A little more than a month after Cambodia Angkor Air, Cambodia’s new national flag air carrier, was launched at Phnom Penh International Airport, business at the company has made a modest start. Company officials, though, express a need for patience and growing optimism for the future.
Soy Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, said that travelers on the new airline had been gradually increasing ever since its launch on July 27.
“In the high season we will see a further increase in customers,” he said. “It is normal that when business first starts we have some difficulty.”
Yesterday the airline added a new Airbus A321 to its fleet—capable of carrying 184 passengers—that will fly between Phnom Penh and Ho Ch Minh as well as Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh.
From Saturday, Cambodia Angkor Air will schedule 18 flights a day—four return flights daily between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, three return flights between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City and two return flights between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh City.
Mr Sokhan said that the airline would see another two French-Italian made ATR-72s added to its fleet in 2010 but declined to provide data on ticket sales at the airline.
Despite what officials admit has been of less than spectacular first few weeks in business, Mr Sokhan said the airline was in the process of opening up ticket offices in Thailand, South Korea, China and Malaysia in order to boost its presence internationally.
Tep Suntary, air transport director at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said that the airline’s long-term plans included scheduling flights to Bangkok and Vientiane.
Quang Dinh, assistant to Cambodia Angkor Air’s CEO, Tan Trins, said it was too early to draw any conclusions on the national carrier’s success and refused to provide details regarding ticket sales.
“Currently our performance is not so bad because we just entered the market a few weeks ago. It’s too early to say,” he said. “First we need to take time to make efforts to create our reputation and our image.”
Mr Quang said that Cambodia Angkor Air is improving access to tickets by creating better links with travel agents and would pay particular attention to marketing themselves abroad as well as developing their website so customers can book online. Currently customers must book through Vietnam Airlines’ website.
As of yesterday, the cost of a one-way flight between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap at Cambodia Angkor Air cost $53 including, taxes and other charges, according to the Vietnam Airlines website, $13 more than the cheapest deal at the national carrier’s competitor, Bangkok Airways. A one-way flight between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh currently costs $140, including taxes and other charges.
Ekkaphon Nanta-o-sot, deputy manager of Bangkok Airways’ corporate communications department, wrote in an email that Bangkok Airways had launched competitive deals for the duration of the low tourist season.
The airline currently has a deal selling one-way tickets at $40 including taxes and other charges on select flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, an offer that is due to expire on September 30.
Seang Volak, the owner of Palm Tours, said that she thought the cheap tickets available from Cambodia Angkor Air and Bangkok Airways wouldn’t last forever.
“I think they will talk to each other and decide on a price at around $120 or $130 [for a return flight],” she said, adding that the lack of antitrust legislation in Cambodia permitted such commercial practices.
“Both airlines cannot afford to loose any more money,” she said.