Asiana Airlines has been flying direct flights from Korea to Cambodia since 2005 and with ASEAN integration on the horizon, the company predicts there will be increased air traffic to come.
The Post’s Sok Chan sat down with Cho Jae-Ung, general manager at Asiana Airlines in Cambodia, this week to discuss the progress of the airline and the growth prospects in the future.
Can you tell me about Asiana Airlines operations in Cambodia?
Asiana Airlines launched its operations in February 17, 1988, nearly 30 years ago. Asiana Airlines started direct flights to Cambodia in 2005, focusing on Angkor in Siem Reap, we operated flights three times a week.
Seeing the growth of Korean tourists to Cambodia and the increase more and more in tourists from the country to Korea, Asiana Airlines decided to operate one more flight to Phnom Penh.
Then, in 2006 we changed the [Phnom Penh] flights from three times a week to daily trips.
What kind of Cambodian traveller is Asiana Airlines catering to?
Currently, nearly 95 per cent of customers are visitors, only about 4 to 5 per cent are businessmen.
The reason that there are many tourists is because they took greater interest in the historical sightseeing area of Siem Reap and other natural resorts in Cambodia.
A small fraction of a Korean visitors are investors, which come to invest in real estate and are starting to operate shops.
According to the statistics of the Korean Embassy in Cambodia there are more than 5,000 Koreans living and doing business in the country.
What type of passenger numbers do these flights translate to?
In the first six months of 2015, Asiana Airlines had about 98,000 people travelling to Korea, and from Korea to Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.
This figure is down about 7 per cent.
This decline was due to traveller’s fears of respiratory disease, but after the official announcement of the Korean government in July, we have seen that the number of passengers on our flights has increased.
How would you describe Cambodia’s aviation market today?
In fact, the aviation market in the country is still small, but we hope that in about three to five years the aviation market will flourish, along with the integration of ASEAN will come in late 2015.
Therefore, the cooperation of the countries in ASEAN with China, Japan and Korea will be increased so air travel will also boom.
I think that there is still a lot of progress to be made in the aviation industry in Cambodia.
There will be a lot of opportunities in the next four to five years. In the past it has been largely about local flights, but it is now expanding to international flights to places like Ho Chi Minh City and Bangkok.
So when after ASEAN integration there will be flights to many other countries, such as Korea, China, Japan, Europe and others.
Does Asiana Airlines plan to expand in the coming years?
We are strengthening the capacity and adding aircrafts in the coming years, based on actual demand.
Today, we have our small jet, carrying only about 171 of passengers, but when the demand picks up from Korean travelers to Cambodia and Cambodian visitors to Korea, we will add aircrafts and more flights.
This interview has been edited for length and clarity.