Coping with cancellations related to severe acute respiratory syndrome, airlines that fly into Cambodia have asked officials here to slash fees and taxes until air travel rebounds.
The Cambodia Airport Management Services charges $1,200 for airplanes arriving at and departing from Phnom Penh International Airport and Siem Reap International Airport.
This week, President Airlines and others that provide service to Cambodia asked CAMS to cut its fees by at least 50 percent.
“The price is killing us. It’s strangling all of us. If they lower it by half, that would help out both President Airlines and all other airlines traveling in and out of Phnom Penh,” said Deny Gungoro, marketing manager for President Airlines.
But Cambodian airport officials have been silent about whether they will follow the lead of other regional airports and drop prices since the airlines requested the price cut.
“We want to see if there is any room for them to lower the charges…because business as a whole now is very, very bad,” said Alfred Sung, local manager for Dragonair.
“If we can get a lower price, that would help us lower operation costs…then maybe we don’t need to cancel flights. It would be a win-win situation for the airport authority and for the airlines.”
Airport authorities in Taiwan and Singapore, for example, have already reduced their fees since SARS-related travel cancellations crippled the Asian airline industry.
The SARS-related reduction in air travel to Cambodia should not result in any employee layoffs, Sung said. “Airline companies running businesses in Cambodia don’t have any plans to cut local employees,” he said.
Even though Cambodia has not had any reported SARS cases yet, fear of the virus is still cutting into air travel here.
Many tourists are traveling to alternate destinations instead of Cambodia, said one senior Bangkok Airways official who asked not to be named.
“We need to save our operating costs for flights. The situation is the worst it has been since the breakout of SARS,” he said.