Virgin Australia's move to give was announced as "embarrassing" and "tokenistic".
- The Australian Defense Association has described Virgin's moves to honor veterans as "tokenistic"
- Qantas says it will not follow suit
- But the Tasmanian RSL says the move would help older veterans
Virgin's announcement, reminiscent of US airlines, arrived at the Australian War Memorial in Canberra.
But the move received a lukewarm response from some veterans and politicians, while Qantas declared it would not be following suit.
Neil James, head of the Australian Defense Association, called the move "tokenistic" and described it as a manifestation of American culture that was unlikely to translate into Australia.
The first problem is that there are other forms of service to the community … like policemen and ambos, ABC Radio Melbourne.
One Nation Senator Pauline Hanson said she was "terribly embarrassed".
"They've got young veterans in their early 20s," she told the Seven Network.
But I think the veterans that I know, I think they're proud and say 'no '. "
Difficult to single out veterans: Qantas
Qantas said it carried "exceptional people every day", and singling a group out as part of the boarding process would be hard to do.
"We have utmost respect for current and former Defense Force personnel, and we honor their service throughout the year, including special announcements on Anzac Day and Remembrance Day, and through our partnership with the Australian War Memorial," a spokesman said ,
"We are aware that we are carrying a lot of exceptional people every day, including veterans, police, paramedics, nurses, firefighters and others, and thus we find it difficult to single out a particular group as part of the boarding process."
President of the RSL ACT branch and interim national chair John King said it would offer discounted fares.
"I think if a business wants to honor a veteran [with priority boarding]"Goodbye," he said.
"Everyone who puts their lives at risk for the benefit of the community needs to be recognised, and I guess this is one way to do it.
"[But] if [airlines] really want to get on board, they could provide a discount for people who work in this area. "
RSL Tasmania spokesperson Terry Roe said priority boarding would benefit older veterans.
"There are over 300,000 veterans and most would be elderly in their 70s and 80s," he said.
"So this initiative probably would be a benefit to some of those, especially those who are not as mobile."
A 'tremendous' idea, or 'faux-American bollocks'?
Earlier, Virgin Australia's chief executive officer John Borghetti told News Corp. that "we acknowledge the important contribution veterans have made to keep our country safe and play the role in our community."
He said. "Once the veterans have their cards and lapel pins, they will simply need to present them during the boarding process to be given priority boarding and recognised on board," he said.
Minister of Defense Industry Steve Ciobo told Sky News it would be terrific if Qantas followed Virgin's example.
"I think it's tremendous that they come on board and that they honor and salute the service of those men and women who are serving our nation in harm's way," he said.
But Veterans Affairs Minister Darren Chester sounded a note of caution, saying the veterans would rather have discounted airfares.
"Australians, by nature, tend to keep their light under a bushel, so I think some of the veterans would be happy to get on a plane without anyone knowing that they're there," he told the ABC's Insiders.
Catherine McGregor, formerly Australia's highest ranking transgender military officer, dismissing Virgin's move as "faux-American bollocks".
"I would not dream of going on a plane ahead of the other passengers as a veteran," she tweeted.
Spend more on suicide prevention and health support. "
Research fellow at the Lowy Institute Rodger Shanahan earlier said he was worried Australia was in danger of reaching "peak veteran".
Or paramedics who attend countless overdoses, suicide attempts and related traumatic events? every day?" he wrote in an opinion piece for the ABC last week.
Anonymously every day, and the idea of a community thanking military or ex-military people for their service leaves me very uneasy. "
Retired Army Major-General and Liberal senator Jim Molan described the reaction to Virgin's move as "a bit of a storm in a tea cup".
"Let [Mr Chester] Virgin and say 'no, not appropriate at this time', "he said.
"Let the consultation occur."