Airline delays, cancellations: Passengers struggle to demand their rights

Flight delays and cancellations are frequent issues in the airline industry, and claiming compensation for affected passengers can be quite challenging.
Passengers on flight VJ216 departing from HCMC to Vinh on June 4, 2022, were exhausted while waiting at Tan Son Nhat Airport due to delays.

Passengers on flight VJ216 departing from HCMC to Vinh on June 4, 2022, were exhausted while waiting at Tan Son Nhat Airport due to delays.

Although the compensation amounts may not be substantial individually, cumulatively, they present a considerably large sum of money.

Postponing refunds, forgetting compensations

Recently, Thu Thanh, an employee at ANP Travel Company, was tasked with booking six Bamboo Airways tickets for international travelers flying from Da Nang to Phu Quoc, scheduled for mid-November 2023. However, on October 30, Bamboo Airways sent an email notification to customers announcing flight cancellation. Despite multiple requests from the agent for ticket refunds, they received a notice from the airline via email, stating that the processing time for emails from agents would be completed no later than 90 days.

Not only Bamboo Airways but also VietJet Air appears to neglect customer entitlements when it comes to compensating for delayed flights, even though such compensation is promised under aviation regulations. T., residing in District 12, Ho Chi Minh City, shared her frustration, "I took flight VJ-120 from HCMC to Hanoi on the afternoon of June 4, 2022, and the departure was delayed by more than 2 hours, violating regulations. Since then, the airline has not mentioned anything about compensation."

Similarly, M.T., living in Binh Tan District, HCMC, who traveled at the same time as T., was assured assistance of VND200,000 by VietJet Air due to the delayed departure. However, almost one and a half years have elapsed, and he has yet to see the funds deposited into his account.

Vietnam Airlines is no exception. N., Director of a travel company in HCMC, shared that in early October, her company arranged a tour for 20 passengers from HCMC to Phu Yen. On the return trip, the airline notified them of a one-day delay in the schedule due to operational reasons. "Flight VN6293 originally scheduled for October 25 at 3:40 p.m. was rescheduled to flight VN1661 on October 26 at 9:15 a.m. The notification, given just two days before the flight, was quite last-minute, leaving us in a tight spot as we struggled to search for alternative tickets from another airline at a higher cost. Our company suffered losses, experienced a tarnished reputation, and had to allocate additional funds to assist customers. Meanwhile, Vietnam Airlines only refunded the ticket price without offering any compensation," said N.

In early October, Vietravel Airlines experienced a technical issue on the Hanoi - HCMC route. Just before the scheduled departure, the airline announced the cancellation of the entire flight. Given the short notice, Vietravel Airlines could not arrange passengers to other airlines and only provided options for refunds or suggested that passengers wait for the airline's next flight at the end of the following day. Faced with this situation, customers had no choice but to reluctantly purchase more expensive tickets from another airline without receiving any compensation.

A multitude of flights faced delays, cancellations

According to the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam, during the first ten months of 2023, a total of 36,361 flights experienced delays, and 737 flights were canceled. Specifically, VietJet Air had 18,410 delayed flights and 241 cancellations; Vietnam Airlines encountered 11,427 delayed flights and 357 cancellations; Pacific Airlines reported 2,729 delayed flights and 23 cancellations; VASCO experienced 446 delayed flights and 34 cancellations; Bamboo Airways recorded 2,686 delayed flights and 56 cancellations; Vietravel Airlines reported 665 delayed flights and 26 cancellations.

Possible legal action against airlines

Data from the Consumer Rights Protection Association of HCMC reveals that, from the start of the year until now, the association has received numerous complaints concerning businesses (including airlines and travel agencies) disregarding the rights of customers.

Many customers frankly stated that the monetary loss was not substantial. However, the time and effort involved in traveling and providing various types of evidence to the authorities left them genuinely exhausted. Consequently, many individuals have voiced their frustration by turning to the HCMC Consumer Rights Protection Association rather than pursuing legal action.

On this matter, Lawyer Phan Thi Viet Thu, President of the Consumer Rights Protection Association of HCMC, said that consumers have the right to boycott products and brands with poor credibility. Additionally, they can file lawsuits against individuals or organizations that cause harm to them. "In reality, many victims hesitate to pursue legal action due to the mindset of 'helplessness in legal proceedings' or the desire to avoid inconvenience, opting to accept the loss without taking legal action. In the case of compensation claims against airlines, consumers should remain persistent in pursuing the matter to safeguard not only their rights but also those of the community," emphasized Lawyer Phan Thi Viet Thu.

Ensuring justice for passengers

According to Associate Professor - Dr. Ngo Tri Long, former Director of the Price and Market Research Institute under the Ministry of Finance, airlines should prioritize fairness for passengers. In cases of flight cancellations or rescheduling, airlines must provide timely notifications to passengers and offer support, including provisions for food and accommodation, especially for flights with limited alternatives. Furthermore, passengers should publicly disclose such incidents through media channels to increase awareness, enabling more informed choices for airlines. This approach also holds airlines accountable and responsible towards their customers.

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