By the end of June, when passengers step off a plane at Pochentong International Airport, they’ll feel like they just stepped off a plane at any international airport. That’s because after five years of studies, designs, a financial crisis, redesigns and other difficulties, the first stage of renovations to the old main terminal will be completed.
But there is still plenty of work to be done. An entirely new terminal still must be constructed and the runway lengthened, said Philippe Rose, commercial director of Societe Concessionnaire de l’Aeroport, the company managing the airport until 2020.
“It’s more of a symbol” than anything else, but it is an important step, Rose said of the completion of the first stage.
The renovated terminal includes an escalator and two air bridges that will connect the terminal to aircraft.
Departing passengers will have a place to wait and order food from a small deli, and business-class passengers will have a richly decorated lounge of their own.
The floors are a polished stone, the furniture more modern and graceful than in the past, and the walls are decorated with paintings by local artists.
“There is a general theme in the airport of welcoming,” said Ly Daravuth, art decoration director for the renovations. Paintings in the renovated section revolve around that theme, using dance and music, he said, “to receive people and to accompany people when they leave.”
Traditional and “more innovative, contemporary” styles are used in paintings, sculptures and photographs, he said.
SCA has been renovating the airport since it was granted a build-own-transfer concession in 1995. Under terms of the deal, the company will renovate and operate the airport, turning it into a profitable business, before transferring ownership back to the government in 2020, Rose said. SCA has committed to invest at least $120 million, but the amount likely will be more as the company works to achieve profitability, he said.
The entire international terminal renovation will not be completed until 2002, he said, but starting this month, a newly renovated portion of the old main terminal will be fully operational.
SCA had originally planned a different terminal and runway, but the factional fighting and Asian financial crisis in 1997 changed that. After years of study and design, the entire plan had to be reconfigured because of lost tourism revenue, the withdrawal of a bank loan and other bureaucratic difficulties over land, Rose said.
During the factional fighting, when troops of then-co-prime ministers Hun Sen and Prince Norodom Ranariddh battled in the streets of Phnom Penh and at the airport, the airport was looted and badly damaged.
Critical renovations that begun shortly after the factional fighting, including a fire station and technology upgrades, were completed in 1999, Rose said. When the new terminal is completed, it will be able to handle 1.5 million people arriving and departing per year, Rose said. In 2000, about 160,000 passengers passed through the terminal, he said.
The newest renovations are the next step in the full upgrade of the terminal and airstrip. After the terminal is completed, SCA will lengthen the existing runway and build a new strip for airplanes to taxi.