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Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

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Singapore Airlines wants to offer 14 and seven weekly flights on the Phnom Penh and Siem Reap routes, respectively. THE STRAITS TIMES

Rise in planned flights lifts travel hopes

Six airlines have applied to resume flights in December, while two others have put in for additional flights and routes, according to State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) head Mao Havannall on November 29.

These account for 43 new weekly domestic and international flights in December, up 16 per cent from 37 in October, he said, cautioning that the final tally may vary depending on how the Covid control landscape unfolds.

The civil aviation chief revealed the plans at the virtual second meeting of the public-private working group tasked with propping up the tourism industry during and after the ongoing cascade of crises.

Following the removal of all quarantine requirements for travellers fully vaccinated against the novel coronavirus who fulfil a specific set of conditions, the momentum of arrivals to Cambodia has maintained a steady pace, Havannall said.

He said the SSCA has set passenger flights with ASEAN countries as a top priority, in keeping with what he termed the principle of rolling back quarantine rules.

Three of the six applicants for the “Scheduled Flights” programme are based in Bangkok – Thai Smile Airways, Bangkok Airways and Thai Air Asia plan to provide four, seven and three flights each week, respectively, he noted.

Manila-based Philippines Airlines, Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific Airways are looking to offer one weekly flight each, he said. Malaysia Airlines wants to operate four flights a week.

Meanwhile, Singapore Airlines has requested to increase the number of flights on the Singapore-Phnom Penh-Singapore route to 14 each week, and reinstate the Singapore-Siem Reap-Singapore route, providing seven flights a week, he said.

Lanmei Airlines seeks to operate two flights each week on the Phnom Penh-Siem Reap-Bangkok route, he added.

Additionally, he said, the SSCA will focus on resuming regular flights between Cambodia and China when Beijing eases its Covid measures.

The civil aviation authority will also continue to make the case with Tokyo-based All Nippon Airways and Middle Eastern airlines, such as Emirates, Qatar Airways and Etihad Airways, for rescheduling flights to the Kingdom, according to Havannall.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (Pata) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan lauded the development as “the most positive news” for tourism industry actors, quipping that air travel offers travellers to the Kingdom a faster, more comfortable alternative to making the journey by land, one province at a time.

Voicing hope that more airlines would move to resume flights to Cambodia, Sinan told The Post on November 30 that “flight connections are the main means of reviving tourism and the economy”.

On November 29, the Ministry of Health imposed a ban on all arrivals who have travelled to or transited through 10 African countries in the three weeks prior to entry into the Kingdom, in a bid to prevent an outbreak of the newly-flagged Omicron variant of SARS-CoV-2, the coronavirus that causes Covid-19.

The 10 countries are Angola, Botswana, Eswatini, Lesotho, Malawi, Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Commenting on the ban, Sinan said: “This is a new threat to the tourism industry that is just beginning to come into light.

“It will inevitably hinder some of our vaccination plans,” he portended.

From November 1-26, 12,182 foreigners entered Cambodia, including 4,410 tourists (36 per cent), most of whom were Vietnamese, Indonesian, Malaysian and Thai nationals, Ministry of Interior director-general for immigration Kirth Chantharith reported.

In January-September, the Kingdom welcomed 131,674 foreign tourists, down by 89.4 per cent year-on-year from 1,247,680, according to the Ministry of Tourism.

Of these, 63,050 (or 47.88 per cent) entered the Kingdom by air, and 68,624 (52.12 per cent) by land or waterways.

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