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New airlines on horizon in Covid ebb

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The construction of the new Phnom Penh International Airport, now officially named Techo Takhmao International Airport. SPM

New airlines on horizon in Covid ebb

Local players’ Covid-stalled plans to set up new airlines are springing back to life as work on the new Phnom Penh airport ploughs ahead, a senior aviation official told The Post.

Without giving names, State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha said he recently met “two or three companies” with renewed interest in launching new airlines, to capitalise on an expected pick-up in demand for flights, as the Kingdom adapts to the “new normal”.

Prior to the pandemic, the SSCA had forecast that annual passenger traffic at Techo Takhmao International Airport would rise from 13 million in 2023 to 30 million in 2030 and 50 million in 2050, based on analysis of historical flight data, as well as tourism and economic growth models, he said.

These figures match the passenger capacities outlined in the master plan for each of the three phases.

Chansereyvutha noted that the firms were keen to open for business once the Covid situation improves, but he voiced uncertainty over whether these ventures would go ahead, citing intense competition in the market.

The official portrayed the new airport as a large, modern and very attractive facility that is up to a higher level of standards and can accommodate large aircraft, saying it was no surprise the project had piqued the interest of investors looking to enter the aviation arena.

Pinning hopes for new airlines in the near future, Chansereyvutha conceded that success would hinge on growth in flight movements, and the overall resumption of travel when the Covid-19 crisis has eased to the necessary degree.

Flag carrier Cambodia Angkor Air was launched in 2009 as a 51:49 joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, which sold its stake last year, just months into the pandemic.

Chansereyvutha had told the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, in April 2020 that the deal included the sale of five A321 aircraft, valued separately at $37 million.

During a visit to the site of the new airport in southern Kandal province’s Kandal Stung district on December 9, Prime Minister remarked that the first phase would be able to accommodate 13-15 million passengers each year.

The prime minister said the new facility would significantly boost air transport capacity, a domain where he suggested that the existing Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports were historically limited.

On the occasion, Pung Kheav Se, chairman of Techo Takhmao International Airport developer Overseas Cambodian Investment Corp Ltd (OCIC), said the project has cost about $375 million so far, out of the expected $1.500 billion price tag.

To raise funds and expedite construction of the airport, Cambodia Airport Investment Co Ltd (CAIC) launched a $300 million bond sale, of which nearly $100 million has been bought by public and private companies.

Built by CAIC in collaboration with the SSCA, construction on the first phase of the airport is nearly 30 per cent complete, and is forging ahead despite Covid-related disruptions.

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