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A Thai AirAsia flight prepares to take off at Suvarnabhumi International Airport in Bangkok in 2007. Tang Chhin Sothy/AFP

AirAsia to start flights to Sihanoukville

Budget carrier AirAsia will begin selling tickets next week for a new route linking Kuala Lumpur to Sihanoukville, with the first flights to take off in August, the company’s CEO said yesterday.

Flights between the Malaysian capital and the Cambodian coastal city will run four times a week using Airbus 320s. The first flight is scheduled for August 9.

Speaking on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum on Asean, AirAsia group CEO Tony Fernandes told The Post that the Cambodian government had repeatedly requested that the Malaysian low-cost carrier launch service to Sihanoukville.

“The government has asked me many times to do it, and now we’ve done it,” he said.

AirAsia currently operates daily direct flights from Kuala Lumpur to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, while its Thai subsidiary operates flights from Bangkok to the Cambodian capital.

Sihanouk International Airport currently only handles direct flights to and from Siem Reap, with seasonal scheduled international service connecting Ho Chi Minh City and Macau.

However, passenger traffic grew 118 percent last year to 94,630, and renovation is currently underway to increase its capacity.

The growth in passenger traffic to Cambodia reflects a growing international awareness of the Southeast Asian country as a tourist destination, Fernandes said.

“On my flight to Phnom Penh today there were people from China, Indonesia, Malaysia, Ukraine, and they were telling me why they were coming to Cambodia. It was eye-opening for me,” he said.

“There is so much rich culture here that lots of Asean doesn’t know about.”

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