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Apsara Air halts flights

CEO of Apsara International Air, Zhang Xiao Peng
CEO of Apsara International Air, Zhang Xiao Peng (left) and undersecretary of the sate SSCA, Chea Aun, shake hands during a ceremony to grant Apsara an Airline Operations Certificate in Phnom Penh in September. Hong Menea

Apsara Air halts flights

A Chinese-backed airline that commenced flights in October has already ceased all operations and is undergoing a dramatic internal shake-up, the state aviation authority said.

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman at State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), told the Post yesterday that Apsara International Air (AIA) has suspended all operations and is undergoing a management restructuring.

“The company will go nowhere. They will remain here in Cambodia,” Vutha said.

“There are only two reasons behind the suspension plan. One is to restructure the company and the other is to re-plan the company’s business plan.”

According to Vutha, AIA is expected to recommence flights in early 2015, after a full change-over of private shareholders and a new Chief Executive Officer is selected. The company says it is planning to relaunch with two more aircrafts, the SSCA official said.

The SSCA granted an Airline Operations Certificate (AOC) to AIA – owned jointly by private Chinese and Cambodian investors – after a more than yearlong application process on September 15. AIA commenced domestic flight operations between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap with a single Airbus A320 on October 8.

AIA’s CEO at the time, Zhang Xiao Peng, announced ambitious plans to expand services to include flights from Cambodia to as many as 25 cities in China in 2015.

Despite Cambodia having a long list of defunct airlines, Vutha said this suspension of operations was natural for airline start-ups.

“Looking at some countries in ASEAN who have many airline companies, we see that they usually have some companies establish and then close,” he said.

“There were certainly some issues in the past in Cambodia, but it is not a serious case. It is manageable.”

An AIA’s employee who asked not to be named said the company suspended its only scheduled flight, between Phnom Penh and Siem Reab, in early November. The company also cancelled all chartered flights between Siem Reap and Krabi, a town on the west coast of southern Thailand, earlier this month.

“We are going to start the regular flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukvile in January with a regular, daily round-trip timetable,” the AIA employee assured.

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