Monday,  Feb 18, 2019,07:49 (GMT+7) 0 0
Beating around the bush
Phuong Thao
Friday,  Jan 26, 2018,22:46 (GMT+7)

Beating around the bush

Phuong Thao

By turning down a Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV) proposal to halt the airport entry/fee collection from automobiles, the Ministry of Transport has drawn fire from the public. For years, many questions have been raised over the purpose of the fee at airports across the country, with millions of passengers, drivers and transport firms having their pockets picked. Foreigners who come to the country for the first time do not understand why they are subject to the airport entry/exit fee aside from an airport charge which is included in air ticket prices. Some of them even refuse to pay it.

To address the issue, CAAV proposed halting the fee collection at airports nationwide. In a document sent to the ministry, Dinh Viet Thang, head of CAAV, affirmed that aviation service prices were stipulated in the Civil Aviation Law and other relevant guidance documents. Currently, the charge for using roads leading to airport terminals is a non-aviation service one but it is not specified in the ministry’s price list. 

An inspection conducted by the Government Inspectorate showed that 21 out of 22 airports managed by the Airports Corporation of Vietnam (ACV) were collecting such road tolls. The rates ranged from VND7,000 to VND30,000 and those regularly going to airports could choose to buy monthly tickets for VND600,000 to VND1.65 million. This fee is applicable to automobiles that do not use the airport parking service as they enter terminals for several minutes to pick up or drop off passengers. From January 1, 2012 to December 31, 2015, ACV’s airport road toll revenue amounted to about VND551 billion (US$24.26 million). In addition, ACV assigned its affiliates to collect fees from providers of non-aviation services without detailed instructions.

The Government Inspectorate concluded the collection had benefited ACV and the national budget. However, it constituted a serious violation of current laws and regulations, causing financial losses for air passengers and others.

The Transport Ministry, nonetheless, still insists on the fee collection, saying there is no ground for its suspension. As reported by the online version of Nguoi Lao Dong newspaper, the ministry says ACV’s road toll collection is necessary to compensate for infrastructure investment and maintenance. As the operator of 21 airports in Vietnam, ACV is tasked with investing in and managing all facilities, including internal roads for parking and leading to terminals. Therefore, the ministry says it is considering adding roads outside airport terminals into the list of chargeable non-aviation services.

Le Manh Hung, general director of ACV, says in an interview that the firm is responsible for upgrading and improving infrastructure in and around terminals to provide passengers with better services. Terminal road toll revenue is used for maintenance and operation of roads, installation of traffic signs, construction of power and water systems, and employment of security guards. Costs of such activities are far higher than airport entry/exit fee revenues. Besides, ACV reasons, the fee is used as a tool to ensure traffic order inside terminals. Congestion would appear if vehicles can freely enter terminals.

As reported by Tuoi Tre newspaper, lawyer Pham Tan Thuan from the HCMC Bar Association objects to the ministry’s decision, saying the fee collection should be immediately halted as concluded by the Government Inspectorate. Besides, Deputy Prime Minister Truong Hoa Binh has assigned the ministry to coordinate with the Finance Ministry to handle ACV’s violations.

National Assembly deputy Luu Binh Nhuong also tells the newspaper that road tolls are still being collected at airports although the Government Inspectorate concluded that the fee is against the law. ACV said that its daily revenue from the fee collection is VND600-650 million. This is a huge figure, so the Ministry of Transport should suspend it and launch an investigation. The ultimate goal is to find out who is behind the wrong action.

“Passengers are required to pay an airport fee when buying air tickets, so they have the right to use all airport facilities, including roads to terminals. Furthermore, scrapping the fee will not trigger traffic congestion as cars need a few minutes to pick up or drop off passengers. It is the toll booths that often cause traffic jams as during peak hours, vehicles always queue in long lines to buy tickets,” Nhuong says.

According to economist Chung Thanh Tien, ACV imposes a charge on anyone coming to airports without informing them of their service quality or infrastructure investment. If such roads are the only choice for passengers to enter terminals, it is impossible to collect the fee.

National Assembly deputy Le Thanh Van says ACV is beating around the bush. Almost all airports in the world collect a fee on cars parked in terminal areas, not on vehicles using roads to enter terminals. ACV should consider alternative ways, such as a modern parking service, instead of imposing such an illegal toll fee.

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