Philippine Airlines (PAL) launched its inaugural direct flight to Phnom Penh on Monday evening, becoming the latest airline to service the Philippines-Cambodia air route.
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The PAL Airbus A320 took off from Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) past 10:00pm and landed at Phnom Penh International Airport around 11:45pm after an almost three-hour flight.
Upon landing, the aircraft was greeted by a water cannon salute, while passengers and crew received bouquets of flowers from the assembled group of officials and staff from PAL, Philippine Embassy, Cambodia Airports, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), and others.
A local band also played as the passengers walked from the jet bridge to the terminal building. The inaugural flight brought with it 88 passengers of various nationalities, including Filipinos, Chinese, Americans, and Europeans.
An hour later, the same plane departed for the Philippines with more than 80 passengers on board.
The flight comes a month after PAL launched in Cambodia, with the aim of bringing in more tourists and strengthening trade relations between Cambodia and the Philippines. The lack of a direct flight has long been a hindrance to trade and tourism between the two countries.
Eric Delobel, CEO of Cambodia Airports, the company that manages all international airports in the Kingdom, said strengthening connectivity with the Philippines was a key objective for the company.
“First, tapping on tourism, flights between Siem Reap and Cebu started in 2012, and then, as business opportunities have been growing between the two countries, linking the two capital cities, Manila and Phnom Penh, appears compelling and sustainable.
“That’s why our teams have constantly worked with Cambodian authorities and Philippine Airlines for that. Now, with eight out of 10 Asean countries directly served, Phnom Penh International Airport has further extended its connectivity in the region.
“Our next target will be to include Indonesia in the Asean air network map,” Mr Delobel said.
Close to 80,000 Filipino tourists visit Cambodia annually. While the number of Cambodians travelling to the Philippines is much smaller, it is expected to grow dramatically in the next few months.
Having a direct flight was also welcomed by many Filipino expats, who often have to travel to Siem Reap or Vietnam, make a stopover or change planes when flying from Cambodia to the Philippines. The Kingdom is home to more than 6,000 Filipinos, many of which are based in Phnom Penh.
“This is much more convenient. In the past, I flew out of Vietnam,” Pamela Hundana, a Filipino teacher working at the vKirirom International School in Kampong Speu province, told Khmer Times as she prepared to board the return flight to Manila.
Philippine Ambassador to Cambodia Christopher Montero said the development is good for Philippine-Cambodia ties. “This is a very historic moment for Philippines-Cambodia relations. This marks the first time that there is direct air connectivity between Manila and Phnom Penh,” the ambassador stressed.
“This augurs well for the relations between the two countries. We hope that it will increase exchanges between Cambodians and Filipinos, including trade and tourism. Hopefully, we will be able to sustain, or even increase the frequency of flights,” he added.
PAL will be flying from Manila to Phnom Penh and vice versa five times a week (Tuesdays, Wednesdays, Fridays, Saturdays, and Sundays). The flights will depart Phnom Penh airport at 12:45am and arrive in NAIA at 4:20am. The return leg will fly out of NAIA at 10:10pm and arrive in Phnom Penh airport at 11:45pm.
PAL is using a 156-seater Airbus A320 jetliner for the Manila-Phnom Penh route.