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Regular air travel not lifting off

Sorn Sarath / Khmer Times Share:
Cambodia Angkor Air’s management not expect a quick return to profit. KT/Khem Sovannara

The Kingdom’s airline operator said that local travelling by air will take at least one year to recover after the pandemic ends, according to the chairman of Cambodia Angkor Air.

Tek Reth Samrach, chairman of Cambodia Angkor Air, told Khmer Times that it was affected by the COVID-19 pandemic. Angkor Air provided just one flight within two days between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

The National Flag Carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air (K6) has said that it has well prepared its resources to immediately resume operations once the pandemic is under control.

However, Tek Reth Samrach said that the company estimates local air travelling would take at least 12 to 15 months to recover.

“Travelling by air depends on tourists and businessmen but now the tourism sector has collapsed we just have a small amount of travelling mainly by businessmen,” he said, adding that people will take time to build their economy after COVID-19.

“Even though we lose money, we cannot close the flights because we need to keep our flights ongoing. We have no choice because we are the national flag carrier,” he said.

The airline launched a direct flight to the coastal Vietnamese city of Danang last November, aiming to attract more tourists from Vietnam to Cambodia.

An aircraft of Cambodian National carrier “Cambodia Angkor Air” prepares for take-off at Phnom Penh international airport on July 27, 2009. Cambodia has launched the new national airline giving the southeast Asian country its first flag carrier since a previous effort folded in 2001. AFP

Cambodia Angkor Airline is a joint venture with Vietnam Airlines.

However, the airline is set to see new investors in the form of private equity investors after 49 percent of its shares, owned by Vietnam Airlines, changed hands for $49 million.

According to Tek Reth Samrach, Vietnam Airlines had reached a purchasing agreement with the airline with an unnamed Chinese company.

He said that there were three companies that had shown interest in negotiating for purchasing a stake in Angkor Air but now only one Chinese company has reached an agreement.

The tourism sector, which is the most vulnerable industry from the Coronavirus spread, will see a slower recovery than other sectors after the pandemic ended, according to industry insiders.

Chhay Sivlin, president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents said that that tourism is different from other sectors, which will recover faster after the pandemic.

“Tourism activity will not return to normal soon because this is a global crisis and it’s related to people’s feelings. People will need time to save money they lost during the crisis,” she said.

More regional airlines have begun to slowly reinstate flights to Cambodia’s international airports this month – under strict biosecurity guidelines – as the industry attempts to desperately revive itself from its worst period in aviation history.

According to a ministry report there were 1.4 million domestic tourists in the first quarter of this year, a 34 percent decrease compared with the same period last year, while the arrival of foreign tourists also dropped by 38 percent to 1.15 million.

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