Vet­er­ans’ plane pri­or­ity

Sunday Mail - - NEWS - RENEE VIELLARIS

AUS­TRALIA’S heroes – De­fence Force vet­er­ans who have self­lessly served the na­tion – will board do­mes­tic planes first and be for­mally ac­knowl­edged be­fore take­off in a bid to fur­ther en­trench na­tional re­spect.

The Dig­ger ded­i­ca­tion plan will take place on all Vir­gin Aus­tralia flights and will be an­nounced to­day by Prime Min­is­ter Scott Mor­ri­son.

Tak­ing Mr Mor­ri­son’s plan to pro­vide vet­er­ans with a US-style mil­i­tary card that gives dis­counts on petrol, food and even wed­dings a step fur­ther, Vir­gin Aus­tralia will hon­our for­mer ser­vice­men and women with a pri­or­ity board­ing process, and alert pas­sen­gers via a pub­lic an­nounce­ment that heroes are on board.

Both an­nounce­ments come as the Sun­day Mail launched a #thanks­forserv­ing cam­paign to en­cour­age the com­mu­nity to hon­our those who served.

Mr Mor­ri­son said Vir­gin chief ex­ec­u­tive of­fi­cer John Borghetti un­der­stood why Aus­tralians were so proud of ex-mil­i­tary per­son­nel.

Vir­gin will roll out the ser­vice when the sys­tem of new mil­i­tary cards – or dig­i­tal ID – starts early next year.

“We ac­knowl­edge the im­por­tant con­tri­bu­tion vet­er­ans have made to keep­ing our coun­try safe and the role they play in our com­mu­nity,’’ Mr Borghetti said.

“Once the vet­er­ans have their cards and lapel pins, they will sim­ply need to present them dur­ing the board­ing process.”

Mr Mor­ri­son said the idea got a “thumbs-up” from him.

“It’s about nur­tur­ing the re­spect for our vet­er­ans, and this was brought home for me re­ally heav­ily dur­ing the In­vic­tus Games (in Syd­ney last month),’’ Mr Mor­ri­son said. “When I talk to vet­er­ans from other coun­tries, they are just so touched by the cul­ture of re­spect Aus­tralians have for vet­er­ans.

“Prince Harry said the same thing to me (at the Games). It was re­ally on dis­play and I just don’t want to take that for granted. I want to en­sure we are do­ing ev­ery­thing we can to pro­tect, pre­serve and fa­cil­i­tate it.”

Queensland Lib­eral Se­na­tor James McGrath tried to con­vince air­lines to get be­hind the pri­or­ity board­ing plan last year af­ter meet­ing with Mates4Mates, which helps wounded or sick for­mer and cur­rent de­fence per­son­nel. Qan­tas has not com­mit­ted to the idea.

Some US air­lines recog­nise vet­er­ans on flights and sev­eral times a year they spon­sor “hon­our flights” that fly them to Wash­ing­ton DC to see mil­i­tary mon­u­ments.

Pic­ture: MARK BRAKE/AAP

PRIDE OF THE CITY: Mem­bers of the 10th/27th Bat­tal­ion, Royal Aus­tralian Reg­i­ment, march past Ade­laide Town Hall yes­ter­day morn­ing dur­ing the Free­dom of En­try March. Such marches date back to me­dieval Europe and hon­our trusted mil­i­tary units that have a close as­so­ci­a­tion with a par­tic­u­lar city.

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