Low cost carrier Viva Macau has run out of money and its operations have been suspended by the Macau government.
About 300 people are stranded at Macau airport and there are reports that a further 650 travellers originating from nearby Hong Kong have been told to make other arrangements.
Viva Macau recently ended its Sydney flights but said it was extending its Melbourne services.
This morning the airlines’ web site remains open to bookings made by unsuspecting consumers in Australia. There is no consumer law protection in Australia for the value of an airfare paid to an airline that goes broke or out of business before the flight occurs.
The Travel Compensation Fund in Australia only accepts claims made where a packaged travel arrangement is purchased from a licensed travel agent, meaning accommodation, tours, transfers and other extras in addition to the fare component where it is bundled.
If you have made a booking on Viva Macau by credit card for a flight that has not yet departed you need to urgently discuss the cancellation of the transaction with the bank or card company involved. You may well get nothing back, but you may be covered by the terms of card purchase insurance included in some card agreements, or by additional travel insurance policies that you may have purchased.
In Macau, government officials are working the terminal to organise emergency hotel accommodation and flights for stranded travellers, apparently at no additional cost.
The first sign of trouble at Viva Macau was the cancellation of two flights on Friday night when the check in staff told customers the airline was unable to pay for the fuel.
However some of its flights did operate in the following days, including at least one from Australia which returned to Sydney airport for repairs to a failed generator before continuing to Macau.
Government officials have been quoted as saying they had acted in the interests of the reputation of Macau in suspending the airline’s operations as the number of delayed flights began to accumulate.
While the Macau authorities have suspended its operations they have emphasised that they hadn’t acted against the carrier’s operating certificate, leaving it open for the airline to find the money it needs to continue flying on a reliable basis.
Viva Macau flies three second hand Boeing 767s, and specialised in offering flights to Macau, a short ferry ride from Hong Kong, for less than the standard economy fare between Melbourne and Sydney.
Most of its revenue was generated by flights between Macau and Japan and Indonesia, with many of its passengers making surface connections from within China to access its bargain fares.