Sihanoukville’s modest international airport has welcomed the first of four weekly AirAsia jets from its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, the third country to connect a flight to Cambodia’s coastal city.
The first AirAsia Berhad jet, at full capacity with 180 passengers, landed in Sihanoukville on Wednesday afternoon and flew back to Kuala Lumpur 40 minutes later, according to a Cambodia Airports press release.
Planes from the Malaysian capital will land in Sihanoukville every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday, according to the release.
Sihanoukville’s airport currently has 98 weekly scheduled flights and regular charters from Kuala Lumpur, Ho Chi Minh City, Siem Reap and three Chinese cities, Chengdu, Wuhan and Wuxi, said Khek Norinda, group communications director of Cambodia Airports, in an email.
Of the more than 7 million travelers who flew into Cambodia last year, about 157,000 came to Sihanoukville’s airport, doubling passenger rates from 2014. But the destination is on the rise: about 177,000 passengers arrived in the airport in the first six months of this year alone, according to Cambodia Airports, owned by French company Vinci.
The company began constructing a new Sihanoukville terminal in December to increase capacity to 500,000 yearly passengers, which is expected to open early next year, according to the release.
Chhay Sivlin, president of the Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, said she welcomed the new direct flight as an opportunity to connect more tourists to the country’s coastal offerings.
“In the past there are more direct flights from China to attract Chinese tourists, but there aren’t only Chinese tourists,” she said. “We also would like to receive more tourists from other countries to know about our beautiful coast and our country overall.”
Flights into Sihanoukville ranged from $17 to $57 this month under the company’s promotional rates, while flights back to Kuala Lumpur ran from $40 to $71, according to AirAsia’s website.
Spencer Lee, head of commerce for AirAsia Berhad, said in the release that the new flight path will open Sihanoukville to connections from the 27 countries that land in Kuala Lumpur via the low cost airline.
“We hope to grow this city to be a popular tourist destination that enables travellers from the region to experience a hidden side of Asean that has yet to be discovered,” he said in the release.