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Vietnamese returnees stranded at Saigon airport due to conflict with airline over quarantine fees

Thursday, October 01, 2020, 18:29 GMT+7
Vietnamese returnees stranded at Saigon airport due to conflict with airline over quarantine fees
Passengers returning from South Korea are stranded at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City as they disapproved of the quarantine price announced by low-cost airline Vietjet, September 30, 2020. Photo: T. Diep / Tuoi Tre

Several passengers on one of Vietjet's commercial flights from South Korea spent more than ten hours at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City on Wednesday as they could not reach an agreement on quarantine charges with the low-cost carrier.

Commercial flight VJ963 from Incheon International Airport landed at Tan Son Nhat at 12:30 pm on that day.

Over ten hours after their arrival, 158 passengers on the flight still stayed at the Ho Chi Minh City-based airport.

They did not move to hotels for quarantine as per regulations due to disagreement with Vietjet over the price for their stay.

According to passenger Truong Thanh Diep, all the passengers agreed to the quarantine price of VND1.3 million (US$56) per a day for a four-guest room announced by Vietjet upon landing.

But the price was increased to VND1.7 million ($74) and then VND5 million ($216) just minutes later as Vietjet said that it could not find a hotel for the passengers at the earlier announced price.

“We are not clearly informed of the [increased] price of quarantine, which is beyond the affordability of many passengers on the flight,” said Diep. 

“After hours of waiting, elderly passengers, women, and children were extremely hungry, thirsty, and tired."

Phan Van Vu, another passenger on the flight, said that before their departure at Incheon International Airport, the passengers were given a flight agreement detailing the costs of quarantine at a hotel, transportation, COVID-19 testing, and other related charges.

Accordingly, the quarantine price was expected not to exceed $100 per person per night and the quarantine period would be 14 days.

The three selected hotels were De Nhat Hotel in Tan Binh District, Bat Dat Hotel in District 5, and IBIS Saigon South in Tan Phu District.

The agreement also includes a condition that Vietjet holds no liability for any loss, charge, violation to the contracts, or any other damage if the airline is unable to provide services as requested in advance by the passengers, according to Vu.

The passengers were asked to sign on two copies of the agreement, with the airline denying service to those who did not agree to do so, he said.

As of 10:00 pm on Wednesday, many families of the stranded passengers brought water and snacks to the airport to support the returnees.

A bus tasked with carrying returnees from South Korea to quarantine facilities remains at Tan Son Nhat International Airport as the passengers stayed at the airport over ten hours due to their disapproval of the quarantine price announced by the low-cost Vietnamese airline Vietjet, September 30, 2020. Photo: T. Diep / Tuoi Tre

A bus tasked with carrying returnees from South Korea to quarantine facilities remains at Tan Son Nhat International Airport as the passengers stayed at the airport over ten hours due to their disapproval of the quarantine price announced by low-cost Vietnamese airline Vietjet, September 30, 2020. Photo: T. Diep / Tuoi Tre

Problem solved

To handle the issue, the management board of Tan Son Nhat International Airport told Tuoi Tre (Youth) newspaper on Wednesday evening that the Vietjet passengers would be carried to a centralized quarantine facility in Can Gio District on the same night.

In response to Tuoi Tre’s questions on Thursday morning, Vietjet expressed its hope that “passengers understand the troubles and impacts arising from this unexpected situation.”

The airline confirmed that it had provided support and coordinated with the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, the airport, the Ho Chi Minh City Center for Disease Control, security agencies, accommodation units, and hotels to send the passengers to quarantine facilities in accordance with regulations.

According to the airline, the first batch of passengers left the airport for hotels and some quarantine establishments at 5:45 pm on Wednesday. The rest of them and the cabin crew followed suit at 10:05 pm on the same day.

Particularly, 43 passengers were taken to a field hospital in Can Gio District, one to Nguyen Tri Phuong Hospital in District 5, and the flight crew to a hotel for quarantine. 

“The airline hopes to receive customer support and feedback to coordinate with relevant agencies to operate international flights in the conditions of pandemic prevention and better serve our customers,” the carrier said in the response.

Vietjet’s international commercial flights between Vietnam and South Korea have only been resumed with a frequency of one flight on each route per week, starting Wednesday, September 30. Its two flights departing from Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City for Seoul took off on Wednesday morning.

The carrier has also announced the resumption of its commercial flights to Japan and Taiwan.

The government already restored commercial flights to certain destinations, including Thailand, South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and mainland China.

Entrants from these places are now required to present certificates proving they tested negative for the novel coronavirus within three days of their boarding flights.

Vietnam began barring entry to foreign nationals on March 22 and had suspended international commercial flights from March 25 in a bid to curb the spread of COVID-19. 

Since then, charter flights to the country have only been arranged to bring in experts, skilled workers, and diplomats, and to repatriate Vietnamese citizens stranded in other nations and territories due to the pandemic.

Vietnam currently charges international arrivals for quarantine. It provided the quarantine service for free in the past.

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