Officials in Cambodia have reported that new airlines may hit the skies as the sector recovers and construction on a new airport in Phnom Penh moves ahead. State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha said he recently met “two or three companies” with renewed interest in launching new airlines, to capitalise on an expected pick-up in demand for flights, as the Kingdom adapts to the “new normal”, according to local media reports.
Prior to the pandemic, the SSCA had forecast that annual passenger traffic at Techo Takhmao International Airport, the new under-construction airport, would rise from 13 million in 2023 to 30 million in 2030 and 50 million in 2050, based on analysis of historical flight data, as well as tourism and economic growth models, he said. These figures match the passenger capacities outlined in the master plan for each of the three phases. Chansereyvutha noted that the firms were keen to open for business once the COVID situation improves, but he voiced uncertainty over whether these ventures would go ahead, citing intense competition in the market.
Pinning hopes for new airlines in the near future, Chansereyvutha conceded that success would hinge on growth in flight movements, and the overall resumption of travel when the COVID-19 crisis has eased to the necessary degree. Flag carrier Cambodia Angkor Air was launched in 2009 as a 51:49 joint venture between the government and Vietnam Airlines, which sold its stake last year, just months into the pandemic. Chansereyvutha had told the Council of Ministers, or Cabinet, in April 2020 that the deal included the sale of five A321 aircraft, valued separately at $37 million, according to a report in the Phnom Penh Post.
During a visit to the site of the new airport on 9 December, Prime Minister Hun Sen remarked that the first phase would be able to accommodate 13-15 million passengers each year. The prime minister said the new facility would significantly boost air transport capacity, a domain where he suggested that the existing Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports were historically limited.