T he new terminal building at Phnom Penh's Pochentong airport is scheduled to be formally opened on Independence Day, Nov 9.
Contractors are working feverishly to put the finishing touches to the arrivals hall, while the departures hall has already been in operation since Sept 15. This features some new innovations for Pochentong, such as electronic flight information boards, baggage X-ray machines, payphones and snack bar. The Tourism Authority of Thailand is continuing to operate the duty-free shop as a concession.
Once the new $3 million building is completed the airport will for the first time be able to handle both incoming and outgoing passengers' luggage on conveyor belts and carousels, said Len Kep, spokesman for the Civil Aviation Authority of the Kingdom of Cambodia (CAAKC).
He added that many of the airport's 100 staff will be sent abroad for retraining in Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia.
Up to now arriving passengers have particularly suffered at Pochentong's archaic terminal - having to take part in undignified rugby-style scrums to recover checked baggage from trolleys.
The arrivals hall will also boast computers to assist processing through immigration.
Most of the work on the new terminal building has been carried out by Khmer contractors, including Momsuk, MKI and Comin Khmere.
A Khmer company is also in the running for the $100 million contract to make Pochentong capable of handling Boeing 747s .
Three other corporations - from the US, Malaysia and France - are the other contenders - and a decision is expected shortly on the winner of the tender. Some contenders are offering to carry out the work on a build-operate-transfer basis as the cash-strapped Cambodian government cannot afford to pay for the project out of its own pocket.
Work is to start next year and is scheduled to be completed in 1997. It will include building a completely new terminal building west of the existing one, lengthening the runway and building new taxiways and aprons. The current international terminal will then be used by domestic travelers.