Domestic airlines have once again suspended inbound services, shortly after the resumption of two commercial flights between South Korea and Vietnam in late September.
The suspension is the result of inconsistent management and quarantine protocols for inbound flight passengers, the Ministry of Transport said.
Further guidelines from relevant agencies are needed to restore the flights, the ministry added.
Quarantine price disputes
Since the country closed its borders since March to prevent the spread of COVID-19, Vietnam has still received a handful of inbound flights under three categories - rescue flights, exclusive flights for foreign experts, or commercial flights.
To board rescue flights, passengers must sign up at Vietnamese embassies overseas and wait for approval.
Meanwhile, flights for experts and commercial flights do not set any requirements for passengers.
Phan Thanh Tam, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control, said all entrants into Vietnam are subject to a chargeable quarantine period, excluding those on rescue flights.
The recent arrival of 262 passengers in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City from South Korea marked the resumption of regular commercial flights to Vietnam after previous suspension, a leader of a domestic airline said.
However, the inconsistencies in quarantine fees at hotels met with a backlash from passengers, he added.
The Southern Airports Corporation, which manages Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, reported that there were passengers deliberately picking a quarrel to avoid hotel quarantine in an effort to enter collective quarantine centers, where the 14-day quarantine service is offered at a much lower price.
Meanwhile, some Vietnam Airlines passengers on September 25 said that they had bought tickets and transferred money for hotel quarantine. However, they were sent to military bases upon arrival at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, with their deposits returned by the hotels.
Passengers of budget carrier VietJet said they should have been quarantined at the hotels in Ho Chi Minh City that they had paid for, but they were sent to centralized isolation in outlying Can Gio District instead.
During his stay in Can Gio after leaving South Korea for Ho Chi Minh City on September 30, passenger N.T.D. said he had not received transparent information on hotel quarantine fees before buying flight tickets.
Arriving in Ho Chi Minh City, he found hotel charges fluctuating rapidly and ending up unaffordable to many people.
“Not everyone can afford a stay in a hotel at VND1.3 million [$56] per day, even up to VND1.7 million [$73.3] per day in 14 days in a row [for the required quarantine period],” he elaborated.
While the quarantine protocols for flight passengers remain under consideration, accommodation and quarantine fees are attributed the recent disruption of international flights.
Many passengers said they could not pay for quarantine fees at high-end hotels in the country.
Nguyen Thi Anh Hoa, deputy director of the Ho Chi Minh City Department of Tourism, said hotels chosen for quarantine services will have to post their rates publicly.
Entrants into Vietnam are required to present their quarantine plan, including destinations, quarantine facilities, means of transport, and hotel bookings.
To avoid arising problems, Vietnam Airlines proposes a partnership between its certified flight ticket agencies and lodging facilities to arrange quarantine tour packages with various options in flight and hotel services.
This will ensure proper quarantine for passengers upon their arrival in Vietnam.
In another note, a working group from the Ministry of Health is developing a unified quarantine protocol on a nationwide scale, which will be submitted to the National Steering Committee for COVID-19 Prevention and Control for approval.