A key element in establishing a successful, major international tourism destination such as Siem Reap is to make it easy to get to. But this is something that aviation authorities in the Kingdom seem to have overlooked.
Travellers have long complained about the expensive costs of flights from Bangkok to Siem Reap, and especially from Phnom Penh to Temple Town.
This week a Bangkok reader, a seasoned traveller, vented his frustration in a series of emails to 7Days.
In his opening salvo he claimed, “A Bangkok Airways ticket is priced at US$370 for BKK-SR-BKK, which is less than a one-hour flight either way. I can fly to Japan for that.”
Our man then figured he could fly direct from BKK to Phnom Penh but queried, “Why is Bangkok Airways one way from BKK to SR $154 but to PP it’s only $100, and PP is further away?”
He then discovered that a one-way ticket from PP to SR would cost $85 and if he booked the entire trip using one-way hops it would cost, surprise, surprise, $370.
Back to the drawing board.
He decided to try Air Asia but discovered that airline only flew to Phnom Penh for a return rate of $132 and then he was faced with a $170 return flight from PP to SR. Damn!
He then decided to try the national carrier, Cambodia Angkor Air. Its price was better – $275 for the round trip.
But (and there’s always a but) he reported, “If you go to the Royal AA site and try to book a flight you are directed to the Vietnam Airways site, and if you go to the latter they are only set up to handle domestic VN flights so you can't book a BKK-SR flight. It's madness.”
Last heard of, our reader was still in Bangkok.
Meanwhile, the Phnom Penh Post Siem Reap bureau investigative team surged into action. Calls to Bangkok Airways elicited a confusing range of prices, and it seems these prices vary considerably depending on the “lateness” of the booking, without lateness being defined.
But then the Post was able to get a computer printout of the full range of fares, to discover that there were five basic price points for a SR-BKK-SR return flight. The cheapest of these was $271.40, and the most expensive was $381.40.
But the price list for the PP-BKK-PP round trip was even more bewildering.
There were 11 different prices ranging from $230.40 to a massive $1002.40, presumably for a first-class ticket.
The Post Siem Reap bureau is not sure how our informant in Bangkok came up with a $100 one-way fee from BKK to PP. We were able to get the same costs of a one-way SR-BKK ticket as our Bangkok man, at $154, but we couldn’t come close to his $100 one-way fare from Bangkok to Phnom Penh. The cheapest we could get, out of eight price ranges, was $187.40 (with the dearest being $606.40.) This was despite being assured that it was cheaper to book flights in Cambodia than in Bangkok.
Finally, we checked with Cambodia Angkor Air. While our man in Bangkok was quoted $275 for the return trip, we were given a costing of $271.
But when we checked the next day we were quoted $268. The person answering the phone said she could offer this new price because she knew the Siem Reap bureau chief and could therefore book a “Class N” ticket, whatever that may be.