Cambodia Bayon Airlines, China’s first airline established overseas, marked its official opening in Phnom Penh on Thursday, with officials touting the venture’s potential to advance relations between the two countries.
The airline, which is owned by the Aviation Industry Corporation of China (AVIC), a Chinese state-owned company, is planning to operate domestic flights within Cambodia as well as flights to major cities in Vietnam, Laos, Thailand and China. Its first flight is not expected until the end of the year.
“It is hoped that Bayon Airlines would bring more advanced aviation technology produced by Aviation Industry Corporation of China to Cambodia, thus helping to develop the aviation industry in the country, which contributes to a closer relationship between China and Cambodia,” AVIC president Lin Zuoming told a crowd of about 500 officials from both countries at the opening ceremony on Phnom Penh’s Koh Pich island.
According to a press release issued Thursday, Bayon is China’s first airline established overseas and has plans to become Cambodia’s largest airline.
Leon Ren, Mr. Lin’s assistant, said the airline likely would have its inaugural flight in January at the latest.
“It depends on the speed of the operation. The fastest will be in December,” she said.
Bayon’s first flights will be from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap and from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, according to Thursday’s press release. The company then plans to increase flights to major cities in Southeast and East Asia.
“Bayon Airlines is committed to building the route network that covers Cambodia, connecting Asean, China, Japan and Korea from Cambodia as the center,” the release says.
Bu Jianguo, China’s ambassador to Cambodia, said at Thursday’s ceremony that the launch of Bayon would help increase Chinese tourism to Cambodia.
“The launching of Bayon Airlines would improve the air transportation between China and Southeast Asian countries including Cambodia, contributing to greater economic and trade cooperation between China, Cambodia and other Southeast Asian countries,” she said.
Also at Thursday’s ceremony, Bayon Airlines officials signed an agreement with the Xi’an Aircraft Industry Company, which is owned by AVIC, to purchase 20 MA60 turboprop-powered aircraft over the next five years.
© 2014, Chan Cheuk Yin. All rights reserved.