This week, the chief executive officer of Aero Cambodia Airlines, Brian Naswall, talks to the Post about running one of the first companies in the Kingdom to receive the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation’s micro-light flying licence. He sees a bright future for the niche micro-carrier segment, and believes it will make reaching rural communities and boosting business supply chains easier.
What is Aero Cambodia Airlines and what are you offering?
We’re a small airline with charter and taxi flights using aircraft less than 5,700 kilograms. Our micro-light aircraft have just one to three seats and they operate on land and water. We will also operate aircraft with up to 19 seats if there is demand in the future. We’ll be flying to as many of the country’s airports as we can. There was once 24 airports scattered around the country. Today, only a few are still in operation. Flights will be charged by the hour. That said, our lowest fares start at $50.
Is there a market for micro-light airlines in Cambodia?
Cambodians are moving up to a better standard of living and earning more disposable income for luxury items, such as travel. The seemingly unstoppable tourism growth is benefitting the aviation market greatly, and with more air travel to more locations, rural economies will also see the benefits of increased connectivity. We’ll be targeting Cambodian customers in areas such as Battambang, Koh Kong, Ratanakkiri, Stung Treng and Kampong Cham. Then, we’ll turn our attention to business people and tourists.
Could more small aircraft carriers improve the aviation sector as a whole?
Yes. It proves Cambodia’s aviation sector is moving forward not just in the commercial carrier world. More small aircraft businesses of course means competition, but eventually, you will see off-shoot businesses thriving from increased rural aviation.
What can the aviation sector do as a collective to foster growth in 2014?
The aviation industry can promote Cambodia as a place where businesses can distribute their goods in more ways than one. They have choice now, to either drive or fly their goods to the most remote parts of the country within hours, not days. All countries that have a large aviation market, on all levels and capacities, also have a thriving economy as their distribution methods become less restricted.
What are the difficulties for small aircraft carriers in opening up in Cambodia?
The main difficulty is finding local and foreign investors to regain trust in Cambodia’s aviation market. And admittedly, some of the things we’re doing are new to the country and there has been a learning curve for everyone involved.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity