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Direct flights to Japan coming

A plane rests on the tarmac at the Phnom Penh International Airport last year
A plane rests on the tarmac at the Phnom Penh International Airport last year. Asia Atlantic Airlines is to commence operation of a flight from Tokyo to Phnom Penh. Heng Chivoan

Direct flights to Japan coming

Asia Atlantic Airlines, a Thai airline owned in part by Japanese tourism firm HIS Co, will launch scheduled flights between Cambodia and Japan this September, according a statement published by the airline on June 26.

As of September 2, Asia Atlantic will run three weekly flights on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Sundays aboard a Boeing 767 aircraft between Tokyo’s Narita International Airport and Phnom Penh. Starting October, the firm will also run direct flights to and from Siem Reap every Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.

“The aircraft dedicated to this route will be extensively refurbished to attract business traffic while at the same time making travel available to the tourist market at competitive prices,” the statement said.

Basic return economy fares will cost more than $1,100 after taxes while business class fares will go for $2,240 return. Asia Atlantic will be the first airline to launch direct flights between the two countries, beating the Kingdom’s flag carrier Cambodia Angkor Air and even AirAsia.

“There will be no first-class seats offered on the plane, but economic, premium economic and business classes, providing a total of 217 seats,” said Caea Molika, a senior sales employee of HIS Cambodia Travel.

Molika added that through July 21, 30 economy seats will be offered to the public at $346.

The airlines announcement comes just a day after Prime Minister Hun Sen lauded Japanese business at the newly opened, Japanese-built Aeon Mall. The PM hinted at the new direct flights to Japan alongside the Japanese Foreign Minister Fumio Kishida and said he had authorised the government’s Secretariat of Civil Aviation to approve direct flights between the two countries to foster more Japanese investment.

The prime minister said he believed the mall would help to attract Japanese tourists.

Asia Atlantic’s new services take the total number of airline’s flying into Cambodia’s airports to 24. Cambodia’s two main international airports, in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, commenced a $100 million redevelopment in January in order to house the country’s rapidly increasing tourism trade.

Khek Norinda, the communications director of Phnom Penh International Airport said the airport could manage the newcomer even while construction is still in progress.

“Our facilities have enough room to accommodate current flight demand and we are expanding our terminals in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap for future growth,” he said.

“When the extensions are completed around the end of 2015, or the beginning 2016, their capacity will double to 5 million pax.”

Cambodia Airports spokesman said discussions with multiple foreign airlines are also currently under way in an effort to boost the Kingdom’s connectivity to the region.

Ang Kim Eang, president of Cambodia Association of Travel Agents, welcomed Asia Atlantic’s announcement, but raised concerns over the firm’s fare prices and Japan’s strict visa application process.

“The connected flights will provide a great opportunity for tourism exchange,” he said.

“But the price for economy class [at $1146] may be too expensive for Cambodians, it’s like visiting Europe. And Japan’s visa application is so strict and complicated. They ask about the properties Cambodians own and require them to have guarantors and references in order to visit Japan,” he said.

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