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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - No foreign carriers for domestic air travel in Cambodia

No foreign carriers for domestic air travel in Cambodia

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Cambodia Angkor air's flight hostess. Photograph: Vireak Mai/Phnom Penh Post

The government will not allow international airlines to establish domestic services in Cambodia, and the country’s domestic air travel industry is not being monopolised, says an industry leader.

These two points were made by Tek Reth Samrach, state secretary of the Council of Ministers, in response to an aviation report cited by the Post yesterday.

The report by the Centre for Aviation had alleged that the domestic air sector is monopolised by Cambodia Angkor Air and suggested that opening the market to foreign carriers would make the industry more competitive.

But Samrach argued, “We cannot allow international airlines to establish domestic services. This is an international practice, and countries all over the world do not allow foreign airlines.”

He said that previously Bangkok Airways had been allowed to operate domestic flights to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap because Cambodia Angkor Air had not yet been established.

The Centre of Aviation’s chief analyst, Brendan Sobie, said most other countries do not allow domestic services to be operated by foreign airlines. “The government wants to protect its domestic airline and make sure it remains viable.”

He cited Australia as an exception. Qantas Airways was the only airline operating domestic services until “the country recognised that the domestic industry was not competitive, and that the only solution was to open it up.”

Sobie believes that Cambodia Angkor Air will remain largely unscathed if the domestic market opens up to foreign competition, because the airline relies more on demand from international travelers.

As for the allegation that Cambodia’s domestic market is being monopolised, Samrach said, “There is no monopoly. We have more local airlines; they can fly [domestically] if they wish.”  

Cambodia’s other carriers only operate charters.

Agreeing, co-chair of the government-private sector work­­ing group on tourism, Ho Vandy, said, “You may see only one airline operating domestic services, but the opportunity to do so is open to everyone.”

To contact the reporter on this story: Low Wei Xiang at lowweixiang@live.com

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