A Melbourne family fears it will be cruelly left $10,000 out of pocket by an international airline’s sudden decision to end flights to and from Australia from November.
News emerged in recent days that Vietnam carrier Bamboo Airways had abandoned most of its overseas routes and was making major workforce cuts as part of a shake-up described by its newly minted CEO as the “most extensive, strategic, and far-reaching restructuring project ever undertaken” in the country’s aviation history.
WATCH THE VIDEO ABOVE: Bamboo Airways’ future in doubt after it axes all Australian routes.
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The decision means an end to flights from Sydney and Melbourne to Ho Chi Minh and Melbourne to Hanoi and triggered redundancies for Bamboo Airways Australia’s GSA staff. Long-haul flights to London and Frankfurt have also been canned.
In a statement, the struggling airline told affected passengers they would be “promptly notified and assisted”.
But that has not been the case for a Melbourne family enduring a nightmare scenario now that their business class tickets to Ho Chi Minh City are worthless.
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Kelli, who asked for her surname to be withheld, told 7NEWS.com.au: “there was no warning for customers, aside from an automated email with no reply option”.
She said she had booked the one-way tickets for herself, her husband and two children on September 24, and was gearing up to leave Australia on December 28 for an exciting New Year’s overseas.
But the 13-day getaway, a Christmas present for her kids and a much-needed holiday for her builder husband, was thrown into limbo by news the airline had cancelled their flights.
The tickets cost almost $10,000 all-up and Kelli said she had hit nothing but roadblocks in her attempts to recoup her money.
“We have contacted the refund email option for Bamboo Airways only to have our emails bounce back,” she said.
“We have called the customer care line only to have every call disconnected after a lengthy wait period.”
Bamboo Airways is ending flights into and out of Australia. Credit: Bamboo Airways/Facebook
In another bitter blow for the family, the tickets weren’t covered by insurance.
To ensure their holiday goes ahead, Kelli was forced to purchase new flights with Vietnam Airlines at an “absolute premium”, given the busy travel period.
She said she was at a loss trying to understand how a global carrier could pull out of a country so abruptly, and was sure there were other “extremely frustrated” Australians in the same position.
“It’s not looking great. Every which way you turn, it’s an automated message,” she said.
On social media, it is clear she is far from alone.
‘Do not book’
“Do not book with Bamboo Airways,” raged one traveller to members of the Vietnam Travel Group on Facebook.
“I booked our direct flights from Melbourne to Hanoi back in April. I called last week to confirm our special meals and was informed that our direct flights had been cancelled and that our flights would now be via Ho Chi Min City.
“Just received a phone call advising that our flights have been cancelled altogether. We were supposed to fly in 28 days.”
The airline told 7NEWS.com.au that passengers could reschedule their flights free of charge, subject to seat availability, or receive a full ticket refund “in compliance with prevailing regulations”.
“To ensure that all customer requests are addressed in a timely and efficient manner, Bamboo Airways has deployed all available resources across customer care touchpoints, including our hotline, social media, email, online request form, etc to facilitate flight rescheduling and or full refunds at the soonest,” a spokesperson said.
“We remain fully committed to ensuring the benefits of our valued customers, and we appreciate their support and understanding during this transitional period.”
Transport Minister Catherine King’s office was only told of Bamboo Airways’ departure on Monday. Credit: AAP
It is understood the office of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Local Government Minister Catherine King was only informed on Monday of the airline’s decision to end flights to Australia.
“The announcement by Bamboo Airways to suspend services to Australia and a number of other destinations around the world is a commercial matter for the airline,” a spokesperson for the minister said.
“However, it is disappointing to see the lack of responsiveness by the airline to its customers.”
The minister’s representative encouraged concerned travellers to contact the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission, which told 7NEWS.com.au that businesses withdrawing from our shores “should ensure appropriate remedies are provided to customers”.
That includes providing refunds for services that can no longer proceed due to the business’s commercial decision to withdraw.
“Businesses should also make sure their communications to customers about their entitlements are clear and accurate,” a spokesperson for the watchdog said.
Bamboo Airways has trimmed international flights and left passengers in limbo, waiting for refunds. Credit: Bamboo Airways/Facebook
Bamboo Airways burst onto the international transport market in 2019 with enormous ambitions.
But in recent months the warning signs have been obvious, with major financial losses and a revolving door of key management staff, reported 7NEWS.
Newly appointed chief executive, Luong Hoai Nam — who was previously CEO of Jetstar Pacific — described the restructuring of Bamboo Airways as “the most extensive, strategic, and far-reaching restructuring project ever undertaken in Vietnamese aviation history”.
Bamboo Airways previously claimed its major overhaul was needed to “rebuild the airline more efficiently and streamlined”.
“Bamboo Airways has improved commercial efficiency by reducing the frequency of a number of inefficient routes with low passenger demand while increasing operation on routes recording high demand,” the company said in a recent statement.
The carrier also flagged its fleet would incorporate “narrow-body aircraft and jets” for deployment on key domestic routes including Hanoi, Ho Chi Minh City and Da Nang as well as “domestic tourist routes with high demand and international routes to Southeast Asia”.
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