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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Chartered carrier takes off

Wat Phnom Airlines inaugurated scheduled flights from Siem Reap to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport
Passengers disembark at the Siem Reap International Airport in 2012. Last Wednesday, Wat Phnom Airlines inaugurated scheduled flights from Siem Reap to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport. THIK KALIYANN

Chartered carrier takes off

Newly established Wat Phnom Airlines completed its maiden flight to Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport on July 10. But its predecessor, grounded Tonlesap Airlines, is said to owe the same airport more than $50,000 in landing fees.

The local chartered carrier “is officially in business after it successfully operated its maiden flight, Siem Reap to Taipei Taoyuan”, aviation industry website ch-aviation.ch reported last week.

“It is to be recalled that Wat Phnom is the successor to the now bankrupt TonléSap Airlines … which suspended operations earlier this year in April,” the posting said.

Vann Chanty, director of air transport with Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, confirmed that Wat Phnom Airlines received its operator certificate and launched its first flight.

According to Chanty, the CEO of the new airline is the same as the old one, and a former flight attendant of Tonlesap told the Post last month that the management team is the same.

Helena Chao Hengti, a public relations officer for Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport Corporation in Taipei, said last month that Tonlesap Airlines owed the airport an estimated NT$1.6 million (US$53,558) in landing fees.

“The airport will be using legal procedures to recover the debt from Tonlesap Airlines,” she said Monday.

Tonle Sap, she said last month, was also in debt to the country’s Civil Aeronautics Administration. But the CAA said Monday that Tonlesap does not owe any fees to the CAA, it finds no connection between the two companies, and that Wat Phnom Airlines had paid airport service charges and landing fees in July, clearing them to arrive in Taipei.

But that still leaves the matter of the outstanding bill of the former company. Several calls to the Wat Phnom Airlines office in Phnom Penh were not returned.

Thomas Jaeger, managing director of the ch-aviation site, said Sunday that he assumes that even though the same people might be involved in the airline, it is now a separate company.

“That’s what many airlines have done over and over again. … I mean from everything that I have heard from them, they just set up a new airline, and this airline is called Wat Phnom Airlines, they [got a new] air operator certificate … and now they are flying.”

Wat Phnom Airlines now has one aircraft, a Boeing 737-400, and the company providing the aircraft is United Arab Emirates-based Sayegh Group Aviation.

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