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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - Carriers' debts mean cash for each flight

Carriers' debts mean cash for each flight

Several airlines using Cambodia's airports have racked up such large debts that they

must pay cash to the airport operator every time they take off or land.

Royal Phnom Penh, President, Bangkok and Siem Reap Airways are all paying cash as

they have exhausted their credit with Société Concessionnaire de l'Aéroport

(SCA). It could block them from using the runways, but opted for discussions.

"When outstanding payments become critical, we charge them cash before landing,"

said SCA's Philippe Rose, which has the concession to manage the airports.

The payments, which depend on the type of aircraft, ensure their debts do not increase.

They usually pay SCA twice a month, but the firm was forced six months ago to demand

cash, and again one month ago when debts became too high. The bankrupt national carrier

Royal Air Cambodge also owes SCA a sizable sum.

Rose said money owed by Bangkok Airways, which owns Siem Reap Airways, has in the

past reached over $1 million, but he would not give precise figures for any of the

airlines' debts. They are the only two airlines allowed to fly the lucrative Bangkok-Siem

Reap route.

Santi Laonikakra, senior country manager for Bangkok Airways, disputed that figure

and said the situation was "not serious".

"Everything is under the payment period for the debt," he said. The airline's

head of overseas corporate communications, Arisra Sangrit, said the need to carry

cash for every flight had caused difficulties.

Prince Norodom Chakrapong, who owns Royal Phnom Penh Airways, said paying cash each

time was normal. "I think all the airlines do it because they have some problems,"

he said.

Rose said Siem Reap Airways was the most problematic as the amount owed was "not

small money".

"It's a big problem because it creates an economic problem," he said. SCA

was committed to fulfilling its duties, such as constructing a new terminal at Siem

Reap, he said, but debts made it harder for his agency to balance its books and expand.

Royal Phnom Penh and Bangkok/Siem Reap Airways also owe sizable sums to Cambodia

Air Traffic Services (CATS). Managing director Teerachai Phongpanangam said the first

owed around $200,000 which at only 5 percent of CATS' income was not serious.

He said the other two owed between $700-800,000, although Bangkok Airways' Santi

disputed that figure. Teerachai said the airlines were working on an arrangement

to pay their debts.

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