The government will suspend Siem Reap Airways from flying following a recently imposed ban by the European Commission that cited safety concerns, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation Director-General Chea Aun said Tuesday.
He did not know when the suspension would begin but said that Siem Reap Airways had already voluntarily stopped all commercial flights Saturday.
However, Siem Reap Airways General Manager Lao Santi said by telephone Tuesday that only domestic flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap have stopped.
International flights to Ho Chi Minh City and Luang Prabang may continue until the end of the month, he said. He cited poor business as one reason for the discontinuation of flights but declined to discuss other reasons.
“The bookings are very low,” he said, declining to give a number. He said he did not know if the ban specifically decreased business.
“We have to talk to the SSCA about safety standards,” Lao Santi said, referring questions about the airline’s safety record to the SSCA.
On Nov 14, the EC blacklisted Siem Reap Airways and in a statement said the carrier “does not operate in compliance with Cambodian safety regulations nor does it meet the standards of the International Civil Aviation Organization.”
The statement also raised questions about the SSCA’s ability to enforce safety standards. The ICAO does not make its safety audits public.
“The ban does apply to all aircraft on the Air Operating Certificate of Siem Reap Airways, which has eight aircraft registered in Thailand,” according to an e-mail from the EC delegation to Cambodia.
The airline must resolve problems cited by the EC before it can resume flights in Cambodia, Chea Aun said.
He maintained that despite EC concerns and the suspension, the airline is safe, adding that the suspension is more about satisfying EC concerns than actual danger to passengers.
Lao Santi said Vietnam Airlines will absorb Siem Reap Airways’ customers for flights to Ho Chi Minh City and a Lao airline will absorb flights to Luang Prabang.
Bangkok Airways, the airline’s part owner, is handling its flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, he added.