Silk Air country manager Tan Han Soo (L) joins Chief Executive Leslie Thng, Cambodia’s Tourism Minister Thong Khon and Singapore Ambassador S Premjith for Silk Air’s 20th anniversary celebration Monday, Oct. 1, 2012 at Nagaworld. Photograph: Stuart Alan Becker/Phnom Penh Post
Nagaworld Hotel was the venue for Monday night’s occasion, exactly 20 years after the very first Silk Air flight into Phnom Penh on October 1, 1992.
Also on hand was Cambodia’s Minister of Tourism Thong Khon, Singapore Ambassador S Premjith and his wife, Libby, Silk Air’s country manager Tan Han Soo and other aviation-related personalities.
The event came on the same evening as the launch of Tiger Airways’ service between Phnom Penh and Singapore and both airlines have ownership from Singapore Airlines (SIA), with Silk Air wholly owned by SIA and Tiger Airways which has 32.84 per cent ownership by SIA.
SIA also has a 49 per cent stake in Virgin Atlantic. SIA, in turn, is a subsidiary of the Singapore government through their investment and holding company Temasek Holdings, which carries 54 per cent of SIA’s voting stock.
SIA also owns another airline called Scoot, which began its first flight to Sydney in June, 2012, as a low-cost, medium and long-haul airline operating from Singapore’s Changi Airport and using Boeing 777 aircraft obtained from SIA.
During his first trip to Cambodia, Silk Air’s new CEO, Leslie Thng, who took the position September 3, sat down for an interview to describe his thoughts about Cambodia, Silk Air and the air transport business.
“Tiger and Scoot are low-cost carriers, and they go after a different market segment,” Thng said. “They have a different business model and different philosophy. SIA and Silk Air do not have any commercial co-operation with Tiger or Scoot. Our belief is that competition is good for the market, and we are ready for any competition on all our routes,” he said.
Thng said the price of fuel was a major component in airline operating cost.
“Fuel is probably 30 per cent of total operating cost, and despite the economic outlook, fuel prices have stayed at the same level for quite a long time.”
Rather than speculate on fuel price, however, Thng said the focus was how to deploy the aircraft.
“In a high fuel price environment it is important we stay vigilant on our cost to try to deploy capacity if we need to.”
Thng said one of Silk Air’s highest frequency routes was from Singapore to Kuala Lumpur at 47 flights per week. Silk Air serves Phuket, Thailand ,and Penang, Malaysia, each four times a day.
Thng said that since 1992 Silk Air had been recognised by Cambodians as a premium brand and had increased capacity to twice-daily service. He described the Silk Air’s passenger loading between Phnom Penh and Singapore as “reasonable”.
Prior to his appointment as chief executive of Silk Air, Thng had worked for SIA and was on Silk Air’s board when it approved in April the purchase 54 Boeing 737 aircraft.
Silk Air will gradually replace Airbus with Boeing aircraft during the coming years.
“This is for expansion to new destinations as well as to increase capacity on new routes.”
Thng said there was a lot of effort to provide passengers with a smooth transition between SIA and Silk Air with passengers connecting around the world. Silk Air opened a Hanoi route in June this year and will begin service to Biskahaptanam, India, at the end of this month.
Silk Air serves 41 destinations in 12 countries and together with SIA, the total is 99 destinations in 37 countries.
Thng thanked the Cambodian government and people for all the support during the last two decades.
“Silk Air will continue to provide high level of service, and Cambodia will continue to be one of our important markets. It was a good thing that we came to Cambodia in 1992 and it still is a good route for us.”
To contact the reporter on this story: Stuart Alan Becker at [email protected]