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Airfares in Vietnam skyrocket ahead of Tet holiday

Airfares in Vietnam skyrocket ahead of Tet holiday

Saturday, October 07, 2023, 11:04 GMT+7
Airfares in Vietnam skyrocket ahead of Tet holiday
Young Vietnamese are already on the lookout for cheap airfares for Tet 2024. Photo: Be Hieu / Tuoi Tre

Though Vietnam’s Lunar New Year holiday, or Tet, is still five months away, airlines in the Southeast Asian country are letting prices take off, making it nearly impossible for the average passengers to secure a ticket.

Tet is Vietnam's most important celebration. It marks a time when millions of Vietnamese travel to visit family and friends, many of whom they likely have not seen since the previous Tet. 

Tet 2024 falls on February 10, though the holiday typically begins several days prior to the new year and lasts for several days after.

This year, airlines are busily jacking up airfares for the holiday though it is still five months out, with round-trip tickets for several domestic destinations already reaching a whopping VND10-15 million (nearly US$410-615).

Sky-high airfares, discouraged customers

Domestic airlines have already released six million tickets for the upcoming Tet. 

For routes connecting Ho Chi Minh City with relatively rural provinces, such as Thanh Hoa, Nghe An, Vinh, Chu Lai, Binh Dinh, and Hue, the total cost with surcharges for roundtrip tickets has already hit VND4.2-4.5 million ($172.17-184.46) on “off peak” days and  and VND6.9-7.1 million ($282.96-291.16) on the days immediately before and after February 10.

Air tickets for Tet 2024 are already skyrocketing five months ahead of the holiday. Photo: Cong Trung / Tuoi Tre
Air tickets for Tet 2024 are already skyrocketing five months ahead of the holiday. Photo: Cong Trung / Tuoi Tre

More popular routes such as Ho Chi Minh City-Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City-Da Nang are exponentially higher.

According to industry insiders, these prices dwarf the cost of package tours abroad given the sharp growth of the international market and the recovery of tourism after the COVID-19 pandemic.

Many Vietnamese have already caught on to the price similarities for domestic and international travel during Tet, including Hanoian Nguyen Thanh Trung who plans to take his family to Thailand during the holiday because “the package tour is cheaper than airfare to Phu Quoc. Even with the added costs [of traveling to Thailand] the price is still similar.” 

Collusion allegations

According to the latest data from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, the number of domestic passengers has been steadily falling for the past year while the number of international travelers is rapidly increasing.

So far this year, 89 million passengers have passed through domestic airports, a 20 percent year on year rise.

Meanwhile, the number of international passengers passing through Vietnam has hit 23.7 million, an increase of 266.8 percent from the same period in 2022. 

Given the current sky-high prices across all of the nation’s domestic airlines, many Vietnamese have voiced fears that local air carriers are colluding to set exorbitant prices and that travel agencies are speculating on ticket fares, further driving up retail ticket prices.

Airlines typically counter these allegations, claiming that the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam does not allow for cheaper, additional flights to be scheduled until previously released flights have been filled.

Rather than purchase tickets now, some residents plan to gamble that prices will suddenly drop at the last minute. 

“Like this year’s Vietnam Reunification Day holiday (April 30), buying tickets last-minute will be cheaper because airlines always drop their prices when they realize no one is interested in spending so much,” said Duc Nghien, a resident of Ho Chi Minh City.

Domestic tourism slumps

According to Tran Minh Duc, chairman of the Tourism Association in Khanh Hoa Province, airfares account for 30-40 percent of package tour prices, meaning tour prices decrease when airfares decrease and vice versa.

Many young Vietnamese have already booked flight tickets for Tet 2024. Photo: Hai Quynh / Tuoi Tre
Many young Vietnamese have already booked flight tickets for Tet 2024. Photo: Hai Quynh / Tuoi Tre

As such, the high Tet airfares have tourism businesses worried that package tours to their respective provinces will rise and tourism overall will slip.

“Airlines must develop a reasonable price adjustment policy in order to promote tourism during Tet,” Duc said.

Airlines, however, say it isn’t that simple. According to several airline representatives, flights from southern provinces to central and northern are often full, while flights from the northern and central provinces to the south are typically far from capacity.

As such, airlines need to balance costs along routes in both directions in order to maintain steady revenues.

These representatives also claim that VND6-7 million (approximately $246-287) for roundtrip tickets from Ho Chi Minh City to Vinh and Nghe An – similar to what they are charging for Tet 2024 – are typical prices for such routes.

Whether or not these prices are typical, they are indicative of a tourism industry that is, at a minimum, steadily becoming more costly and driving Vietnamese away from domestic tourism. As such, local tour agencies are scrambling to find ways to keep Vietnamese tourists in the country.

“To enhance domestic tour attraction, management agencies and the tourism industry need to strengthen links among hotels, restaurants, and transportation companies to set low tour prices. These are also win-win relationships,” Duc said.

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Minh Chau / Tuoi Tre News


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