Unexpected flight cancellations have left Royal Air Cambodge passengers increasingly stranded, local travel agents claim, but airline officials say that the schedule fluctuations are only due to temporary maintenance on some of its three-aircraft fleet.
“It’s difficult with one aircraft grounded, one third of your fleet is down and out,” RAC official Anthony Sandford said.
One RAC aircraft—a propeller-driven plane used for shorter domestic flights—will remain out of service up to eight weeks for routine maintenance, according to RAC officials. This will eliminate flights to Mondolkiri, Stung Treng, Battambang and Ratanakkiri at this time, Sandford said.
But more passengers have recently complained that, despite having bought tickets sometimes weeks in advance, the flights to both domestic and international destinations just are not there, several travel agents said Monday.
These problems have made some agents hesitate to book with RAC—leading to a decreased usage, though agents said they are still selling tickets for the airline’s flights.
“[RAC] cancels two or three days before the flights but sometimes they don’t tell me,” said one agent who requested not to be named. Often one of the two daily flights from Phnom Penh to Bangkok is canceled without explanation. Other flights recently have been delayed, sometimes for several hours.
The agent also noted that previously individual domestic flights are now being joined with international routes—for example, flying from Phnom Penh to Bangkok via Siem Reap.
All of RAC’s three aircraft are leased, one from joint venture partner Malaysian Airlines and the other two from European companies, Sandford said. While RAC has amassed about $20 million in debt, mainly in leasing costs, airline officials said Monday that this has not impacted the company’s leasing agreements.
Though one industry analyst claimed the company is suffering from a number of leasing problems, company officials continue to claim that the maintenance checks—not financial trouble—have taken aircraft off-line.
RAC Chairman Pan Chantra said alternative leasing arrangements were being looked at with the aim of increasing RAC’s fleet size, but “nothing is concrete.”
He said the airline is looking at the possibility of leasing aircraft from an unnamed US manufacturer and finance company. Under this agreement Malaysian Airlines would remain a shareholder in RAC, but “we want to get our own aircraft,” Pan Chantra said. The company leases planes complete with crews and support teams—an arrangement that often affects schedule flexibility, officials said.