A primer on flying to Cambodia in your own business jet

The good news if you own a Gulfstream G550 business jet is that landing slots are available and there's plenty of space to park it at Cambodia's airports. Charley W. Karl
The good news if you own a Gulfstream G550 business jet is that landing slots are available and there's plenty of space to park it at Cambodia's airports. Charley W. Karl

A primer on flying to Cambodia in your own business jet

Not everyone flies coach, and not everyone who arrives in Cambodia by air comes on a commercial carrier. A stronger regional economy and the Kingdom’s influx of foreign investment have led to a marked increase in the number of private charters and corporate jets using Cambodian airspace.

But you can’t just hop on your jet in Singapore and drop into Phnom Penh for a power lunch before flying off to Hong Kong. You’ll need a landing permit and an arrival slot, which can take a few days to organise. While you’re at it, it’s worth figuring out how you’re going to pay for the ground services and parking fees. Don’t expect them to take a cheque.

The good news is that all three of Cambodia’s international airports can handle private aircraft, and you’ll find plenty of room to park your Lear or Beechcraft jet. But it can get a tad busy at times – like around 10:30am when three big flights from China line up for arrival slots at Phnom Penh airport. So you’ll need to be flexible when planning your arrival and departure times.

The easiest way to obtain a landing permit and reserve slots is to hire a local support company to do it for you. But you could just ring up the State Secretariat for Civil Aviation, which issues landing permits, and Cambodia Airports, which coordinates all take-off and landing slots.
One advantage to commissioning a support company to handle the arrangements is that you’ll need to deal with many different parties, from aviation officials to fuel uplift operators and caterers, and it helps to have somebody to quarterback the play. It also smoothes out the language barriers and money issues.

“The main challenges as an individual would be payment arrangements, as he or she would be likely be asked to pay in advance or in cash on the spot [for services],” explains Aljoscha Subasinghe, business development manager at Indochina Aviation Centre (IAC), an aviation hospitality company that operates as a concierge for aviation clients in six countries including Cambodia.

Officially at least, landing permits require at least five working days’ notice, but a good agent can probably bag one for you in one or two days. The permit application requires information on the aircraft, its passengers and crew, and the requested flight schedule. You’ll also need registration certificates, proof of insurance, your air operator certificate (AOC) and a billing address for any aviation charges you rack up while in Cambodian airspace.

Bear in mind that while landing permits have a validity window that extends beyond the original scheduled arrival time, you’ll have to pay a ground handling surcharge if you delay or cancel the flight without prior notice. And if the flight is significantly delayed, or if you change your mind about which jet in your fleet you’ll use to fly in on, you’ll need a new permit or an amendment to the existing one.

Landing permits are tied to landing and take-off slots, which in theory must be requested at least three days ahead of arrival. Subasinghe says slot availability is rarely an issue at Cambodian airports, but he sometimes asks clients to amend their schedules a bit to avoid peak commercial airline traffic. And just like with landing permits, missing your assigned slot schedule can end up costing you.

“Cambodia Airports charges a fee of 25 percent of the basic ground handling in case of delay over 45 minutes from the allocated slot time,” notes Subasinghe.

Parking is never a problem at any of the Kingdom’s three airports – though expect you’ll be given a spot with the other small business jets at the far end of the apron. Parking fees are calculated by the hour and factor in the aircraft’s takeoff weight.

Ground handling services at the Kingdom’s three international airports are provided exclusively by Cambodia Airports.

You’ll probably want to fuel up. Total and PTT Cambodia supply jet fuel (Jet A-1) to aircraft at all three airports, with fuel prices posted regularly and payments accepted in cash before departure or pre-approved credit.

You’ll also want to fuel up your passengers and crew. That job falls to Cambodia Air Catering Services (CACS), the exclusive airport caterer at all three airports, whose white hi-lift aircraft catering trucks cruise the tarmac and deliver food and supplies to parked aircraft. If you want food for your flight home, or to restock the minibar, you’ll need to talk to CACS.

You’re under no obligation to purchase their in-flight meals. But even if you decide to order a dozen pizzas from Domino’s, you’ll still need to arrange with CACS to have them delivered the final stretch from the airport terminal to your parked jet.

Exceptions are sometimes made for small food items, notes Subasinghe, adding that “the crew can usually bring in outside catering as long as the quantities are small enough to be carried by hand and everything is screened as per security protocol.”

Here again a good support company is golden and can handle not only the food arrangements, but also arrange laundry service and track down specialty items for your passengers and crew, allowing you to spend your time on the ground taking care of business rather than standing in line at Thai Huot with a basketful of wine, sandwiches and a corkscrew.

One final note, is that business jet operators have the option of using the VIP terminals at Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports – though you’ll need to request a slot in advance. The terminals have their full CIQ (customs, immigration and quarantine) facilities, which offer smoother processing as well as a high level of privacy.

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