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Public buses at Tan Son Nhat airport fail to attract passengers

By Gia Minh   September 25, 2022 | 05:14 pm PT
Public buses at Tan Son Nhat airport fail to attract passengers
Passengers get on a public bus at Tan Son Nhat airport in HCMC on September 21, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh
Bus services at Vietnam's biggest airport Tan Son Nhat remain idle as customers find them inconvenient and operators complain of intimidation by other transport providers.

Bus No. 152 linking Tan Son Nhat in Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Binh District with Trung Son residential area in Binh Chanh District left the domestic terminal on Wednesday morning with just five passengers, even though it could serve 55.

A week prior, bus No.109 that connects the airport with the city's downtown area resumed service after a two-year suspension due to the pandemic. Operating 20-seat minivans, the service failed to lure many passengers.

Public buses at the airport use the same pick-up and drop-off lanes as personal cars and, in most cases, the bus station is occupied by those cars, forcing traffic personnel to clear a space for buses to enter. Only when an inspection team shows up is the station freed.

Vo Thi Thanh Trang, a bus operator at the airport, said on average, public buses carry six to seven passengers per trip at most. "Those cases occur when passengers have just left the terminal and seen the bus arriving."

In order to catch the bus, passengers leaving the terminal must walk around 100 meters to the station on lane B after exiting the terminal. Those with luggage will have to take it along on the bus.

Meanwhile, passengers ordering either traditional or ride-hailing taxis do not have to walk too far, while drivers typically place their luggage in the trunk.

In addition, the bus only stops for three minutes, causing passengers to easily miss it and have to wait around 10-15 minutes for another.

Tran Nguyen Thai, managing director of Bao Yen Construction Services, Tourism Co. Ltd’s branch in southern Vietnam, which operates bus No.152, said the rule of stopping within three minutes to pick up and drop off passengers should be adjusted.

He said the branch has already proposed relevant units to extend that period to five or 10 minutes while also requesting a separate bus lane at the airport.

Concurring, Dao Viet Anh, general director of Futa Bus Lines JSC, which operates the Phuong Trang bus No.109, said a separate lane is needed to decongest traffic flow at the airport.

A No.109 bus stops at the station in Tan Son Nhat airport to pick up passengers, September 21, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

A No.109 bus, which connects Tan Son Nhat airport with HCMC's downtown area, stops to pick up passengers at the airport, September 21, 2022. Photo by VnExpress/Gia Minh

Many passengers said that although bus tickets are cheap, each costing VND5,000-15,000 ($0.21-0.63), existing bus routes fail to deliver them to their desired destinations.

"The section between the airport and my house in Binh Thanh District stretches just seven kilometers, but if taking the bus from the airport, I will have to get off halfway and grab two more buses so I could get home," said Phuong Quynh, 22.

In order to travel more easily and faster, Quynh chose to order a ride-hailing service and paid VND200,000.

Le Trung Tinh, chairman of Ho Chi Minh City Passenger Transport Association, said Tan Son Nhat is the final stop of the three bus routes, not a roadside stop. Therefore, the airport should change its regulation for buses to stop longer than just three minutes so they could have more time to collect more passengers.

He also proposed changing the bus schedule to make it match flights, even at night so that passengers could reach the bus shortly after their arrival while the arrangement of parking spots should also be prioritized so guests who have just left the terminal can access them immediately.

He added that buses stopping at the airport should be modified to have fewer seats to allow space for passenger luggage.

"The Ministry of Transport should be in charge of making those adjustments to better manage the operation of buses at the airport as there are now disagreements between HCMC authorities and the airport," said Tinh.

Spreading over 1,500 hectares, Tan Son Nhat serves more than 100,000 passengers per day, with the area in front of the domestic terminal usually overcrowded.

 
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