Joint Venture Begins for National Flag Air Carrier

The joint venture announced in November to create a new Cambo­dian national flag air carrier became a reality Thursday as the government entered into an agreement with the Indonesian conglomerate Rajawali group.

However it remained unclear Thurs­day when the new airline could begin flying or what it might be called. The long-awaited company will replace the defunct Royal Air Cambodge, which was liquidated in 2001.

At a signing ceremony in Phnom Penh, Cabinet Minister Sok An said the new airline, with $50 million in startup capital, would be able to tap the recent growth in visitors to Cambodia.

“This time the national carrier can be much larger than the last one…and can be much more profit­able due to the recent increase of tourism,” he said. Sok An said the gov­ernment would own a 51 percent stake in the new company.

Speaking at the ceremony, Raj­­awali CEO Peter Sondakh, who is ranked as Indonesia’s 19th-richest man with a net worth of $510 million, said much remained to be done before the first flight could take off, and he hoped the new airline could compete in the Cambod­ian marketplace.

Ho Vandy, president of the Cam­bodia Association of Travel Agents, said that CATA members had be­come frustrated by the lack of infor­ma­­tion officials had provided about the new national carrier.

“We need to clarify their schedule, their international routes, their domestic routes. They need to clarify this information to all our members,” he said.

A domestic air route linking Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, which currently does not exist, would allow the cities to share the large numbers of tourists visiting both locations while international routes would bring even more tourists to Cambodia, Ho Vandy said.

A national air carrier will also help raise Cambodia’s profile, he added.

“Tourists want to see what is your national carrier. Cambodia can promote itself by this national airline,” he said.

Mao Havanall, secretary of state at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said the new company is considering using new Boeing aircraft models 737, 757 and 767.

“Each nation should have a na­tional airline,” he said, adding that the Rajawali group had agreed to as­sume all liability for operating losses.

   (Additional reporting by Douglas Gillison)

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