​In Vietnam, flight ticket agents sell passenger info to airport transport services

The practice explains why flyers are often bombarded with phone calls advertising taxi services upon their arrival at local airports

A passenger receives a text message advertising taxi services at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Several flight ticket agencies in Vietnam have been caught selling passenger information to local taxi and transport services.

The practice is most noticeable at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, followed by Cam Ranh Airport in the south-central province of Khanh Hoa.

On the morning of September 20, Tran Hoang Tung got off his flight from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi and received a series of phone calls and text messages advertising taxi services.

Answering one of the calls, Tung talked to a man who introduced himself as a telephone operator at Noi Bai Connect.

Noi Bai Connect is designed to link flight passengers at Noi Bai with local taxi services.

“Did you board the Vietjet flight that took off at 11:45 pm? A car will be picking you up at 1:45 am. Please leave your phone on,” the employee said.

As per the arrangement, Tung was picked up by a driver named Hoang.

“Noi Bai Connect is well known in Hanoi as it is able to update passenger information after they book a flight.” Hoang elaborated.

Ten telephone operators at the company work around the clock to call and send messages to introduce transport services to flyers, he added.

The cabby said he had to pay VND1 million (US$44) upfront to be granted an account that enables him to access flyer information.

After being updated on the flight schedules, Hoang and thousands of other cabbies start a ‘reverse auction,’ in which whoever names the lowest fare ‘wins’ a passenger.

“This ride costs VND280,000 [$12.32], of which I will only get VND190,000 [$8.36] while the rest will be claimed by Noi Bai Connect,” Hoang told his passenger.

Taxi drivers in Hanoi are also able to obtain flight schedules of passengers via other channels, with Zalo, a Vietnamese mobile-based free texting and calling app, the most common.

Drivers are required to pay a fee in advance, with 15 percent of their fare sent to the providers of the passenger information.

A car picks up passengers at Noi bai International Airport in Hanoi based on information provided by Noi Bai Connect Company. Photo: Tuoi Tre
A car picks up passengers at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi based on information provided by Noi Bai Connect Company. Photo: Tuoi Tre

Khanh, another cabby, revealed to Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper that he was using the Hanoi-based VG Company.

Every cabby is required to pay the service provider an upfront fee of between VND300,000 ($13) and VND500,000 ($22).

The firm receives a commission by deducting the advance payment from drivers.

Within the months of July and August, Khanh received the information of 55 passengers of Vietnam Airlines and Vietjet flights, including names, phone numbers, flight numbers, and times of arrival.

The business license of Noi Bai Connect reveals its headquarters are at 352 Buoi Street in Ba Dinh District.

However, an investigation revealed that the firm is based on the first floor of a building at 45 Nguyen Trai Street, Thanh Xuan District, Hanoi, which is actually a pizza shop.

Trang, an employee of the company, said that it has connected about 2,000 drivers with passengers and been cooperating with local flight ticket agents.

A typical ride from Noi Bai to downtown Hanoi provided by Noi Bai Connect costs about VND200,000 ($8.8), Trang said.

The driver will claim VND120,000 ($5.3), while the other VND80,000 ($3.52) is shared equally between the company and its partnered ticket agencies.

Meanwhile, an employee from VG Company said that all information is only shared internally.

Several ticket agents have been cooperating with more than one service at a time, meaning passengers are likely to be contacted by multiple phone numbers after getting off their flights.

According to C., a staff member of SM, a Hanoi-based ticket agency, multiple businesses have proposed deals with them.

“We pick the firm that names the highest commission,” C. added.

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