Passengers of a five-hour-delayed flight by VietJet Air last year at Cam Ranh airport in the central province of Khanh Hoa. Photo: T.N
Air passengers in Vietnam are now entitled to refunds when their flights are delayed by five hours or longer.
The rule, set by the Ministry of Transport in a new circular, took effect Sunday and is a welcome development among local travelers.
In Vietnam, many airlines have been criticized for bad treatment towards customers in the event of flight delays and cancellations.
It was the first time the transport ministry explicitly stated the rule, even though the right to ask for refunds had been previously stipulated in Vietnam’s laws.
In the new circular, the ministry continued to include regulations on airlines’ “minimum obligations” to their passengers in case of flight delays and cancellations.
Among these obligations, affected passengers have to be provided accommodations while waiting for their next flights.
The circular, however, did not mention how airlines will be punished if they fail to meet those requirements.
Lack of proper punishments seems to be a problem in the country's aviation industry, which has seen sharp increases in the rates of delays and cancellations recently.
Last July Transport Minister Dinh La Thang urged the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, also known as CAAV, to regulate penalties for air carriers for delaying or canceling flights.
An inspection last year by CAAV revealed that low-cost carriers Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air in particular failed to provide prompt and thorough announcements, even when their flights were delayed by several hours.
When the carriers sent text messages to passengers about the delays, they did not apologize and failed to provide an explanation or compensation for the inconvenience, inspectors found.
Worse still, many passengers at the airport were not provided with food while waiting for their flights to be resumed.
Jetstar Pacific and VietJet Air recorded the highest delay rates last year with 30.6 and 18.9 percent, respectively.
Official statistics from CAAV showed that a total of 928 flights were delayed during the recent Lunar New Year festival, from February 15 to 22, a three-fold increase from last year’s holiday.
The delays, which were mainly caused by late aircraft arrivals, accounted for 20 percent of all flights, the agency said.
A total of 35 flights were canceled.