Mekong Airlines has confirmed it will begin internal and external flights in
July, while efforts to revive the Kingdom's insolvent national carrier seem to
Mekong Airlines will take delivery of its first two planes
soon, said head of marketing Ross Pollock, and plans to add three more by the
VIA Aviation Limited, a group of Australian aviation industry
veterans, owns 49 percent of the new airline, while Hun Kim Leng Investments,
which aviation observers said was connected to the Prime Minister's extended
family, will take the majority stake.
The airline's executive director
Ian Scheyer said he was "delighted" with the progress made over the last two
months. The company predicted the airline would fly up to 8,000 passengers in
its first month of operation, and around 29,000 by December this year. Mekong
Airlines aims to carry 1 million passengers annually by 2007.
said planned future ag-reements with major airlines in hubs such as Hong Kong
and Singapore meant those figures were realistic.
accessibility of tourism markets has resulted in a major boost," he
Mekong Airlines stated it hoped to take advantage of the absence of
the bankrupt national carrier, Royal Air Cambodge (RAC), by including landing
slots at Siem Reap, Battambang, Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Kuala Lumpur,
Singapore, Hong Kong, and Guangzhou.
RAC ceased operating in October 2001
to seek "a new financial situation" after reportedly running up debts of $30
million. Minister for the Council of Ministers, Sok An, who was brought in as
RAC's acting head last year, reportedly went to China in February to negotiate
the future of the company.
Hainan Air, in which American financier George
Soros has a stake, was thought to be interested in a joint venture with the
government, but RAC's domestic and international debts scuppered the
"Hainan did not reach an agreement with the Royal Government
because of [RAC's] many debts," said Long Chheng, deputy chief of cabinet at the
State Secretariat for Civil Aviation. He said an Australian investor met Sok An
in May, but decided against investing.
"If the government withdraws
[RAC's] debt, maybe companies will agree to buy it," said Chheng.