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Flights confirmed for stranded Taiwanese travelers in Vietnam

02/13/2024 08:49 PM
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Travelers commute with their luggage in Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport in 2013. CNA file photo
Travelers commute with their luggage in Hanoi's Noi Bai International Airport in 2013. CNA file photo

Hanoi, Vietnam, Feb. 13 (CNA) Charter flights back home have been confirmed for Taiwanese travelers whose original vacation itineraries to Vietnam were unexpectedly disrupted when a Vietnamese operator requested additional payment in the middle of their travels in the country, Taiwan's Tourism Administration confirmed in a Tuesday update.

The bureau said after negotiations, Taiwan's We Love Tour company and Vietnam's Winner International Travel Co. Ltd. have come to an agreement to ensure all affected tourists can return to Taiwan.

The Tourism Administration said that four chartered flights between Tuesday and Wednesday will bring back all individuals who left Taiwan for the island of Phú Quốc in Vietnam on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10.

The chartered flights will also include customers of We Love Tour whose original itineraries came to a halt on Monday.

However, the administration also confirmed that the Taiwan travel company with which the tourists booked, has still not paid for the Feb. 14 tickets it booked for its customers with Vietnam's Bamboo Airways.

Two tourists speak to press in the Taoyuan Airport after returning to Taiwan from Phú Quốc on Tuesday. CNA photo Feb. 13, 2024
Two tourists speak to press in the Taoyuan Airport after returning to Taiwan from Phú Quốc on Tuesday. CNA photo Feb. 13, 2024

At a negotiation on Tuesday between We Love Tour General Manager David Lin (林大鈞) and Bamboo Airway's chairperson in Taiwan Chang Chih-chia (張志嘉) that was mediated by representatives from Taiwan's Travel Quality Assurance Association (TQAA), Lin said the company is unable to withdraw funds to pay Bamboo due to the ongoing Lunar New Year holiday.

However, the meeting came to a favorable conclusion for Taiwan travelers as it was announced that Bamboo Airways will fly We Love Tour customers home based on humanitarian considerations, the Tourism Administration confirmed, adding that activities planned for a day or two were canceled from the itineraries of those tourists.

Details of the agreement between the Taiwan tour company and the Vietnam airline were not made public.

The Administration also said that it believes 23 individuals caught up in the dispute have already returned to Taiwan of their own accord.

Abandoned travelers

News of Taiwan tour groups being abandoned in Phú Quốc first surfaced on Monday when individuals from the groups took to Facebook to complain about their treatment.

About 800 travelers from various Taiwanese tour agencies took off from Taiwan on Feb. 9 and Feb. 10 on five-day tours to Phú Quốc managed by Vietnamese tour companies.

Of the travelers who departed on the two dates, 292 were under the management of We Love Tour whose tours were scheduled to be operated by Winner.

However, on the evening of Feb. 11, the general manager of Winner Kevin Tang (唐凱) gathered the travelers to demand an additional US$720 per person for their itinerary to continue.

Winner General Manager Kevin Tang and associates speak with Taiwanese tourists and ask for extra payment. Photo courtesy of a private contributor
Winner General Manager Kevin Tang and associates speak with Taiwanese tourists and ask for extra payment. Photo courtesy of a private contributor

Speaking to CNA on Monday, Tang said that he had demanded payment from David Lin by Jan. 31 to fund the Feb. 10-14 tour groups.

Tang said Lin continued to find excuses to not pay on time, adding that Lin had promised wire transfers on Feb. 9 on top of cash to be delivered by We Love Tour personnel.

Although no such funds were provided by Feb. 10, Tang said he and his shareholders still decided to receive customers from Taiwan, but then decided to call Lin in front of the 292 customers to demand proper payment on Feb. 11.

With no additional funds guaranteed, Tang said he then resorted to asking the tourists from Taiwan to make an additional payment for their vacation to go ahead.

Those who chose not to pay were told by Tang that he was unable to care for them any longer, leaving them to fend for themselves and abandoning them with no further lodging or transportation.

Lin made an appearance in front of reporters in Taipei on Monday to refute suggestion made by Tang that We Love Tour faces financial difficulties.

Update

Feb. 16: Tourism Administration suspends operation of 'We Love Tour' for 3 months

Feb. 15: Ill-fated Vietnam tour group members return to Taiwan, demand answers

Taiwan's We Love Tour General Manager David Lin speaks to local press on Monday. CNA photo Feb. 12, 2024
Taiwan's We Love Tour General Manager David Lin speaks to local press on Monday. CNA photo Feb. 12, 2024

Lin claimed that the dispute was caused by a misunderstanding, as the Taiwan company believed payment was to be settled by Feb. 26, while the Vietnamese travel company insisted it was due on Jan. 31

The company takes full responsibility for the situation and will fully compensate its customers, Lin added.

Speaking with CNA on Monday, a number of individuals who took part in the tour groups elaborated on their experience.

A tourist surnamed Chang (張) said problems started even before arriving in Vietnam, with the schedule of their departure flight constantly changing.

Chang said he and a number of customers were initially hesitant about paying the additional charge, which Tang said could be claimed from Lin once the tour groups returned to Taiwan, but decided to do so after a phone call between Tang and Lin revealed that We Love Tour did not wire money to Winner.

A customer surnamed Yang (楊) added that Lin asked them not to pay the US$720 on Feb. 11, but failed to carry through with any of his guarantees and promises by Feb. 12.

Upon arriving back in Taiwan Tuesday, another tourist whose last name is also Yang revealed that their group was not even accompanied by a Taiwanese tour group leader to Vietnam on the day of their departure.

The itinerary of one of the We Love Tour groups with Winner in Phú Quốc. Graphic provided by a private contributor
The itinerary of one of the We Love Tour groups with Winner in Phú Quốc. Graphic provided by a private contributor

The Tourism Administration said it will conduct an investigation to determine whether there was any wrongdoing on the part of We Love Tour.

Meanwhile, the TQAA will help those affected settle any financial disputes.

The administration added that those negatively impacted by the collapse of their vacation to Phú Quốc can also seek legal redress against the Taiwan tour company.

A number of tourists who returned to Taiwan on Tuesday indicated they plan to sue We Love Tour.

(By Chen Yi-hsuan, Chen Chia-lun, Yu Hsiao-han, Liu Chien-pang and James Lo)

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