Several airlines using Cambodia's airports have racked up such large debts that they
must pay cash to the airport operator every time they take off or land.
Royal Phnom Penh, President, Bangkok and Siem Reap Airways are all paying cash as
they have exhausted their credit with Société Concessionnaire de l'Aéroport
(SCA). It could block them from using the runways, but opted for discussions.
"When outstanding payments become critical, we charge them cash before landing,"
said SCA's Philippe Rose, which has the concession to manage the airports.
The payments, which depend on the type of aircraft, ensure their debts do not increase.
They usually pay SCA twice a month, but the firm was forced six months ago to demand
cash, and again one month ago when debts became too high. The bankrupt national carrier
Royal Air Cambodge also owes SCA a sizable sum.
Rose said money owed by Bangkok Airways, which owns Siem Reap Airways, has in the
past reached over $1 million, but he would not give precise figures for any of the
airlines' debts. They are the only two airlines allowed to fly the lucrative Bangkok-Siem
Santi Laonikakra, senior country manager for Bangkok Airways, disputed that figure
and said the situation was "not serious".
"Everything is under the payment period for the debt," he said. The airline's
head of overseas corporate communications, Arisra Sangrit, said the need to carry
cash for every flight had caused difficulties.
Prince Norodom Chakrapong, who owns Royal Phnom Penh Airways, said paying cash each
time was normal. "I think all the airlines do it because they have some problems,"
Rose said Siem Reap Airways was the most problematic as the amount owed was "not
"It's a big problem because it creates an economic problem," he said. SCA
was committed to fulfilling its duties, such as constructing a new terminal at Siem
Reap, he said, but debts made it harder for his agency to balance its books and expand.
Royal Phnom Penh and Bangkok/Siem Reap Airways also owe sizable sums to Cambodia
Air Traffic Services (CATS). Managing director Teerachai Phongpanangam said the first
owed around $200,000 which at only 5 percent of CATS' income was not serious.
He said the other two owed between $700-800,000, although Bangkok Airways' Santi
disputed that figure. Teerachai said the airlines were working on an arrangement
to pay their debts.