New Airline Still a Mystery

Travel agents and tourism officials were wondering Sunday if a new airline approved by the government will operate as planned.

The investment proposal of Royal Khmer Airlines was appro­ved earlier this year by the Coun­cil of Ministers, and the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation issued it an airline operator certificate last month, Civil Aviation’s Op­era­tion Director Kao Sivoeurn said Sun­day. But few government officials and industry representatives on Sunday said they knew much about the proposed airline.

“Concerning its organization, aircraft, flight destinations and marketing, they need to study more before operating flight services,” Kao Sivoeurn said. “We’re not sure when they will be able to start operation.”

It was just a few days ago that Prime Minister Hun Sen publicly criticized national carrier Royal Air Cambodge for tardiness and unreliability.

And tycoon Teng Bunma, one of the most influential businessmen in Cambodia, also has made public his lack of confidence in the national carrier.

Kao Sivoeurn said Royal Khmer Airlines has a local managing director but the civil aviation secretariat does not know the planned airline’s primary owner or inves­tor details. He said he also did not know the routes it plans or what kind of planes it will use.

Soy Sokhan, government advi­ser on civil aviation and tourism, said Sunday that the government had approved Royal Khmer Air­lines to operate domestic and inter­national flight services, but he said he did not have information about its management plan or financial resources.

“Capital? I have no idea about it,” Soy Sokhan said.

Tourism officials welcomed an addition into the flight market.

“We have the open-sky policy, and we are promoting more attractive tourism,” said Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth. “Sure, sure, it’s encouraging.”

But Tith Chan Tha, deputy chief for the ministry’s marketing, was cautious. “If it’s true, it’s good news, because it would lead to more competition, better services and more gateways to Cam­bo­d­ia,” he said.

Travel agents share that caution. A Cambodian agent said Roy­­al Khmer Airlines has appear­ed on the flight ticketing system since last month, but no flights are available to book. “We don’t know if it’s a real airline or not,” she said, asking not to be identified.

Thach Ouk, commercial director for Royal Air Cambodge, said Sunday the airline is “not professional” and its management and operation are sketchy.

“Royal Khmer Airlines is not officially recognized yet. There [seems to be] no staff,” Thach Ouk commented, adding that he un­successfully attempted to reach the airline by telephone. He said Royal Khmer Airlines had apparently contacted Shang­hai Airlines in China.


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