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New carrier buys Airbus jet

New carrier buys Airbus jet

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A Cambodia Angkor Air ATR 72-500 turboprop plane sits on the tarmac in July at Phnom Penh International Airport. The new carrier will begin flights with its new Airbus A321 on Saturday, officials said.

National carrier Cambodia Angkor Air is to receive a new Airbus A321 today as the new airline increases flights to domestic destinations and Ho Chi Minh City

NEW national carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) will receive today delivery of a new Airbus A321 at Phnom Penh International Airport, an official said Tuesday.

Soy Sokhan, undersecretary of state at the secretariat of civil aviation, who is in charge of all matters related to CAA within the government, said the new passenger jet would go into service from Saturday.

"In operating the new aircraft, we will triple return flights between Siem Reap and Ho Chi Minh City - so now 21 flights a week - and double return flights between Phnom Penh and Ho Chi Minh, so that will be 14 flights [per week] from Saturday," he said Tuesday.

The airline - which launched July 27 - had seen a steady increase in passenger numbers, with an average passenger load of between 30 and 40 percent during the first month of operations, he said, without supplying official data, which he said was not yet available.

As the national carrier, CAA ticket prices had been kept between 5 and 10 percent lower than other private carriers following an opening promotional period. "This is our policy to attract tourists," he said.

Ho Vandy, managing director of World Express Tours and Travel, noted, however, that since the end of the promotional period - in which flights between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap were sold for as little as US$6 one way, not including tax - CAA's prices had been similar to Bangkok Airways.

"At the start, Cambodia Angkor Air's tickets sold well due to the discount promotion, but now the ticket prices are high," he said, without giving ticket sales figures for August.

He declined to say which tickets had sold better - CAA or Bangkok Airways, which also flies between the capital and Siem Reap.
Since its original promotion, CAA has sold tickets between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap starting at $30, not including taxes and other charges.

Chhuon Sambath, vice president of the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents and president of Angkor Media Travel, said Tuesday that CAA's promotions had coincided with slashed fare prices on other airlines.

"But the sales seemed good," he said. "It is too early to compare [CAA] ... to other airlines in terms of airfares and services because it just started a month ago."

Soy Sokhan said there were no immediate expectations regarding the airline's financial performance.

"For the first few years, we do not expect any profits. We will just promote our carrier and attract customers," he said Tuesday. Further expansion is planned, he added.

CAA would aim to begin flights between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville and the capital and Sihanoukville before the end of the year, he said, or early next year. The opening of the new airport at Cambodia's most popular seaside resort has been delayed, according to previous reports.

CAA has been collecting data on cruise ship passenger numbers to Sihanoukville from travel agents to plan ahead for flights, "but at the start it won't be regular flights on this route, but chartered flights", Soy Sokhan said.

Further aircraft purchases would be made next year, he said, as the airline looks to expand within ASEAN as well as to China and South Korea.
CAA is a joint venture between the government - which owns 51 percent - and Vietnam Airlines as part of a 30-year agreement with an initial investment of $100 million.

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