Lucky Air has launched direct flights from Kunming to Sihanoukville, becoming the first Chinese carrier to offer year-round regular scheduled service to the coastal Cambodian city, an airline executive said yesterday.
Kunming-based Lucky Air, part of Hainan Airlines Group, has a fleet of 25 aircraft. It operates a Boeing 737-800 on the 1,600-kilometre flight between Kunming in southern China and Sihanoukville on Cambodia’s southern coast.
“We operate this route twice a week,” said Kang Chunjian, vice general manager of sales and marketing at Lucky Air. “However, we will consider increasing flights to three times a week according to the market conditions.”
Lucky Air is one of three commercial carriers operating scheduled international flights out of Sihanoukville, and the only Chinese airline, according to Pichr Sopontara, routes development manager at Cambodia Airports.
Cambodia Angkor Air, the Kingdom’s flagship carrier, operates a weekly flight from the coastal city to Tianjin, while Korean-Cambodian airline Sky Angkor Air has a twice-weekly charter flight to Hangzhou.
Sky Angkor Air previously operated seasonal charter flights to Incheon, but these flights have ceased, Sopontara said.
Cambodia is encouraging airlines to add service to Sihanoukville’s single-runway international airport, which is being upgraded to handle up to 500,000 passengers a year by 2020.
The airport received its first international flight last year, and reported 12,233 international passenger arrivals during the first 10 months of the year.
Kang said Lucky Air’s route expansion to Cambodia, carried out in line with China’s “One Belt, One Road” strategic policy, recognises Sihanoukville as a “rising destination” whose beaches attract Chinese leisure tourists.
As one of the southernmost major Chinese cities, Kunming is a natural transit hub for Chinese travellers en route to these beaches, just 2.5 hours away by air.
According to Kang, Kunming is already China’s fourth-largest air gateway to Cambodia by passenger volume, after Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.
He added that Lucky Air has no plans to operate flights to Phnom Penh or Siem Reap as these routes are already serviced by other Chinese airlines.