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Major airports in Vietnam unfriendly: deputy transport minister

Tuesday, October 28, 2014, 14:52 GMT+7
Major airports in Vietnam unfriendly: deputy transport minister
Passengers queue for check-in at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City, October 17, 2014.

Friendliness is hard to find at the country’s biggest airports, even though Vietnam is known as a friendly country, Deputy Minister of Transport Pham Quy Tieu said Monday.

The transport official convened a meeting with units and businesses operating at Noi Bai International Airport after the Hanoi terminal along with Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City were listed among the ten worst in Asia by The Guide to Sleeping in Airports, an airport review website.

“We have to respect reviews by customers and foreign websites,” Deputy Minister Tieu said at the meeting.

“Everyone knows infrastructure in Vietnam is undeveloped, but the country’s friendliness is always highly appreciated.

“Sadly, there is little friendliness at the big local airports.”

Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat are currently the largest of their kind in the Southeast Asian country.

The Guide to Sleeping in Airports said Noi Bai is “frequently noted for being hot, chaotic and not especially clean,” while describing Tan Son Nhat as having average facilities, but fluctuating cleanliness levels.

Deputy Minister Tieu said increasing passenger satisfaction is a task that requires changes in all aspects at the airports, from the management officials to employees.

“The airport managers must at first develop new standards and procedures to remedy the shortcomings,” he said.

Listed in the “low satisfaction” group

Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat were also near the bottom when SkyTeam, a global alliance of 20 airlines, surveyed the satisfaction of passengers at 24 airports where its members operate, according to Dang Anh Tuan, head of market services with flag carrier Vietnam Airlines.

“The Vietnamese airports are in the group with low satisfaction, with only 30 percent of respondents saying they are satisfied with the services there,” Tuan said.

Vietnam Airlines, Aeroflot, China Airlines and Korean Air are some of the SkyTeam members.

Tuan also said Vietnam Airlines last year had Skytrax, a United Kingdom-based consultancy, conduct an independent evaluation of its service at Noi Bai based on 100 norms.

“As for the ground service, the evaluation covers norms such as the location of the check-in counters, the attitude of flight attendants, and security officers at the terminal,” Tuan elaborated.

“Noi Bai only had two standards earn two stars, while many norms were below one star,” he added.

Results from a Skytrax evaluation this year gave Noi Bai at least three stars for all of the standards, but Tuan said “this improvement still does not live up to passenger expectations.

“Improving hygiene always tops the list of recommendations by SkyTeam and Skytrax,” Tuan added.

The second problem that needs improvement is the attitude of aviation employees, from security and customs officers to flight attendants.

The lack of information boards and luggage carousels are the third and fourth issues.

“Passengers also complained that there is an insufficient number of luggage trolleys at the airports, and the air-conditioning systems sometimes did not please them,” Tuan added.

The Ministry of Transport has initiated a drive encouraging people who work at the airports to always smile at and appear gentle, understanding, and helpful to passengers, as well as to never forget to say 'hi, sorry, please, and thank you' to them.

“We must speed up this drive to improve the image of Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat,” Tuan said.

“It’s important to serve passengers with a friendly attitude accompanied by a smile.”

Lai Xuan Thanh, head of the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, said what aviation employees lack the most is diligence.

“An assiduous employee is more important than one that wears a fake smile all day,” he said.

“What people need is for you to laboriously fulfill your job with the appropriate attitude, rather than have a forced smile during eight hours of working.”

Thanh added that complaints from passengers about WiFi services or waiting seats should be handled immediately.

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