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Minister calls for ANA to launch Cambodia-Japan flights

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Japanese ambassador Masahiro Mikami meets with tourism minister Thong Khon on November 29. TOURISM MINISTRY

Minister calls for ANA to launch Cambodia-Japan flights

Minister of Tourism Thong Khon on November 29 signalled his keenness for All Nippon Airways Co Ltd (ANA) to launch the first post-Covid-19 direct commercial flights between Cambodia and Japan.

This came during outgoing Japanese ambassador Masahiro Mikami’s farewell call on the minister as his diplomatic mission nears its end, the ministry disclosed in a statement.

Noting that there are now direct flights linking Japan to Thailand and Vietnam, Khon suggested to Mikami that opening air routes to and from Cambodia would materially increase tourist flows between the two countries.

Although the Tokyo-based ANA – Japan’s largest airline by fleet size, passenger numbers and revenues – does currently operate direct flights connecting Japan to Thailand and Vietnam, it faces competition on those routes from the likes of Japan Airlines, Thai Airways, Vietnam Airlines, VietJet Air and Bamboo Airways.

The minister also mentioned that ANA suspended its commercial flights to Cambodia in late 2019, as the pandemic dawned upon the world.

Mikami vowed to keep working to expand Japan-Cambodia relations and cooperation, as well as to advocate for ANA to again fly directly to the Kingdom, even after his tenure as ambassador is over, the statement said.

State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha told The Post on November 30 that the aviation regulator has been in regular contact with ANA, but has yet to receive any major updates on plans to restart flights.

“The SSCA’s management has met with ANA representatives in the country and in Japan several times recently on the resumption of flights.

“However, the company is having trouble getting the planes sorted out to resume the flights. Hence, they won’t be able to fly here in the near-term, but we do hope that they’ll consider flying back here at the beginning of the next flying season,” he said.

According to ministry statistics, in the first 10 months of the year, “more than 7,000” Cambodians travelled to Japan, while 19,794 Japanese visitors came to the Kingdom, down 87.90 per cent from the 163,637 logged in January-October 2019.

Of these, 10,044 or 50.74 per cent declared “holiday” as their purpose of visit, 9,335 or 47.16 per cent marked “business”, while 415 or 2.10 per cent indicated other motives.

Japan accounted for just 1.26 per cent of the 1.576 million total international visitors during the January-October period.

Meanwhile, plenty of signs point to sunnier skies ahead for ANA and the global aviation industry, with Koji Shibata, president and CEO of the airline’s Tokyo-listed parent company ANA Holdings Inc, predicting that international flight demand could return to pre-Covid levels by March 2024.

For the April-September period, as Covid-19 restrictions in Japan and elsewhere eased up, ANA Holdings reported operating revenue of 790.7 billion yen ($5.7 billion), up 83.4 per cent year-on-year, and ordinary income of 30.2 billion yen versus ordinary loss of 115.5 billion yen in the year-ago period.

The number of passengers carried by ANA during the six-month period reached 1.660 million, up 406.6 per cent year-on-year, while total revenue from passenger traffic was 161.4 billion yen, up 430.9 per cent.

ANA Holdings executive vice-president and group chief financial officer Kimihiro Nakahori commented in a company statement: “The positive results of the first half of the fiscal year [April-September 2022] demonstrate the progress we have made since the pandemic began and the determination and effort of our employees to help put the ANA Group in a favourable financial and operational position.

“The perseverance and dedication of our employees is propelling ANA Group to overcome the challenging times and we look forward to seeing the continued increase as customers once again visit Japan,” he said.

On the Tokyo Stock Exchange, ANA Holding’s share price fell 30 yen or 1.00 per cent to close at 2,915 yen on December 1 for a market capitalisation of 1.39 trillion yen, with 2.67 million shares traded and 52-week range of 2,150-3,022 yen, according to financial news website MarketWatch.

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