OTHER ISSUES: Mackay based Vietnam veteran Les Palmer said the motives of the Virgin proposal left him
OTHER ISSUES: Mackay based Vietnam veteran Les Palmer said the motives of the Virgin proposal left him "somewhat cynical". Contributed

Mackay veterans not on board with Virgin plan

TWO Mackay veterans are cynical about a Virgin Australia proposal that could see passengers and staff acknowledge veterans on board a flight prior to takeoff.

Mackay Veterans Support Group secretary Adam West said it appeared the announcement was a token merely "driven by politics".

"I think if the company wants to acknowledge our service that is good, but it is the motivation that worries me," he said.

The plan, announced by the airline on Sunday, would work in conjunction with the Federal Government's newly announced veterans card.

Veterans would receive priority boarding on the airline and would be recognised by airline staff on the plane.

Mr West said he would not appreciate a personal recognition on a flight.

"I would be embarrassed because, as a person who has served in the defence force, you don't do it for accolades... we don't have to be acclaimed," he said.

Mackay Vietnam veteran Les Palmer shares Mr West's view. While Mr Palmer said he would feel a sense of pride if he were recognised on board a flight, he also saw a political motive, which he said made the announcement less sincere.

Both men noted they were not aware of any consultation between the airline and veteran service groups.

Allowing veterans' perks like priority boarding or discount cards failed to address the genuine problems faced by retired servicemen and women, Mr West said.

"I think we have too many veterans committing suicide and I think we have too many veterans who are homeless," he said. "It is fluffing around the edges, giving priority boarding.

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

Following widespread criticism yesterday, the company announced it would rethink the proposal.

"Over the coming months, we will consult with community groups and our own team members... to determine the best way forward," the company said.

"If this process determines that public acknowledgement of their service through optional priority boarding... then we will certainly be respectful of that."

Queensland Senator Pauline Hanson and Australia Defence Association executive director Neil James were both quick to comment on the move.



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