S’ville Airport Expected To Reopen by Year’s End

With the second phase of the Sihanoukville airport’s renovation set to be completed this month, officials say they expect the airport will reopen by the end of the year and draw flights from other countries in the region.

The airport has had only test flights since a charter flight bound for Sihanoukville crashed in June 2007 killing 22 people onboard, ac­cording to Mao Havanall, secretary of state in charge of the civil aviation secretariat.

Following the Water Festival, officials will announce the opening date of a new 2,500-meter runway for international flights, Mao Hav­anall said Sunday, adding that the new Sihanoukville airport runway would be capable of accommodating airplanes as big as a Boeing 737 or Airbus 320.

“We don’t know how many airlines will use this airport, but we ex­pect there will be airlines from Thai­land, Singapore and Malaysia be­cause there were lots of requests for landing in the past,” he said.

The airport has already expanded one runway from 1,300 meters to 1,800 meters, Mao Havanall said, and a 4,000-meter runway is scheduled to be completed in 2010.

Khek Norinda, spokesman for Societe Concessionaire des Aero­ports, which manages the Siha­noukville, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports, wrote in an e-mail that the airport is negotiating with several airlines, but no agreements have been finalized.

“The three airports that we are developing and operate constitute a network, which in turn gives significant leverage to air transportation in Cambodia,” he wrote. “For instance in the future Sihanoukville Inter­na­tional Airport could serve as a hub for the two other airports.”

Sihanoukville tourism director Som Chinda said he expected the number of tourists visiting his municipality to eventually double after the opening of the new runway. Sihanoukville saw about 500,000 tourists in the first 10 months of the year, he added.

“Tourists from cruise ships will also have a chance to go to Siem Reap through this airport,” Som Chinda said.

(Additional reporting by Tim Sturrock)

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