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Most international flights from China

Sok Chan / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodia International Airport. Most flights are to and from Chinese cities and most passengers are businesspeople. KT/Pann Rachana

Around 25 international flights are entering and leaving Cambodia every week mostly from China, according to Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA).

The information came from SSCA’s spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha, who said that inbound and outbound flights are coming from China, South Korea and the Philippines, with charter flights from Taiwan, and Vietnam.

There are currently eight airlines flying in and out of Cambodia. Four passenger airlines and four cargo airlines. They include Korean Air, Eva Air, Qatar Airways, and Vietnam Airlines. Chansereyvutha said Cambodia has also received 15 flights for cargo from Hong Kong, Qatar and Thailand.

“It is difficult to record the numbers of passengers because sometimes one flight carries only 30 passengers, but others carry 100 passengers,” Chansreyvutha said. “We saw the numbers of passengers increasing since the government lifted the travel ban for Iran, Italy, Germany, Spain, France and the United States last month,” he added.

Chansereyvutha added that Cambodia has strict health measures to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which is a deterrent for travellers.

Norinda Khek, communications and public relations director of Cambodia Airports, told Khmer Times that Phnom Penh International Airport in May, continued regular international air links to a few Chinese cities (Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen, Nanjing, Chengdu), to Seoul, and to Taipei. Domestic routes are used in and out of Siem Reap and Sihanoukville.

Norinda added that for Siem Reap International Airport, the airlines operate only domestic routes. However, Preah Sihanouk International Airport has some international flights to Chengdu, Guangzhou and Kunming.

“For all three airports, flight frequencies have dropped heavily. Because of travel and border restrictions, and sanitary measures, air demand is very volatile and we won’t see any emerging patterns until this coming July or August,” Norinda said.

The SSCA has issued instructions to all aviation companies operating in and out of Cambodia that all foreign travellers should have an original health certificate which certifies them as COVID-19-free no older than 72 hours and health insurance documents coverage for foreigners of at least $50,000 during their stay in Cambodia. Holders of entry visas types A and B will be exempt from those requirements but they will need temperature checks and scanning. The documents for others should be issued by reliable hospitals, health institutions, agents, or companies that can be easily contacted.

In addition to the strict measures, Health Minister Mam Bun Heng announced early this week that that from now on Cambodia will be enforcing a strict mandatory 14-day quarantine for all passengers flying into the Kingdom.

The mandatory measures come after Cambodia identified two new cases of COVID-19, with both passengers who tested positive departing from the United States but one via the Philippines and one via South Korea, bringing the total number of cases in the Kingdom to 124.

“We can see the capacity of passengers has increased but the number flights remain the same,” said Chansereyvutha. Most of the travellers coming in and out are businessmen, he said.

“Currently, Thailand and Singapore are still in lockdown so, because we rely on those routes, the effects on our aviation sector is huge because there were no passengers,” he added. “Now we evaluate and conduct analysis monthly.

As of May 18, Phnom Penh International Airport saw 96.7 percent of flights declined, a 100 percent drop in Siem Reap, and a 98.4 percent decrease in Preah Sihanouk International Airport. Latest figures from Immigration (for April), show the nationality of the travellers are Chinese and Cambodians.

On Tuesday, the government exempted all airlines registered in Cambodia from minimum tax for two more months from June to July 2020. However, airline executives, while welcoming the abolition of minimum tax until July said the tax relief was welcome but too little, for too short a period of time and too late because they have been hit severely since the outbreak started peaking in March and when most countries imposed lockdowns and flight restrictions.

“The direct result of the extraneous conditions imposed by Cambodia in its attempt to curb the spread of imported cases of the virus is tourism dropping to almost zero and all Asean carriers suspending flights, partly because of the pandemic and partly because of their own severity with the pandemic.

An executive, fearing reprisal and so declining to be identified, said: “Cambodia should move to revive air travel and impose less restrictive measures and instead adopt measures to boost air travel. Local businesses, especially hospitality and services sectors are being hit severely and, because other countries in the region are opening up their economic activities, Cambodia should follow suit and not get left behind.”

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