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Vietnam ministry proposes penalties for overcharging of airport services

By Vi Vu   May 29, 2017 | 02:51 pm GMT+7
Vietnam ministry proposes penalties for overcharging of airport services
Passengers wait at Noi Bai airport in Hanoi. Photo by VnExpress/Giang Huy

There's nothing like paying $5 for a bowl of pho to leave a bad taste in your mouth.

Vietnam’s transport ministry has suggested imposing fines of up to VND10 million ($440) for service providers that violate pricing regulations at airports.

The ministry’s proposal said businesses should be fined VND5-10 million if they charge higher than their listed prices, according to a new report on the government website.

Those who fail to list their prices or list them in a way that confuses customers or beyond the regulated limits should be fined VND3-5 million, it said.

Advertising violations such as using speakers or leafleting in public areas would face the same fine, while advertising with flying objects such as balloons and kites would be subject to penalties of VND5-10 million, the proposal said.

Non-aviation services at Vietnamese airports, mostly shops selling food, drinks and souvenirs, earned VND2.6 trillion in 2015 and accounted for nearly a fifth of the Airports Corporation of Vietnam's annual revenue, according to the group's financial report from last year.

But these money-making services also draw regular complaints from passengers, both locals and foreigners, who say they usually cost much more than the same services offered outside. With all airports in Vietnam owned by the government, many passengers believe this monopoly has enabled overpricing.

vietnam-ministry-proposes-penalties-for-overcharging-of-airport-services

A food shop at Tan Son Nhat International Airport in Ho Chi Minh City. Photo by VnExpress/Thanh Tuyet

Tan Son Nhat International Airport, the largest in Vietnam, started imposing price caps for most common products such as baguettes, bottled water and noodle soups in 2014, a year after Noi Bai in Hanoi.

But some restaurants still find ways to charge higher.

Last year, a passenger’s story went viral online after he had to pay VND105,000 ($5) for a bowl of pho at Tan Son Nhat, although an image advertised a bowl for VND55,000, the maximum price allowed by the Southern Airport Authority.

Only after paying his bill a waitress told him that VND55,000 was the price for a kid's portion, he said in a story on social media.

No action has reportedly been taken on the case.

The ministry’s proposal also includes penalties for poor management by the airports.

Airports will be fined VND10-20 million if they are not equipped with wheelchairs available for passengers with special needs or an adequate system to provide flight information. If there is not flight information system at all they will be fined VND20-30 million.

Vietnam’s aviation market has been booming in recent years. Passenger numbers grew 29 percent to 52.2 million last year, the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam said.

The new proposal, which is now open for public opinion, can be seen as another effort to improve Vietnam’s infamous aviation services.

Noi Bai and Tan Son Nhat were named among the worst in Asia in 2014 by "The Guide to Sleeping in Airports," a report which measured travelers’ experience based on factors such as services and facilities, terminal cleanliness, customer service and comfort.

Tan Son Nhat made the global list the year after.

Many passengers were not only unhappy with the bad and expensive food, but also baggage theft and bribes they had to pay customs officers.

Both airports have been trying to improve their images by planning and executing expansions and introducing new services such as free electric shuttle carts and sleeping lounges.