Two new joint Cambodian-Chinese airlines are expected to receive government approval to start operating in Cambodia by the end of the year or early next year.

MJ Airlines and Domrey Angkor Airlines are next in line to receive the air operator’s certificate (AOC) required to operate aircraft in the country, according to Sin Chanserey Vutha, a spokesman at the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation.

“Per their schedule, MJ Airlines will operate at the end of the year, and Domrey Angkor Airlines will start early next year,” Chanserey Vutha said on Sunday. “Both airlines are based on attracting Chinese arrivals to Cambodia’s aviation market.”

The two new approvals would bring Cambodia’s total number of airlines to nine, with four additional companies still waiting for AOC approval, the spokesman said.

A report from the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation released in February said that while Cambodia’s aviation sector was rapidly expanding, “it is hard to imagine a market the size of Cambodia supporting more than five airlines – let alone 10 – over the long run”.

“For the amount of new airlines, it is bit crowded to handle for aviation market,” Chanserey Vutha said. “But it is good that we have good competition, and it gives more options for customers.”

About 3 million passengers travelled through the airports in Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville during the first quarter of this year, a 25 percent increase over last year, according to Khek Norinda, communication and PR director of Cambodia Airports.

“We may need more time and perspective to see to what extent the market will be able to absorb all the new local airlines,” Norinda said yesterday.

“The trend may tilt toward consolidation at some point.”

It wasn’t clear exactly where the new arrivals would fly in China and elsewhere in Asia.