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Airport eyes adding long-haul flights

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Participants pose for a photo at the ceremony inaugurating the runway expansion at Sihanouk International Airport. Photo supplied

Airport eyes adding long-haul flights

Sihannouk International Airport’s operator is eyeing potential new direct, long-haul routes to Europe and the Middle East to bring a new wave of overseas visitors and increase aviation’s contribution to coastal Preah Sihanouk province’s economy.

This is according to Cambodia Airports communications and public relations director Khek Norinda and comes just four months after the airport’s runway extension and renovation was completed.

Norinda told The Post that the runway had been extended from 2,550m to 3,300m and can now accommodate Code E category wide-bodied aircraft such as Airbus A350s and Boeing B777s.

He said a new LED airfield lighting system was also installed to reduce the airport’s carbon footprint and that the entire project had been completed on October 13.

“Upgrading the infrastructure will be instrumental in connecting Sihanoukville to more remote destinations in Europe and the Middle East … and in further developing Cambodia’s coastal regions,” Norinda said.

Preah Sihanouk provincial governor Kuoch Chamroeun noted that a new taxiway is currently under construction.

“I hope that the taxiway will be completed early next year. It’ll help attract more investment and development in the province,” he said, adding that the airport is one of Cambodia’s longest-running.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha said Cambodia Airports is working on upgrades for the terminal, as outlined in the operator’s two-phased master plan.

The terminal will be able to handle 13 planes by the end of Phase I in 2030 and 19 as Phase II comes to a close in 2040, he said.

“With the runway extension, [the terminal] will be able to accommodate 3.6 million passengers in the first phase and that’ll increase to five million in the second phase by 2040,” Chansereyvutha said.

Norinda added that with global travel restrictions and strict requirements for entry into Cambodia still in place, passenger traffic through the Kingdom’s three international airports has taken a huge hit, especially from China.

The number of passengers travelling by air to Cambodia plummeted 81.3 per cent last year from 2019, according to him.

The Kingdom’s international airports welcomed 11.6 million passengers in 2019, a 10.2 per cent year-on-year hike from 2018, according to a Cambodia Airports report.

However, the figures for 2019’s fourth quarter weren’t so rosy, with the number of passengers from October to December decreasing by 3.1 per cent compared to the same months in 2018.

In 2019, the Phnom Penh International Airport surpassed the six-million passenger mark for the first time, with a passenger growth recorded at 11.2 per cent, said the report.

Sihanouk International Airport saw even more remarkable growth, with passengers growing by a whopping 158 per cent. The airport welcomed 1.6 million passengers last year.

Siem Reap International Airport, in contrast, saw a decline of 12.3 per cent in the number of passengers, with just 3.9 million people passing through the airport that year.

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