to do,” well-known Australian military expert Mike Carlton told the New York Times this week. “We’re not quite as loud or noisy as that. Australians are a little more subtle. It’s just not in our nature to do stuff like that. Almost any veteran I can think of would be hideously embarrassed by being singled out like that.”
Seeming to back Carton’s assertion, a number of veterans took to social media to oppose Virgin’s decision as an attempt by the airline to benefit from an appeal to U.S-styled military patriotism. Twitter users called Virgin’s gesture “US-style jingoistic patriotism’” and “too American” with one opponent going as far as to call the policy “faux American bollocks.” and another suggesting that Virgin Atlantic, should “shove your priority boarding and onboard greeting.”
Other opponents of the seemingly altruistic policy, say it is merely a thinly veiled appeal to politics. The airline’s new policy was initially presented as part of an effort led by Rupert Murdoch’s News Corp. media empire.
Following the furor over Virgin Australia’s plans to honor veterans, a Qantas spokesperson released a hasty statement announcing that the airline has no plans to follow suit. “We’re conscious that we 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,” Qantas officials told reporters.