Additional Bangkok Flights Spur Skepticism

Bangkok Airways has been given the green light to add an additional daily flight to its Bangkok-Siem Reap schedule, an airline representative said Mon­day.

But a senior Tourism Ministry official expressed concern Sun­day that the airline’s plans to increase its flights to Siem Reap might encourage visitors to just stay for the day.

“They will come in the morning, leave in the afternoon,” said Tourism Director-General So Ma­ra. “We will get nothing out of it.”

According to Bangkok Airways and government aviation officials, twice-daily flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap are to begin May 1.

One flight will depart Bangkok at 8 am and another in the late af­ternoon, according to the carrier. Flights to Bangkok are scheduled to leave from Siem Reap at 9 am and 4 pm.

Direct flights to the town from Bangkok began in December, with four flights a week. In Feb­ruary, the carrier increased its flights to one a day, doubling its passengers.

According to the Tourism Min­istry, 430 passengers arrived on direct flights in January, and 845 in February. No statistics were available on visitor arrivals from Phnom Penh.

The Tourism Ministry supported opening Siem Reap to charter flights, although Phnom Penh hotel operators said they worried tourists would avoid the capital completely. But tourism industry mem­bers have said tourists still visit Phnom Penh.

An additional daily flight will give visitors more flexibility and will cater to people, such as convention participants, who are visiting Bangkok for only a few days, said Grand Hotel D’Angkor Gen­eral Manager Gilbert Madhaven.

Hotel association spokesman Chris Ho said Monday that the new schedule will mean added convenience, but he does not expect to see much impact from it be­cause the flights carry only 70 passengers. “It only adds another 70 people; the numbers are not too alarming,” Ho said.

State Secretariat of Civil Av­iation Director-General Keo So­phal said Monday that direct charter flights are only temporary and will be reviewed as political stability increases.

Other carriers have ex­pressed interest in direct flights to Siem Reap but the government has not yet approved them.

(Reporting by Debra Boyce, Kay Kimsong and Van Roeun)

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