Frequent long delays and hostile flight attendants prompt transport ministry to warn to local airlines
|A VietJet Air passenger (L) checks in at a counter at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. The Ministry of Transport has instructed airlines and airports to improve their services following many complaints.
Dang Thi Thu Huyen sat on board a parked airplane at Noi Bai International Airport for nearly four hours waiting to depart for Ho Chi Minh City. All told, her flight ended up being delayed for over 10 hours.
She was among nearly 200 passengers who were supposed to take a Jetstar Pacific flight from Hai Phong at 5:40 p.m. on March 30.
But after the flight could not leave Hai Phong due to bad weather, the passengers were taken by bus to Hanoi's Noi Bai airport, located about 100 kilometers (62 miles) away.
After boarding a plane at Noi Bai at around 11 p.m., they were informed that the plane was being checked for technical problems. And at midnight, the airlines asked them to get off and wait to board another plane.
"We had been given the run around since the afternoon and we were all hungry and tired. We demanded that they announce the exact takeoff time before we boarded another plane to wait," news website VnExpress quoted Huyen as saying.
They were also frustrated when the attendants refused to serve food.
"I asked an attendant to either give us food or sell us some because every one was hungry. But they wouldn't do it," Huyen said.
Passengers became angry at the attendants' rigid attitude and pressured them into selling some instant noodles. But it wasn't enough, and passengers were soon sharing the scraps of snacks they'd brought with them.
It was 4 a.m. by the time passengers were transferred to another plane to resume their journey.
Similar incidents have become common in Vietnam, prompting the Ministry of Transport to issued recommendations on improving airlines and airports' services.
The ministry said it has received many complaints about the quality of service and airline staff attitudes, as well as complaints about delays and widespread flight cancellations in the commercial sector.
The ministry has instructed local airlines, including Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar Pacific, VietJet Air and Air Mekong, to improve their flight schedules and their staffs' "service attitude."
The Airports Corporation of Vietnam was also instructed to improve training for its staff and ensure better service at airports.
On March 31, a day after Huyen's delayed flight, another Jetstar Pacific flight from Hanoi to HCMC was also delayed, leaving hundreds of passengers stranded at the Noi Bai airport for seven hours.
The flight was supposed to depart at 3:05 p.m. but all passengers were informed that it would be changed to 5:10 p.m.
However, after checking in, they were informed of another delay that lasted until 10:30 p.m.
Many passengers said they got even more frustrated after learning that a few passengers had been allowed to take an earlier flight. An employee just told them that those were the "early birds" and they had certainly gotten the worm.
Earlier, Jetstar Pacific had delayed a flight from Hanoi to HCMC on March 2 for eight hours.
In a recent incident, Vietnam Airlines (VNA) delayed many flights from Tan Son Nhat International Airport scheduled between 4 p.m. and 8 p.m. on February 11 due to an error in the electronics system.
Many flights were delayed for between 20 minutes and three hours. The exact flight number was not released by the airline.
Passengers have also complained about VietJet Air delaying its flights, with "technical reasons" given as the only cause.
Last November 20, nearly 100 passengers were frustrated after having to wait at the Tan Son Nhat airport from around noon to nearly midnight for a flight to Da Nang City.
"The airline fined me for being late only a few minutes. But they did not even have a polite explanation when they delayed the flight for a day," said Vo Nguyen Thang, a passenger on the flight.
Besides delays, passengers complain that employees at local airlines don't speak English well, a fact that leads to unnecessary misunderstandings.
While waiting for the delay of a VietJet Air flight last November 20, a passenger identified only as Lisa came to the airline's ticket booth to complain. However, what the only ticket seller at the counter could say was: "What do you want?"
Another passenger said that the employee was simply trying to ask about Lisa's request with her poor English.
An American expat in Ho Chi Minh City, who wanted to be named only as Tom, said he had an annoying experience with Jetstar Pacific last year when his friend had bought him a return ticket to Da Nang in the name of Tom instead of his full name Thomas.
"When we checked in at Tan Son Nhat, the Jetstar staff said the name on my ticket "˜Tom' did not agree with my passport which says "˜Thomas'. I tried to explain that Tom is a nickname for Thomas and that the family name was correct and in addition I had two additional picture IDs and several credit cards proving my identity."
However, he had to buy a new ticket in order to get on the flight.
"The Jetstar staff was just following instructions but one would think that given the amount of identification I had in my possession that an allowance would have been made or that she would have at least contacted a supervisor," he said.
"I will be booking my first ticket on VietJet later this week about which I am somewhat apprehensive after having heard many stories about unannounced cancellations."
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