Domestic carrier PMT Air will resume regular service from Phnom Penh to Ratanakkiri province next month, the company’s Director Sar Sareth said Wednesday.
The company, which provides the only air link to the provincial capital Banlung, suspended services on July 30 citing poor weather conditions and a lack of demand in the rainy season.
“The high season is here,” Sar Sareth said, adding that from Nov 8 the company will return to flights on Mondays and Wednesdays.
After two people were injured in November when a PMT-chartered aircraft owned by the now-defunct Royal Phnom Penh Airways skidded off the Banlung Airport runway, the UN in December banned its employees from flying with PMT, citing what it called an unacceptable safety record.
PMT Air also experienced difficulties in May when civil aviation authorities issued a warning to the company for failing to report a mid-flight engine failure, which forced the plane to return to Phnom Penh, within 24 hours.
“My airline is very safe,” said Sar Sareth, adding that the company strictly adhered to regulations. “The UN announcement damaged my company’s image but now I think people know the truth,” he said.
Sar Sareth also said that next week PMT plans to begin regular service to Siem Reap and Seoul, South Korea.
Heavy rains had made Banlung Airport’s unpaved runway a difficult place to land for much of the season, according to provincial tourism department director Tranuth Sean.
“I knew the rains made the runway soft and muddy and the plane wasn’t able to land,” he said. The lack of regular flights hurt tourism, he added.
“There are plenty of guesthouses and souvenir shops that have almost closed and tourism related business has slowed.”
Sinn Chan Sereyvutha, director of policy and planning at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said renewed air service would be a welcome development for the Ratanakkiri tourist sector.
The Asian Development Bank has agreed to a $6 million loan to renovate Banlung Airport, he added.
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