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Direct flights to Manila stuck on a layover

Aircraft belonging to Phillippine Airlines await departure on the tarmac at Manila International Airport in September. Ted aljibe/Afp
Aircraft belonging to Phillippine Airlines await departure on the tarmac at Manila International Airport in September. Ted aljibe/Afp

Direct flights to Manila stuck on a layover

Efforts to have the Philippine flag carrier serve Cambodian airports have stalled on Vietnam’s refusal to permit passenger pickups on layovers, a local aviation official said yesterday.

Officials at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) told the Post in February that the Philippine Embassy in Phnom Penh had requested permission for Philippine Airlines (PAL) to operate a direct flight between Manila and either Phnom Penh or Siem Reap.

SSCA spokesman Sinn Chanserey Vutha said yesterday that a deal had not been reached due to Vietnam refusing to grant PAL fifth-freedom rights, which allow airlines to pick up passengers during layovers in a country while travelling from their home country to another foreign country.

“Philippine Airlines has not yet started operating flights to Cambodia because, I heard, they were seeking the fifth freedom of the air from Vietnam, but it was rejected,” he said. “They are still considering a direct flight to Cambodia, but have suspended the plan due to the limited opportunity for profit.”

Airlines typically seek fifth-freedom rights to make low-volume routes profitable. Governments may approve them as a way of increasing inbound tourist traffic but can also reject them to protect the commercial interests of their own flag carrier.

Representatives of the Civil Aviation Administration of Vietnam (CAAV) and PAL did not respond to inquiries yesterday. Philippine low-cost carrier (LCC) Cebu Pacific has operated up to four flights between Manila and Siem Reap since 2012. There is no direct flight between the two countries’ capitals.

Over 90,000 Filipinos visited Cambodia last year, and the number is expected to surpass 110,000 this year, according to Tourism Ministry spokesman Tith Chantha. He did not have statistics on the number of Cambodians travelling the other direction, though reports put the figure at around 2,000.

Chantha projected that establishing an additional air connection between the Philippines and Cambodia would boost tourist traffic. “We are always encouraging and welcome further direct flights to Cambodia,” he said, adding that these air links play an important role in feeding the local tourism sector.

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