Vietnamese travelers have been puzzled over unusually high air fares in the middle of the low season, and airlines have been unable to come up with a satisfactory explanation for the sudden jump.
Domestic air fares have surged by up to three times since the beginning of this month, to around VND3.6 million ($158) for a one-way ticket from Hanoi to Saigon, for example.
Air fares from the capital to popular resort towns such as Da Lat and Nha Trang have risen around 50 percent.
Even ticket retailers said they have been caught off guard, and that customers are no longer receiving better rates by booking a week in advance.
“The price hikes are unreasonable,” a source from a ticket office in Hanoi said. “They are as expensive as the Lunar New Year holiday season, but this is the low season.”
But carriers have cited the low season itself as the root of the problem.
They said they have reduced the number of flights because demand is less, and services on some long routes have been cut by half.
A source from budget carrier Jetstar said that there may have been a miscalculation between operational planning and actual demand.
He said the demand for this year’s low season might be higher than last year, but carriers plan their flight cuts based on previous years’ data. The cuts aim to reduce costs and allow aircraft maintenance to be carried out ahead of the year-end peak season, he said.
Air tickets are still available for a range of prices, but late birds will be left with all the expensive fares, he said.
A representative from private carrier Vietjet also said that price fluctuations are driven by supply and demand.
But carriers said the high prices are still below the limits set by the Civil Aviation Authority of Vietnam (CAAV).
A CAAV official said it is checking the prices and will order the carriers to add more flights if necessary, according to Tin Tuc, a Vietnam News Agency news website.