battambang town – Last-minute changes in the new Royal Air Cambodge flight schedule have left many frequent flyers in Cambodia’s second-largest city feeling stranded.
The new schedule has Battambang flights only three days a week—Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays—down from six. The schedule that began Sunday also eliminates service between Siem Reap and Battambang.
Those who travel often say they are already inconvenienced.
“I have to stay one more night here…one day is wasted,” Khmer Institute of Democracy Executive Director Lao Mong Hay complained Monday night. He came to Battambang to lead a daylong human rights seminar and had planned to return Tuesday. “Especially when the roads are so bad—you can’t just take a taxi home.”
The roads to both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap are in poor shape during the rainy season and it usually takes most of a day to make the journey, frequent travelers said.
“Because there is no alternative that is viable, we feel stuck,” said Joanne Morrison, provincial coordinator for the Battambang office of UNDP Carere. Especially inconvenienced are those who live or work several hours from Battambang, because the timetable only has early-morning flights.
Banteay Meanchey field managers, for example, used to drive to Battambang early in the morning to catch flights to Phnom Penh. The new schedule—6:15 am for the Phnom Penh-Battambang flight and 7:25 am for Battambang-Phnom Penh—forces them to come a day early and spend the night.
RAC’s Battambang office manager, Neang Yonn, said he has received no official complaints so far on the new schedule, which is to run through Dec 20.
The central RAC office informed Neang Yonn of the changes three days before they went into effect, and some passengers complained this week they were informed even later.
At least two passengers interviewed said they held tickets to Battambang on Sunday, the day the new schedule was to take effect. They said they were assured last week the Sunday flight was still on the schedule, but got a call Saturday evening that they would have to take the Monday flight instead.
Looking for alternatives, some travelers are checking out the only other commercial airline serving Battambang, President Airlines. However, a schedule for the carrier shows only one flight a week to Battambang: 8 am Tuesday, with no return flight to Phnom Penh until 9 am Saturday.