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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Tourism head calls for govt to support airlines

Tourism head calls for govt to support airlines

091021_07
Tourists walk around Angkor Wat in Siem Reap. Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum’s tourism working group, said Tuesday having multiple domestic airlines would aid tourism.

Co-chairman of tourism working group says Bangkok Airways and Siem Reap Airways should be permitted to fly domestically.

I have received feedback that CAA’s procedures are difficult.

AKEY tourism sector representative has called on the government to renew Bangkok Airways’ permit to fly domestic routes and smooth the way for Siem Reap Airways to relaunch services ahead of the peak tourism season.

Ho Vandy, co-chairman of the Government-Private Sector Forum’s tourism working group, said Tuesday that the impending grounding Sunday of Bangkok Airways, which applies only to its domestic routes but still allows the Bangkok-based carrier to bring passengers in and out of the
country, could undermine confidence in tourism in the Kingdom.

“I request that the government and concerned authorities reconsider any decisions or bans that may impact tourists or the growth of the tourist sector,” he said. “They should consider whether they want to renew the permit for Bangkok Airways or allow Siem Reap Airways to do what Cambodia Angkor Air is doing.”

The European Commission (EC) told the Post late last week that Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA), the government’s joint venture with Vietnam Airlines, was flying without an Air Operator Certificate (AOC) by using aircraft hired on a wet-lease basis from its Vietnamese part-owner.

In a wet lease arrangement, one airline provides aircraft, crew and insurance to another, which pays by hours operated.

The State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) has not allowed Siem Reap Airways to do the same, saying it must register a plane in Cambodia in order to be allowed to fly.

Siem Reap Airways General Manager Terry Alton told the Post on Monday that the airline would be able to operate “well before the peak tourist season” if allowed to fly under the same conditions as CAA but said it was proving difficult to find an aircraft whose owner would allow it to be leased in Cambodia. Most airlines lease aircraft from financiers rather than buying them outright.

Ho Vandy said Bangkok Airways, which also owns Siem Reap Airways, had done a lot to promote Cambodia as a tourist destination over the years, and that it had many passengers booked on domestic routes that would be affected by the ban.

Bangkok Airways has confirmed that these passengers will need to be transferred to the government-owned CAA if its subsidiary is not airborne by Sunday.

However, even if Siem Reap Airways were allowed to resume operations, it would still be on the European Commission blacklist, preventing European agents from booking their customers on the flights, EC transport spokesman Fabio Pirotta said by email from Brussels Thursday.

Frustration with CAA
Ho Vandy also said some travel agents and tour operators had expressed frustrations in dealing with the CAA.

“On behalf of travel agents, we want to give confidence to passengers, but I have received feedback that CAA’s procedures are difficult compared to other airlines,” he said.

Soy Sokhan, SSCA’s undersecretary of state in charge of CAA, referred all questions to the secretariat, saying only that “all airlines must follow the country’s regulations and rules”.

SSCA Secretary of State Mao Havannal could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

Cambodian Hotel Association President Luu Meng said the tourism sector was watching the issue closely, and that he hoped Siem Reap Airways would be cleared for takeoff as soon as possible.

“We don’t care how many airlines there are as long as they are of an international standard, are internationally recognised and offer competitive pricing,” he said. “In that regard, obviously it is better to have two airlines than one.”

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