Having their luggage lost, damaged or stolen on their trips to Vietnam remains a grave concern for passengers, especially overseas Vietnamese or those studying abroad, who are set to return home for the upcoming Tet festival.
Besides these people’s joy of celebrating Vietnam’s Lunar New Year at home, there are worries about whether their baggage, mostly containing gifts bought overseas, could make it through the flights without being stolen or discreetly searched by airport staff, many readers have told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper.
The Lunar New Year falls on February 8 this year, with festive preparations and celebrations customarily going on one week before and after that date.
They have reason to worry: there were 1,346 cases of damaged luggage recorded at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City in the first nine months of this year, according to an airport report.
The security center at Tan Son Nhat also detected 15 cases in which ground service employees stole possessions from passengers’ baggage, eight cases where passengers stole one another’s luggage, and seven incidents in which people lost their mobile phones in public areas at the Ho Chi Minh City airdrome.
Nguyen Lam Vi, a Vietnamese student in the U.S., recounted her experience of losing some cosmetic gifts she bought for family and friends on a recent flight home.
“Upon claiming my baggage at Tan Son Nhat, I realized that the lock on my suitcase was broken, and several lipsticks and makeup powder boxes were gone,” she said.
Vi added she had been warned of baggage loss risks at the airport by her friends, but would never believe it until she faced the problem first-hand.
“Now I know service at Vietnamese airports are so bad,” she said.
“The lost gifts are not so valuable but the trouble still drove me mad.”
Nguyen Phuc Dat, an overseas Vietnamese residing in Australia, also had some presents stolen at Tan Son Nhat, as his luggage was cut and all the items were taken away.
“The thieves were so ‘meticulous’ that they even used tape to cover the cut after taking all of the gifts, as if they had been worried that my other items would fall off,” he mocked.
Vu Thi Hong Ngoc, a former teacher at the University of Economics Ho Chi Minh City, said valuable gifts or assets are not the only to be at risk of being stolen.
“A cousin of mine once had a music CD and a piano coursebook stolen from her luggage,” she told Tuoi Tre on the phone.
“The luggage was cut open, and re-sealed with tape, and we did not know whom we should complain to.”
Ngoc added that there is no much hope contacting the lost and found office because “what you can do is leave your information there and go, as you cannot spend the whole day waiting for the result.”
The owner of a forwarding agent in Tan Binh District, Ho Chi Minh City, said the company’s consignments usually get lost when transported by air.
“We had to compensate customers as we did not have any evidence to lodge a complaint,” he said.
Ngoc said the repeated luggage loss will ruin the image of Vietnam in the eyes of overseas Vietnamese or international visitors.
“The lost assets may not be so precious but it is still an unpleasant experience for passengers, who may not return to Vietnam after such an impression,” she said.
Lawyer Huynh Phuoc Hiep, from the Ho Chi Minh City Bar Association, said there are few cases where passengers are able to figure out how and by whom their belongings were stolen, so they cannot claim any compensation or get their lost assets back.
“Passengers always want their baggage to be secured during their flights, so what matters is the airlines have to prevent such incidents from happening,” he told Tuoi Tre.
“Carriers should have their own solutions for determining why certain luggage is lost, and who is to be held responsible,” he said.