Cambodia Airports said it completed the runway expansion and renovation at Sihanouk International Airport on Tuesday as part of its post-Covid-19 era business expansion plans.
The company is the developer and operator of the Kingdom’s three international airports.
It extended the 2,500m runway by 800m, reinforced the current airstrip and installed an LED airfield lighting system to reduce its carbon footprint, it said in a statement.
The runway is now a $58 million investment programme and is scheduled to be commissioned in the last quarter of this year, it added.
“Against the backdrop of the strong traffic growth, the runway project was launched in July 2018 and aims at accommodating larger aircraft [Code E] such as B-777-300ER or A-350-1000 operating long-haul direct flights to/from Sihanouk International Airport,” Cambodia Airports said.
Its CEO Alain Brun said upgrading the runway was crucial to enable more direct long-haul flights into the Kingdom’s southwestern coastal province of Preah Sihanouk, where Sihanoukville is located.
He said: “To sustain the development of Sihanoukville, an efficient airport system and increasing air connectivity are critical.
“Upgrading the runway capacity provides new growth opportunities as airlines can operate bigger aircraft flying from/to more remote markets [such as Europe].”
Cambodia Airports communications and public relations director Khek Norinda told The Post that the runway will be operational in the weeks ahead.
He said the airport handled about 20 weekly inbound and outbound flights last month, a more than 95 per cent nosedive compared to September last year.
The scheduled flights connect the airport to Chinese cities, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap town, he noted.
Preah Sihanouk provincial Department of Tourism director Taing Sochet Kresna told The Post that the extension project is a strategic initiative that comes in direct response to the expected surge in post-Covid passenger traffic.
He said: “We are thrilled to see the airport upgrade in addition to the ongoing construction of a new terminal.
“The airport is now better equipped to handle direct long-haul flights, which is paramount in not only serving the tourism sector but enticing more investment and business into the province.”
According to Cambodia Airports, the airport has experienced triple digit growth nearly every year with annual passenger traffic soaring from 94,000 to more than 1.6 million between 2015 and last year. The number of passengers grew by a whopping 158 per cent last year from 2018.
It said: “In the last five years, Sihanoukville has become a destination in the making with its deep-sea port and pristine beaches, attracting both business investors and tourists.”
The Kingdom’s international airports welcomed 11.6 million passengers last year, a 10.2 per cent year-on-year hike from 2018, it reported in January.
However, the figures for the fourth quarter of last year weren’t so rosy, with the number of passengers from October-December decreasing by 3.1 per cent compared to the same months in 2018, it said.
Last year, the Phnom Penh International Airport surpassed the six-million passenger mark for the first time, with a passenger growth recorded at 11.2 per cent, it added.
Siem Reap International Airport, in contrast, saw a decline of 12.3 per cent in the number of passengers, with just 3.9 million people passing through the airport that year.
The three airports combined served at least 55 destinations and welcomed 700 regular flights per week, according to Cambodia Airports.