The Cambodian aviation sector is crossing its fingers for an uptick in flights from China after Beijing shortened the suspension time for inbound international flights to the East Asian country that carry passengers infected with SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

According to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), from August 7, airlines will be barred from operating an inbound route for one week if, on a single flight, five passengers or four per cent of passengers test positive for the virus – whichever number is greater – or two weeks in the event that eight per cent are confirmed to be infected.

“The quota of the flights involved in a ‘circuit breaker’ shall not be allowed to be transferred to other routes,” it said in a statement.

The Chinese aviation regulator’s previous policy was that carriers would be prohibited from operating an inbound route for two weeks if five-to-nine passengers on a single flight tested positive, or four weeks if at least 10 were confirmed to have the coronavirus.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha hailed the move, saying it would make things easier for travellers. He affirmed to The Post that the Cambodian aviation regulator is keeping tabs on the situation in China and awaiting Beijing’s next step to further relax pandemic-control measures for international visitors.

Regardless, Chansereyvutha suggested that there had been “no change at all” in the overall flight scheduling approach in China.

On the other hand, Cambodia Chamber of Commerce vice-president Lim Heng contended that the reduced route-suspension period will encourage the entry of more flights between China and Cambodia, as the new policy drives down costs and wasted time.

Of note, increasing the number of flights between the two countries in the interest of the tourism sector was one of the major requests that Prime Minister Hun Sen made at a meeting with Chinese foreign minister Wang Yi on August 3.

Moreover, Heng said, the CAAC’s decision will smooth things for investors who often travel in and out of China and enable “smoother” trade relations with Cambodia, underpinned by a bilateral free trade agreement – which took effect on January 1 – as well as prop up the re-emerging Cambodian tourism industry.

According to the SSCA’s Chansereyvutha, total air passenger traffic in Cambodia reached 908,059 in the first seven months of 2022, representing a remarkable jump of nearly 500 per cent year-on-year, while total air cargo volumes dropped 4.43 per cent to 34,547 tonnes.