TATE-OWNED Kampuchea Airlines (KA) has announced bold expansion and
modernization plans along with the takeover of the aviation side of its Thai
partner SK Air.
A KA spokesman said the airline plans to begin flying to
several new international destinations, including Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala
Lumpur and southern China.
He said: "The first of these will probably be
Hong Kong in around six weeks [end of June]. We already have bilateral
agreements to fly to Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur and Taipei, so that is
not a problem."
The moves have been approved by the Council of Ministers
and are certain to fuel speculation that the Royal Government's deal with
Singapore International Airlines to create a new national flag carrier Royal Air
Cambodge (RAC) has hit trouble.
RAC was due to begin flying on July 1 but
a contract has still not be signed despite earlier expectations the deal would
be finalized months ago.
Under the proposed deal, KA was to have ceased
flying along with SK Air and another Thai-owned company Cambodian International
Airways, leaving RAC as the exclusive national flag carrier. KA's staff were to
have transferred to the new airline.
The KA spokesman said: "I am not
aware of what is happening to Royal Air Cambodge but we as an airline decided
not to just sit here and wait to die."
SK Air has handed over its lease
on a Thai Airways Boeing 737-200 to KA but is to remain as guarantor. In
addition KA is to open negotiations with Malaysia Air to lease a Boeing 737-400,
which can seat up to 150 passengers and one or two turboprop Fokker 50 aircraft
for use on its domestic routes, the spokesman said.
In addition new
ground handling equipment will be bought and KA will install a computerized
ticketing and reservation system.
The spokesman said: "It is vital that
we improve our image and clarify who we are. Some people say they are confused
by the two companies SK Air and Kampuchea Airlines. In this situation we must
move very quickly."
Up to $70,000 worth of computer hardware will be
bought from Datacom in Thailand and terminals will be installed at the company's
HQ on Norodom Boulevard, at its offices in Bangkok and Ho Chi Minh and in the
provinces where a land phone line exists.
Eventually the check-in desk at
Pochentong will go on line also making it easier for passengers to buy tickets
at the last minute at the airport.
The spokesman said: "It is also very
important that we retrain the staff to work on the new system, they have been
used to working under the communist system."
Khmer staff from KA will
take over the management of the entire operational side of the business, the
spokesman said, adding: "SK Air will be our partner as a sales and marketing
From May 27 even the announcements on the Boeing 737 will be
made only in Khmer and English, with those in Thai being dropped. Even SK Air's
logo has been dropped from tickets, which now only sport that of Kampuchea
Also on May 27 Kampuchea Airlines inaugurated one-day package
tours to Angkor from Bangkok.
Contrary to earlier reports there are no
direct flights. Instead the airline is selling a package consisiting of
connecting flights between Bangkok, Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, lunch at the Grand
Hotel, entrance to the temple complex and an English speaking guide.
Pichid Ittisin, SK's sales manager in Phnom Penh said: "I have heard
that the lease on the Boeing 737 has being changed to Kampuchea Airlines but I
can't comment on anything else."
SK President Kovit Thanyarattakul failed
to return calls to his Bangkok office to comment on the re-organization.