Passengers at Noi Bai International Airport in Hanoi, November 8, 2021. Photo by AFP
Current Covid pandemic prevention protocols including medical declaration on different apps and rapid testing rules have left domestic carriers navigating troubled skies.
During the first week after international flights resumed, January 1-7, 64 international flights brought over 7,800 passengers to Vietnam, according to a report from the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam.
Of these 18 were commercial flights while the rest were charter flights carrying experts and tourists on package tours.
After the government approved a two-week first phase of resumption of flights to nine destinations starting January 1, the CAAV has granted flight slots for domestic carriers to seven: Bangkok, San Francisco, Seoul, Singapore, Taipei, Tokyo and Phnom Penh.
Currently, flights to Beijing or Guangzhou in China and Vientiane in Laos are yet to resume as relevant aviation authorities are yet to complete negotiations.
The CAAV said the South Korean government is limiting inbound passenger flights as part of pandemic prevention measures; therefore, Vietnamese carriers are only allowed to operate two weekly flights from Vietnam to South Korea.
Since the resumption, the CAAV has received complaints about current Covid-19 protocol that have been hassling foreign passengers.
Passengers are required to submit medical declarations on too many app platforms, which is 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 submission of details on different apps, like HCMC and Hanoi, for example, the CAAV said.
Domestic carriers have proposed that the government applies just one app for immigration and medical declarations.
The rapid testing requirement for passengers arriving from Omicron-hit countries before embarking and disembarking was another hassle. Right now, they have to submit a negative PCR test result done 72 hours before departure.
Most airlines said this requirement makes things difficult for passengers. It makes air tickets expensive and causes overcrowding at Covid testing areas. Passengers don't know whether to be tested at home or at a designated medical facility.
The Ministry of Transport has suggested that the government lifts the requirement on rapid Covid testing before boarding and after exiting planes. It says foreign passengers should be required to submit negative PCR test results only before boarding flights as is being done in other countries.
Another problem is the quarantine requirement for arrivals who are not fully vaccinated. Under current regulations those who have not been fully vaccinated must show 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.