'Your flight has been delayed': Do Vietnamese airlines play fair with passengers?

By N. Tran Tam – Mai Ha, Thanh Nien News

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Passengers of a delayed flight wait at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach Passengers of a delayed flight wait at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo: Dao Ngoc Thach

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Nguyen Xuan Duc booked a flight with Jetstar Pacific to travel from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi one morning earlier this month.
He received a message from the carrier the night before notifying that the flight would be delayed until the afternoon.
Since he could not find any other options, he had to accept the delay, which meant canceling some of his business plans. 
He received no compensation because, technically, he was informed by the airline.
Travelers in Vietnam have long come to terms with the fact that flight delays and cancellations can happen daily.
But with the problem showing no sign of getting better, many are now demanding that at least carriers compensate them fairly for all the expenses incurred and the opportunities missed. Some even hope that substantial compensations may eventually scare airlines into improving on-time performance. 
Currently the numbers do not make any local carriers look good. 
Statistics from the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam listed 639 delays and cancellations, or 13.4 percent of all flights, between April 11 and May 17.
Jetstar Pacific topped the list with 19 percent of flights delayed and 2 percent canceled, followed by Vietjet Air with a 17 percent delay rate. Flag carrier Vietnam Airlines delayed 275 or 11 percent of its flights.
The Civil Aviation Administration cited bad planning as a major cause. 
Vietnam now requires airlines to pay up to VND400,000 (US$18) a passenger for delays of domestic flights and $150 for international flights.
Those figures are higher than the compensation rates before July last year. But many passengers say that carriers should pay more. 
Huong Tran, a Vietnam Airlines passenger affected by a three-day delay in January, said she and other passengers had to go through the check-in process three times, one each day, as the carrier was not even sure when it could give them another flight from Paris to Hanoi.
After the third time, Tran said, she had no energy left to drag her luggage back to the hotel again. “I just stayed at the airport and waited for 18 hours.”
The support she received through the whole ordeal with a loss of stress and frustration was six $17 meals and $223 in cash.
Such amount was little compared to European rules which require EU-based carriers to pay passengers up to 600 euros, or nearly $670, each for delays of more than three hours.
Nguyen Thien Tong, a respected aviation expert in Vietnam, said the compensation rates for delays and cancellations are now too low. 
“It’s not enough to cover the passengers’ cost for travel, accommodation and meals during the wait, as well as their missing opportunities.”
Tong said local carriers could totally set their schedule better to save customers from delays and cancellations.
He said the carriers now cram more flights into their daily schedule than they can actually operate, which means they have to cancel some flights in the last hours or minutes and combine flights with many empty seats, usually from three flights into two.
“The compensation needs to be high enough to force the carriers to stick to their schedule.”

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