New Cambodian Flag Carrier Creates Confusion

Cambodia Angkor Air has written to the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation (SSCA) seeking clarification over the launch of a second airline that will also carry the Cambodian flag.

Cambodia Airlines was created this month when Kith Meng’s Royal Group signed a deal with San Miguel Corporation—which owns a controlling stake in Philippine Airlines—to begin operating international and domestic routes from Cambodia’s airports within months.

The airline was announced at a signing ceremony on April 2 that was attended by Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, Hun Many, the son of Prime Minister Hun Sen, and Mao Havannal, secretary of state at the SSCA.

Following reports of the launch, Cambodia Angkor Air chief executive officer Trinh Hong Quang sought clarification from the SSCA over the status of the new airline.

The Cambodian government holds a 51 percent stake in Cambodia Angkor Air, while the rest is held by Vietnam Airlines.

“Today, there is only one national airline. To avoid misunderstanding among the public, we suggest that His Excellency [Mr. Havannal] verify if Cambodia Airlines is a second national airline,” Mr. Hong Quang wrote in a letter dated April 4 and obtained Thursday.

In a letter Thursday, Mr. Havannal said, “for the time being, Cambodia only has one national airline, Cambodia Angkor Air.”

“Cambodia Airlines is not the second national airline,” he added.

The SSCA’s secretary-general, Keo Sivorn, clarified that the issue was that a “national airline” meant that the carrier was government owned. “There is no such thing as first, second or third—only one national airline.”

Royal Group chief financial officer Mark Hanna said the new airline was simply a Cambodian “flag carrier,” defined as an airline based in the country and operating international flights.

“Calling it a national airline entails it’s owned by the government,” he said, adding that the gov­ernment had “no involvement” in Cambodia Airlines.

The Cambodia Airlines venture is 51 percent owned by Royal Group and 49 percent by San Miguel Corporation.

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