Small Planet Airlines is seeking approval from the Kingdom’s aviation body to operate flights out of Cambodia to South Korea and China after the Lithuania-based carrier’s bid for a commercial operating licence in Thailand failed to materialise.
The independent leisure airline, which already has air operator’s certificates (AOCs) in Lithuania, Poland and Germany, is looking to expand its operations in Asia to offset the seasonal slowdown in Europe.
Khim Sophorn, an official at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA), confirmed yesterday that Small Planet had requested an AOC from the government, adding that its application was still under review.
“Small Planet has already received approval in principle from the government,” he said. “The SSCA is just in the process of going through the paperwork.”
Steve Kim, chief commercial officer for Small Planet’s operations in Cambodia, said the airline expects to receive approval no later than January 2017.
He said the target market will be charter flights from Siem Reap to South Korea and China, and the leasing of planes to local carriers.
“Small Planet already has a fleet of 21 airlines and we expect to begin with two in Cambodia once we are given approval,” he said.
“We will increase to hopefully six aircrafts in two to three years, but that depends on demand.” He added that the licensing of Small Planet could help strengthen Cambodia’s aviation sector.
“Because this is a European company, it will bring with it the high EU safety standards and regulations,” he said.
Small Planet concluded a five-year agreement with Sky Angkor Air in September 2015 to seasonally base four Airbus 320’s in Siem Reap during Europe’s winter off-season. According to Kim, that deal was “finished” and the company was seeking a more lasting footprint in the region.
“Small Planet didn’t get an AOC in Thailand because the Thai government has stopped issuing certificates. So it was only natural that they would look to Cambodia,” he said.
“In the future the company will reapply to Thailand while we continue to focus on international flights.”