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Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - New airline is delayed, official admits

New airline is delayed, official admits

A

N aviation official has admitted that the July 1 start up date for the proposed

new national flag carrier Royal Air Cambodge (RAC) cannot now be met.

Sok

Sambaur, deputy director general of the Department of Civil Aviation, said: "The

July 1 deadline is not true anymore as far as I have heard."

He said he

had no clear date when RAC would begin operations but he did say an airline took

three to six months to set up.

Sources within the airline industry said

already protracted negotiations between the Royal Government and Singapore

International Airlines (SIA) over the creation of RAC had hit

trouble.

One source said: "I have heard that the government thinks it is

not a good contract for them and there are problems."

Another source

said: "I doubt they will even be able to start the airline this year. As far as

we know the deal is not going through. I have heard a few people say they don't

think the deal is going through and the government is looking for someone

else."

Under plans for the new airline, SK Air, another Thai-owned

company Cambodia International Airlines and the domestic state-owned Kampuchea

Airlines, were told they would have to stop flying one week before RAC's start

up.

An early draft of the contract between the government and SIA

obtained by the Post revealed that RAC was to have a monopoly as a Cambodian

national flag carrier.

But in an indication of the confidence the SK

management has that their airline will keep flying, they announced an upgrade on

the four flights a week they run to Ho Chi Minh in conjunction with the current

national flag carrier Kampuchea Airlines.

From May 27 the SK Boeing 737

will be flying the route instead of a Kampuchea Airlines Tupolev 134. Fares are

expected to remain at around $50 one way.

An official, who requested

annonymity, said of the RAC deal: "It will be delayed due to changes in

management. The government has had some problems with Singapore Airlines. They

wanted SK and Cambodia Airlines to stop flights before the signing of the

contract."

RAC's President Designate Nady Tan said he had not given up

hope of meeting the July 1 date but admitted there was still no firm date for

the signing of the contract.

He was remaining optimistic and added: "We

are in contact with Singapore Airlines everyday and are close to the signing of

the contract. I don't see any problem."

His opposite number Ng Kian Wah,

who is conducting negotiations for SIA and has been nominated chief executive

designate in RAC, was unavailable for commet.

But in an interview in

March he had already admitted it was going to be tough to meet the July 1

deadline.

Ng also pointed out that many key decisions on the airline

could not be made until the contract had been signed and a board had been set

up.

Tourism Minister Veng Sereyvuth, the man likely to sign the contract

for the government side, refused to comment on the status of the RAC deal when

contacted on May 17. He said: "I don't know what is going on."

But in an

earlier interview he had said he expected the deal to be inked by the end of

March.

RAC was the name of the national flag during the sixties and it

was hoped the new airline would evoke the previous era.

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