Airlines Slowly Recovering

More passengers are filling airplane seats to and from Cambo­dia this month as airline business slowly regains momentum after the damaging effects of se­vere acute respiratory syndrome, airline officials said Thursday.

The regional outbreak of SARS incited a worldwide fear of flying to or through affected areas. But since Asean countries were de­clared SARS-free earlier this month, travelers and airline officials are regaining confidence.

Dragonair, the only airline in Cambodia to maintain flights to Hong Kong during the regional outbreak, will increase its number of flights from twice a week to four beginning July 1, Drag­on­air Mana­ger Alfred Sung said Thursday. Hong Kong was one of the areas hit heaviest by SARS.

Dragonair’s 172-seat aircraft has an 80 percent occupancy this month, up from as low as 10 per­cent in recent months, he said.

After grounding all flights in May, Mekong Airlines should resume business Aug 1, its pres­i­dent, Heath Shen, said Thurs­day.

A Civil Aviation Secretariat official said Thursday that SARS fears re­duced plane traffic into and out of Cambodia by about 40 percent.

Chan Ly, a Diethelm Travel ticketing manager, said he has seen a definite increase in the number of tickets sold. “When SARS lifted in Singapore and Hong Kong, we sold more tickets,” he said.

EVA Airlines in July will in­crease its weekly flights be­tween Phnom Penh, Tai­pei, Tai­wan and the US from two to its usual four per week due to recent upswing in the number of passengers, an EVA reservations officer said.

Thai Airways also is enjoying an influx of passengers, after numbers dropped so low that the airline swapped its 305-seat Airbus to a 149-seat Boeing, said Reser­va­tion Supervisor Chan Trea.

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