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A Cambodia Angkor Air plane arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport
A Cambodia Angkor Air plane arrives at Phnom Penh International Airport Vireak Mai

Low-cost flights to Vietnam on cards

Travelling to and from Vietnam could soon get cheaper, after low-cost carrier VietJet Air this week announced plans to service Siem Reap.

In a September 8 announcement promoting its plans to expand into Russia, the airline said it would also soon connect Vietnam, Cambodia’s biggest source of tourists, to the home of Angkor Wat.

The announcement did not say which cities VietJet would fly from, but the Australian-based Centre for Aviation (CAPA) predicted in a report released yesterday that the carrier would go from Hanoi and Ho Chi Min city.

It will be the first low-cost route between Vietnam and the Kingdom.

“Cambodia is a logical destination for VietJet as it is one of Vietnam’s largest international markets but is not yet served by any [low-cost carriers],” the CAPA report says.

“The Vietnam Airlines Group, which includes Cambodia Angkor Air, now dominates the Cambodia-to-Vietnam market, accounting for about 80 per cent of total seat capacity between the two countries,” the report continues.

Brendan Sobie, chief analyst and Singapore representative at CAPA, said that travellers could expect to benefit from VietJet’s lower fares, but said he did not anticipate the new routes to immediately dent the business of existing carriers. 

“Cambodia Angkor Air and Vietnam Airlines may be impacted, but the lower fares should result in additional traffic rather than simply take traffic away from the incumbents,” he said yesterday in an email.

“This is normally what we see when a low cost carrier enters a market. It’s what we call the stimulation effect,”
he added. 

VietJet could not be reached for comment yesterday, but Long Cheng, deputy Cabinet of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), confirmed that the airline had submitted an application for the Siem Reap route and that it was being reviewed.

Cheng welcomed greater competition in the market, which he said would encourage cheaper fares and better services from airlines.

“This will be good for passengers,” he said.

Vietnam has long been Cambodia’s biggest source of tourists. In the first six months of the year, 78,500 visitors came from Vietnam, more than double that of the next largest source, China, with 34,300 visitors.

But it is not from Vietnamese visitors alone that Cambodia’s tourism industry can expect to benefit from the expanded connections of neighbouring airways, according to Ho Vandy, co-chair of the government-private sector working group on tourism.

Most Vietnamese arrivals travel via bus, Vandy said, but a new low-cost carrier would help boost visitors from third-country destinations who like to visit both countries on the same vacation. 

“Promoting the two-country destination – linking Cambodia and Vietnam together – makes it easier to sell packages for third-country tourists,” he said.

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