PHNOM PENH (eTN) – It could not have been a better way to celebrate an anniversary. As French company VINCI celebrates this year the 15th anniversary of the establishment of SCA (Socéiét Concessionnaire des Aéroports) – Cambodian airport’s operator for Phnom Penh, Siem Reap, and Sihanoukville – Air France launched Cambodia’s first intercontinental service to Paris. The French airline withdrew from Cambodia in 1974 as the country sunk in chaos due to the war. It took then 37 years to see the French carrier’s comeback. Air France serves currently three times a week the Cambodian capital out of Paris with a short stop-over in Bangkok.
As Pierre-Henri Gourgeon, Managing Director of Air France KLM, underlined during the flight’s inaugural, “We are proud to be the first airline in Europe to offer regularly-scheduled flights between Europe and Cambodia, a move which is sustained by a growth of 10% in Air France’s capacity in Asia.” It was an emotional moment especially for older Cambodians who remembered past days when Air France was a regular visitor of Pochentong Airport.
The new link will help strengthen cultural and economical links with the kingdom of Cambodia. Flights are operated with an Airbus A3406300 offering 275 seats. However from May, the airline will insert a bigger aircraft with a Boeing 777-200 taking over the route and offering 309 seats. Timing for the return flight (landing in Paris around 6:05 am) will help assure smooth transfers for passengers on the Phnom Penh line.
Vinci’s concessions attribution 15 years ago has brought substantial benefits to Cambodian airports. SCA invested some US$110 million to modernize Phnom Penh airport inclduign a US$22 million modernized passengers terminal. In Siem Reap, the new terminal was completed by 2006. The current capacity for Phnom Penh International airport stands at US$2 million per year. But works are due to start in early 2012 to boost capacity by at least another 1.5 million travelers.