Apsara Air to Begin Flying This Month

Apsara International Air, a new joint Chinese-Cambodian airline, will launch flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City later this month and an international route between China and Cambodia by the end of the year, an official at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) confirmed Thursday.

Keo Sivorn, director-general of the SSCA, said the government body had issued an air-operator certificate to Apsara, paving the way for the new routes.

“It will…first fly from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap, after that from Cambodia to China,” Mr. Sivorn said, adding that he did not know the proposed date of the airline’s inaugural flight.

On Monday, Chinese news agency Xinhua reported that Apsara would begin flying between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap City by the end of September and between China and Cambodia by the end of December using Airbus A320 jets.

According to the Center for Asia Pacific Aviation (CAPA), Apsara “is a Cambodian start-up co-owned by Chinese and Cambodian investors.” While CAPA does not say who owns the airline, the Commerce Ministry lists its chairman as Tsui Pin Yang, a Chinese national.

Apsara is one of two Chinese-backed airlines slated to go airborne this year.

In August, Cambodia Bayon Airlines, which is owned by the Chinese government’s Aviation Industry Corporation of China, officially announced that it would begin operating flights within Cambodia by the end of the year, and eventually to major cities in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and China.

But it won’t be all clear skies ahead for the two airlines, according to a CAPA report released Monday, which says that none of Cambodia’s existing airlines are seen to be profitable.

“None of the main airlines in the four smaller markets of Myanmar, Cambodia, Brunei and Laos are believed to be profitable,” it says.

“Airlines from these markets…lack the scale to effectively compete against larger Southeast Asian carriers.”

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