Last week, Viet Nam News ask readers their experiences about travelling on budget airlines in Viet Nam and their potential for development. Here are some responses.
John Kellas, Australian, Ha Noi
If we travel, we usually go with the major airlines, such as Viet Nam Airlines. However, we notice that their flights are generally close to full, so there would appear to be scope for additional services.
Viet Nam has a long history of practising Eastern medicine and enjoys a pleasant climate in many beautiful locations, such as Da Lat and Sa Pa. There are also many spas and hot springs throughout the country that could aid in the development of medical tourism.
With its strengths in acupuncture and numerous specialised hospitals, Viet Nam has already taken the first tentative steps to promote this kind of tourism.
Several years ago, a Vietnamese acupuncture professor began organising tours that combined acupuncture and qiqiong treatments for foreign tourists, which drew the attention of many.
Now, many resorts offer health care services for convalescence, such as mud baths and natural herbal therapy.
However, Viet Nam's medical tourism has yet to see a significant rise in development because there has been a lack of promotional activities.
About 40,000 people leave Viet Nam each year to seek medical treatment in neighbouring countries such as Singapore. They spend about US$1 billion every year, according to Ministry of Health statistics.
Have your ever tried a medical tour in Viet Nam? Were you satisfied? What do you expect in medical tourism services?
In your opinion, what should Viet Nam do to promote medical tourism to attract more foreign patients?
Emails should be sent to: email@example.com – or by fax to (84-4) 3 933 2311. Letters can be sent to The Editor, Viet Nam News, 11 Tran Hung Dao Street, Ha Noi. Replies to this week's questions must be received by Thursday morning, April 12.
Mind you these flights have been to close regional destinations such as Laos, Bangkok and more recently Da Nang. Anecdotally, I have heard that some budget operators within Viet Nam have a reputation for being late.
However, this is a trend that has also been observed in Australia, where a number of budget operators have come and gone, often due to the operators not being on schedule, being understaffed, having a limited network and being under-capitalised.
Often these budget operators appeal to the tourist market, which often operates on low margins. Most of the bigger operators concentrate on the more profitable business travellers, who demand regular, quality service and won't tolerate late flights and cancellations.
One would assume there may be scope for more low-cost airlines provided the route network is integrated to meet the demands of the traveller.
Tran Mai Hoa, Vietnamese, Ha Noi
I have experienced a late flight with a local budget airline. It was during the peak season around Ha Noi's 1000th year anniversary in 2010, and my family and I were flying from Ha Noi to HCM City to avoid the crowds.
First, we were informed via SMS that the flight would be delayed two hours, which was still OK for us. When we arrived at Noi Bai International Airport, there was no instant information about what time the plane would take off, so all we could do was wait. So we did.
The reception counter kept giving mixed messages: "Something's wrong with the scheduled jet, so we are now sending another one," or "The plane will be here in one hour, two hours, three hours. Please wait."
Passengers first got angry, then calmed down a bit when they were given some compensation money. According to some rules, an air fare must be partially refunded if an aeroplane is delayed.
But apart from this, passengers knew there was nothing else they could do, so they tried to find a comfy seat to lie down. It was past mid-night.
We were woken by an announcement inviting all passengers to board at 4am, seven hours after the declared departure time.
I've travelled many times on budget airlines in Europe, but never did I have such terrible experience. But in Viet Nam, things don't work like that. There is a Vietnamese saying: "You get what you pay for," so maybe with budget airlines, just expect the unexpected.
Nguyen Tuong Nhi, Vietnamese, HCM City
I used to travel with a local budget operator. Except for the narrower space between seats and the poor English by crew members (compared with the national flag carrier), I have nothing else to complain about.
In brief, the experiences have been positive and I will continue to save money by travelling with budget airlines.
I believe they are not thriving here because of a lack of competition. A possible solution to reducing monopolistic control in the domestic aviation industry is to invite more shareholders or investors to build and manage aviation facilities.
Matthew Paul, American, Ha Noi
Who says that low-cost airlines are unpopular here? I have been on many budget flights that have been fully booked. And I have seen plenty of flights delayed - and not only by low-cost carriers.
There is an ongoing social feeling that it is safer to travel with major operators. A lot of the negative public opinion surrounding cheaper airlines in Viet Nam is the result of the safety violations committed by one low-cost carrier a few years ago.
But I have still travelled on low-cost carriers many times, without delays or problems. However, they do seem to feel older and make more noise when landing, compared to the national carrier.
Hiromi Kimura, Japanese, Ha Noi
I can't afford wasting time due to delayed flights so I prefer the national carrier or international airlines. However, I think there's great potential for developing budget airlines here.
It's strange that in a country with a rapidly growing population, one that has only recently achieved middle-income status, most people still prefer paying more for flights.
This is because most people here believe it's safer to travel with major airlines. While budget operators can lure more people with attractive promotions, if they can't keep to their schedules or look after their customers better, people will keep travelling on more expensive airlines.
The development of budget airlines in Viet Nam has been hindered by lack of airport infrastructure and high inflation. The Government needs to make more effort to reduce cost burdens for airlines and travellers at airports. — VNS