Siem Reap Angkor International Airport (SAI) welcomed its first flight on October 16, marking a significant milestone in Cambodia’s tourism development post-Covid-19.

During the reception for the inaugural commercial flight to SAI, Vongsey Vissoth, Deputy Prime Minister and Minister in charge of the Council of Ministers, Mao Havannall, head of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, Minister of Tourism Sok Soken as well as representatives from the tourism sector gathered to greet the first passengers arriving from the Thai capital Bangkok, courtesy of Bangkok Airways.

Vissoth announced during the ceremony that SAI was completed on time, despite construction delays during the pandemic.

The $1.1 billion investment was initiated through the Cambodia-China “steel friendship” and “diamond cooperation” policies, led by government leaders from both countries.

“The launching and commissioning of the first commercial flights to SAI is a turning point for Cambodia in promoting tourism development in its historic territory, with the largest international airport within the Siem Reap Angkor region,” he stated.

He underscored that the investment in the new facility is a shared legacy that promotes trade, culture, society and the economy. He added that it represents a historic achievement that demonstrates the strong cooperation between the two nations.

“On this historic day, on behalf of Prime Minister Hun Menet, I would like to wish the friendship between our two countries, Cambodia and China, to be stronger and more stable,” he stated.

Havannall emphasised that the airport’s construction considered both immediate needs and long-term vision. It complies with international Type 4E standards and accommodates various aircraft sizes, including the Airbus 350 and Boeing 787, serving regional and long-haul flights.

“SAI has the capacity to host 38 airlines, with an estimated 7 million passengers in 2024 and 12 million by 2040,” he noted.

“Additionally, it will be able to handle 10,000 tonnes of air cargo in 2024 and 26,000 tonnes by 2040. According to our projections, this new airport can facilitate 65,000 flights in 2024 and 112,000 by 2040,” he added.

SAI is located in Siem Reap’s Sotr Nikum district, spanning Popel and Ta Yek communes, around 40km from Angkor Wat and 51km from Siem Reap town.

The official inauguration of the new airport is scheduled for November 16, with Manet and Chinese diplomats in attendance.