Logo of Phnom Penh Post newspaper Phnom Penh Post - President Airlines grounded by low passenger numbers

President Airlines grounded by low passenger numbers

President Airlines grounded by low passenger numbers

presid.jpg
presid.jpg

Cambodia's only domestic commercial airline has suspended flights until the

tourist high season, citing lack of flyers and the high cost of fuel as reasons

for the move.

President Airlines will resume flights in the "winter

season", around the beginning of October, said Grant Brachmanis, public

relations officer.

Brachmanis cited "low load factors", or insufficient

passenger numbers, as the primary reason for the suspension, but said the rising

cost of fuel has also contributed to the temporary closure.

Until

flights resume, all ticket holders have been transferred to other airlines that

handle the same destinations. Those airlines included PMT Air, Bangkok Airways

and Siem Reap Airways.

Andre Ruys, the general manager of Local

Adventures Travel Agency, which specializes in trips in Cambodia, thinks shoddy

service may have contributed to the temporary grounding.

"President

Airlines was not very reliable," Ruys said. "They would cancel flights one hour

before they were supposed to depart, or change the times and dates for no

reason, or because they didn't have enough fuel or enough passengers

booked."

While airlines all over the world are feeling the squeeze of

rising fuel prices and fewer passengers, Brachmanis expresses optimism about his

company's temporary hiatus.

"We're taking advantage of the low season to

restructure our flight reservation system and retrain our staff," Brachmanis

said.

"Right now all our bookings come from Cambodia and Thailand, but

with our new internet booking system we will be able to accept reservations from

all over the world," Brachmanis said. "We won't have another low year like this

again."

President Airlines' international management team also plans to

upgrade service quality. At least two new aircraft will be leased in October,

which Brachmanis says will be faster and more comfortable than the current

fleet.

The domestic carrier hopes that the upgrades will keep them

competitive with foreign companies such as Singapore-based Tiger Airways and

Thai-owned AirAsia, which will soon add flights in Cambodia to their regular

service.

President Airlines began flying in 1997 and has outlived at

least eight other airlines that have come and gone in Cambodia's fragile

aviation market.

If Local Adventures is any indication, however, upgrades

in service, comfort and booking may not be enough to save Cambodia's

longest-running commercial airline.

"In the beginning we used them

because they were cheaper, but then we realized for a few dollars more we could

offer a better service," Ruys said. "So we stopped using them about a year

ago."

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