Vietnamese citizens in full-body protective suits get their temperatures checked before boarding a repatriation flight operated by Vietnam Airlines departing from Seoul's Incheon Airport in May. — Photo courtesy of Vietnam Airlines
HÀ NỘI — The Civil Aviation Authority (CAA) of Việt Nam has recently defended the cost of repatriation flights and related services, saying they had not been inflated due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
Võ Huy Cường, deputy head of the CAA, said that two ‘combo flights’ – VN417 from Seoul to Đà Nẵng on November 20, and VN417 from Seoul to Quảng Ninh on November 23, both operated by Vietnam Airlines – had shown there was real demand for all-in-one packages.
The packages include a flight ticket (which includes the cost to be paid for service providers both in and outside Việt Nam), costs for three or four-star hotel stays of 14 days for mandatory quarantine with three meals a day, specialised transport services from the airport to the quarantine hotel, two COVID-19 tests, and treatment of medical waste and disinfection of personal effects during the stay, among others.
Cường said the use of three and four-star hotels had been decided by local governments because they had a capacity of 100 or more rooms to accommodate centralised quarantine for large group of arrivals, preventing them scattering across different facilities and making it hard to manage and monitor quarantine compliance.
“Prices for combo packages are reasonable, and ticket prices are no higher than pre-COVID-19,” Cường noted.
The claim that the actual price Vietnamese citizens returning from South Korea had to pay for these combo packages has been pushed up 1.5-2 times to VNĐ40-50 million (US$1,730-2,163), compared to the initial asking price of VNĐ29.5-30 million, “does not come from official sources, and only personal Facebook accounts,” according to Cường.
Cường stressed that after discussions with the arrivals, the rates were similar to the agreed published rates.
However, slight differences could occur due to currency conversion during transactions done overseas, between the Japanese yen, South Korea’s won or Vietnamese đồng, for example.
Also, in Quảng Ninh, depending on the time, even the designed three-star quarantine hotels have run out of space, which makes it necessary to quarantine the passengers into higher-rated hotels, Cường said, adding that Vietnam Airlines is working with Quảng Ninh authorities to set up more diverse quarantine facilities.
In order to shorten travel times, two future flights carrying Vietnamese returnees from South Korea to be quarantined in Thanh Hoá Province (central Việt Nam) will be redirected to land at Nội Bài International Airport in Hà Nội, instead of Vân Đồn International Airport in Quảng Ninh Province, which is further to the north.
Authorities in Thanh Hoá Province have agreed on the plan with their counterparts in Hà Nội, and will coordinate to ensure safety for passengers on these two flights when they are transported from the airport to FLC Sầm Sơn hotel complex in Thanh Hoá City.
Strict prevention protocols
Also according to representatives of the Airports Corporation of Việt Nam (ACV), disease control protocols at airports were being strictly implemented.
Aviation security staff will co-ordinate with local Centres for Disease Control (CDCs) to ensure all passengers wear masks, wash their hands at the entrance to airports, and fill in self-declared health forms (paper or electronic) at flight desks.
If the passenger’s body temperature is found to be over 36 degrees Celsius, in addition to displaying typical COVID-19 symptoms such as shortness of breath or dry coughing, they will be treated as a potential coronavirus carrier and immediately transferred to a centralised quarantine facility.
All flights arriving overseas will be disinfected right after landing at their designated parking lots.
High tough surfaces like armrests, door knob on washrooms and the outer shell of overhead luggage compartments will receive extra attention.
Airlines that operate repatriation flights usually ask passengers and crew to wear personal protective equipment, especially masks, during the entire durations of their flights. — VNS