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Veterans to get priority on Virgin flights

Veterans to get priority on Virgin flights

"I would not dream of walking onto an aircraft ahead of the other passengers as a veteran", said prominent former member of the Australian Defence Force Cate McGregor, lampooning the gesture as "faux-American bollocks".

Some have criticised the move as it doesn't offer any real benefits to veterans such as discounted fares.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison said the need to nurture respect for veterans was "brought home for me heavily during the Invictus Games" in Sydney in October.

A leading veterans' group says Virgin's plans to offer ex-service men and women priority boarding and in-flight thanks "smacks of tokenism".

The Lowy Institute's research fellow Rodger Shanahan, himself a veteran, wrote that Australia is in danger of reaching "peak veteran'" as governments, media and business all tried to capitalise. The notion of a veteran singling himself or herself out for special treatment, some critics said, was distinctly un-Australian.

"When I talk to veterans from other countries, they are just so touched by the culture of respect Australians have for veterans", he said. Sounds like commercialising Australians service personnel to me.

However, Veterans' Affairs Minister Darren Chester acknowledged some veterans would be uneasy about the extra attention.

"Most of my cohort would rather not be defined by their military service", he said.

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"Suicide, mental illness and homelessness are paid a lot of lip service. but it is more about proper funding for support for veterans".

"If you really wanted to thank veterans you'd reinstate the service discount abolished in the early 1980s", he told AAP.

Qantas has resisted a push to join the Virgin Australia move with a spokesperson saying it was hard to single out people - the exception being passengers with special needs - during boarding.

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.

"It's about how we can recognise our younger veterans better in the war memorial", he told the ABC on Sunday.

"We also have a lot of former Air Force personnel and current defence force reservists working at Qantas".

"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 hard to single out a particular group as part of the boarding process".

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