Etihad Airways in Talks to Come to Cambodia

Officials from Etihad Airways, the national airline of the United Arab Emirates, are negotiating an agreement that would bring direct flights from Abu Dhabi to Cambodia as soon as next year, an official with the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation said this week

A memorandum of understanding is to be signed in two weeks after Etihad officials finish meeting with the SSCA this week in Phnom Penh, said Say Sokhan, undersecretary of state for the SSCA.

“In the content of the MoU, there will be direct flights from United Arab Emirates to Cambodia,” he said, adding that it is still unclear where and how often the flights will run. “All airports in Cambodia would be open for these direct flights, including Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.”

Following the signing of the MoU, Etihad will conduct a more in-depth market study to determine how many flights will be added to Etihad’s flight schedule, which could happen in the first quarter of next year.

The airline, which started in 2004, is one of the fastest-growing airlines in aviation history and according to its website now flies to 64 destinations and 42 countries and in 2009 served 6.3 million passengers.

Salam Al Samarrie, the manager of government affairs for Etihad, declined to comment.

Ho Vandy, the chairman of the government-private sector working group on tourism, said Etihad officials have visited Cambodia several times in the l\past five or six years but previously believed the market was too small.

The level at which Etihad enters the Cambodia market is still unclear, he said.

“It depends on the market. They cannot push someone to do something without benefit,” he said.

Chay Chun, country manager for Silk Air, said direct flights from Abu Dhabi could open up more flights from Europe that connect through Abu Dhabi.

“There is still a lot of room for more airlines to come in. it’s a good sign for the entire tourism industry,” he said of the talks.

In October, Air France announced that it would begin commercial flights between Paris and Phnom Penh with a connecting flight in Bangkok.

Cambodia has seen a resurgence in tourism this year, with growth near pre-crisis levels. Air travel, which analysts say brings travelers who are more likely to spend money, increased 17.23 percent in the first 11 months of the year compared to the same period in 2009.


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