RAC to Get Competition on Siem Reap, Battambang Routes

A new local airline will begin flying domestic routes next week, mounting the first challenge to Royal Air Cambodge’s dominance of domestic flights.

The inauguration of President Air­lines, which will fly to Battam­bang and Siem Reap from Phnom Penh, was welcomed by gov­ernment officials and tour agents who hope competition be­t­ween the two airlines will im­prove service and reduce fares.

“We want more airlines and more flights,” Tourism Director General So Mara said Thursday. “The competition will cause better service and rates.”

Beginning Oct 16, the carrier will fly from Phnom Penh to Bat­tambang via Siem Reap on Wed­nesdays and Fridays and be­t­ween Phnom Penh and Siem Reap on Sundays, airline officer John Rico said Thursday.

The airline, owned by the Holi­day Hotel, will use a 40-seat Fok­ker aircraft on its routes.

Rico acknowledged the company may lose money at first, “but we want to try it.”

To lure customers to the inaugural flights, the carrier is offering discounted one-way fares, ran­ging from $27 on the Siem Reap-Battambang leg, to $60 for Friday’s flight from Phnom Penh to Battambang, Rico said.

The airline will then match its fares with those of RAC, he said. RAC charges $30 for seats on its Siem Reap-Battambang flights, $45 for Phnom Penh to Battam­bang, and $55 for tickets on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route.

The company is looking at expanding its routes to other local destinations such as Koh Kong and Ratanakkiri and is looking next year at starting foreign routes, Rico said.

It remains to be seen how RAC will react to its first domestic challenge. Calls to the office of RAC Chairman Pan Chantra Thursday were not returned.

RAC has been the sole domestic carrier since 1994. Second Prime Minister Hun Sen effectively ended the airline’s monopoly in July 1997 by implementing an “open-skies policy,” but no other carrier has stepped in to fly domestically.

The government has approved licenses for tycoon Teng Bun­ma’s Apsara Airlines and Angkor Airlines. Neither airline has taken off, however.

Angkor Airlines, which plans to fly the much sought-after Taiwan-Cam­bodia route, is stalled be cause the Taiwanese government has yet to approve the flights, airline representative Wang Hsin said Thursday.

Tourism officials and industry representatives said that a second airline would benefit Cambodia’s tourism industry. Meng Hieng, managing director of Pich Tours, said the additional flights will help during the high season, when it can be hard to reserve seats.

But he doubted that the new com­petition would lower prices. The Cambodian Association of Travel Agents has already called on RAC to reduce its return fares to Siem Reap from $110 to $90. Hieng believes only intense pressure from the industry will knock down prices.



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