Is Siem Reap Airways suspension the first step to a new Cambodian national carrier?


BANGKOK, Thailand (eTN) – In November, the European Commission blacklisted Siem Reap Airways from flying to Europe which prompted a suspension of all flights from the carrier by Cambodia’s Civil Aviation Authority. Siem Reap Airways was the only regular – and so far reliable- carrier to operate on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route and had plan to launch a new route between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville in the south of the country. The Cambodian government indicated that the measure was temporary and flights would resume once Siem Reap Airways would have processed with the necessary safety requirements.

The government granted a license to Siem Reap Airways’ parent company Bangkok Airways to serve the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap route. Bangkok Airways flies now up to four times daily the domestic sector which is one of the most important air routes for Cambodia. Bangkok Airways puts an Airbus A319 on the route with 138 seats. However, Bangkok Airways no longer serve Siem Reap Airways twice weekly Siem Reap-Pakse as well as Siem Reap-Ho Chi Minh City.

The EU ban was prompted by reports logged by Cambodia’s civil aviation authorities on safety. It could be interpreted as a tricky step to pave the way to the creation of a new Cambodian national carrier.

Early December, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen called again for the creation of a new national airline, citing lower fuel costs as a key difference to turn the airline into a profitable operation. “We have to give birth to a national airline that makes a profit,” the prime minister said.

Discussions have so far provided no result with Indonesia’s investor, the Rajawali group. The government plans an initial capital of US$50 million and it with 51 percent of the shares remaining into the hands of the Royal government.

Last national carrier, Royal Air Cambodge, went into receivership in October 2001, seven years after its creation.

As airlines around the world are currently in dire financial situation, the creation of a new carrier would be a surprising move.