Complicated Covid protocols hassling arriving passengers: Vietnamese airlines

By Doan Loan   January 5, 2022 | 05:09 pm PT
Complicated Covid protocols hassling arriving passengers: Vietnamese airlines
People are directed to a Covid-19 testing area at Tan Son Nhat Airport in HCMC, May 6, 2021. Photo by VnExpress/Huu Khoa
Several Vietnamese carriers have voiced concerns over Covid-19 protocols that are hassling passengers before and after they take flights to Vietnam after the recent partial reopening of commercial international flights.

From January 1 to 3, around 17 international flights brought over 1,700 passengers to Vietnam. Two of them were commercial ones, while the rest were combo charter flights carrying experts and tourists.

It has been seen in the three days that current Covid-19 prevention requirements are difficult to implement and had taked away comforts from passengers, the carriers say.

VietJet Air noted that passengers have to medically declare themselves on too many app platforms, which could be a challenging task, especially for foreign visitors. For example, entrants need to declare their immigration details on one app and make their medical declaration on another. Then, different localities may require different apps to be used, like HCMC and Hanoi, for example, it said.

The requirement for visitors from Omicron-hit countries to be quick-tested before getting on and after getting off planes is also costly and time-consuming. The Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) also requires testing fees to be included in ticket prices, which is a headache for the airlines.

Some carriers including Cathay Pacific and Turkish Airlines have requested HCMC’s Tan Son Nhat Airport to either collect testing fees at the airport or find a hospital that accepts online payments. Malaysia Airlines also proposed that passengers pay their testing fees to the hospital directly, and not through carriers.

Qatar Airways said testing fees, if included in the ticket price, would be a form of tax and would require certain procedures to be followed. This process could take as long as two months, it said.

Quick tests at airports also carry the risk of overcrowding as doing so would take up to two hours. VietJet Air said the current testing duration is around 45 minutes due to the low number of flights. But once more flights begin operations, congestion could happen, it added.

Taking the concerns into consideration, the CAAV has proposed to the Ministry of Transport to recommend to the government that only PCR test results are required, as is being done in other countries and territories.

Additionally, quarantine requirements for arrivals not fully vaccinated are proving troublesome, carriers report. Under current regulations those who have not been fully vaccinated must have approval papers to confirm that they can be home quarantined. If they don't, they would need to confirm that they've booked an appropriate hotel to be quarantined in for at least seven days.

Most people coming to Vietnam at the end of the year are Vietnamese families wanting to return to their home country, including small children who may not be vaccinated, the CAAV noted. Getting approval papers for home quarantine is difficult for them as they are from outside the country, and the same goes for quarantining in hotels. As such, the aviation authority has proposed to the Ministry of Health that it releases a list of hotels approved for quarantine, so Vietnamese living abroad can book them without requiring approval from authorities.

The CAAV has so far licensed flights resumption on eight international routes to Japan, Taiwan, Singapore, Cambodia, the U.S., South Korea, Laos and Thailand. Flight routes to mainland China are still under negotiation.

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