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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New name, same airline

New name, same airline

Grounded Tonlesap Airlines has changed its name to Wat Phnom Airlines, an official with Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation said yesterday, about two months after the local chartered carrier suspended all of its flights.

Wat Phnom Airlines is now in the process of applying for a new Air Operator Certificate, said Vann Chanty, the secretariat’s director of air transport.

“They are submitting all related documents now,” he said.

Chanty did not say when Wat Phnom Airlines would take off, or if the name change had anything to do with Tonlesap’s widely reported financial troubles.

A former Tonlesap Airlines flight attendant reached by the Post this week said the airline went bankrupt.

“The airline stopped flying two months ago, and someone from the office told us the company had cleared out,” said the former employer, who worked as a cabin crew member in the airline for more than a year, and is not being named out of concern for job security.

“But then comes Wat Phnom Airlines, and we are told that the management team and the owner is actually the same as Tonlesap but just with a different brand name.”

He added that he was waiting for the new company to notify its employees of new work arrangements.

It wasn’t immediately clear how Wat Phnom could launch if its alleged successor, Tonlesap, is still in debt.

The Post reported in February 2012 that Taiwanese airline Far Eastern Air Transport grounded a plane it leased to Tonlesap at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport that month, saying the company owed about $105,000 in aviation fuel fees. It had allegedly left more than 200 Taiwanese tourists stranded. Taiwan was one of a handful of regional destinations for Tonlesap since it started flying chartered flights from the airport in Siem Reap in 2011.

Zhao Hung Ti, public relations officer at Taiwan’s Taoyuan International Airport Corporation,  said yesterday that Tonlesap Airlines owed the airport an estimated NT$1.6 million (US$53,558) in landing fees, and the Civil Aeronautics Administration NT$0.625 million in aviation management fees. The charges are estimates, she said, and may be higher due once late payments come in.

She said the airport isn’t seeking to file any claims against the airline but would levy the fees if the flights ever landed on its Taipei tarmac in the future.

“Even though Tonlesap has changed its name, if flies again, we can still ask for the unpaid fees if the management team and the owner is the same,” she said.

The website of Tonlesap Airlines was down yesterday, and a listed number did not work. No one picked up the phone at the number listed on site purporting to belong to Wat Phnom Airlines.

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