Five new Cambodia-based passenger airlines are expected to begin operations within the coming year, opening the way for greater connectivity to both domestic and international destinations across Asia and Europe.

The Phnom Penh Post reports that Small Planet Airlines has already received approval for its air operator’s certificate (AOC), while KC International Airline, Air Siem Reap, Prince International Airlines and Cambodia Airways are expected to receive them starting early next year.

Lithuania-based Small Planet Airlines, which typically offers charter flights to the Mediterranean from Lithuania, Poland and Germany, will reportedly be redeploying some of its fleet to Cambodia during the European winter to offset the low season.

Small Planet Airlines |
Small Planet Airlines |

Small Planet Airlines Cambodia’s CEO, Erikas Zubrus, said the airline will first aim to fly to Hong Kong, mainland China and South Korea, with Thailand, Japan and Oceania possibly to follow.

Meanwhile, Chinese-Cambodian joint venture KC International Airlines – not to be confused with Phnom Penh-based JC International Airlines that recently launched in March – is expected to get its AOC early next year and has plans to launch in January, focusing on the mainland Chinese market.

Prince International Airlines and sister carrier Cambodia Airways, both backed by Chinese investors, are also aiming to begin operations early next year. The former will focus on tourism charter and local business clients, reportedly launching with three A320s and two Gulfstream jets, while the latter will target scheduled services to Japan, South Korea, ASEAN countries, and Europe.

Cambodia Angkor Air |
Cambodia Angkor Air |

Finally Air Seam Reap, which is jointly owned by Bangkok Airways and Cambodian tycoon Ly Yong Phat, plans to base itself out of Siem Reap International Airport.

The airlines join a number of carriers looking to tap into the Cambodian aviation market. Earlier this year, Vietnam-based low-cost carrier Vietjet re-launched its international flights between Hanoi and Siem Reap, which it originally launched in November 2014 but later suspended in early 2016 due to “market issues”.

Meanwhile Dubai-based Emirates began flying daily to Phnom Penh via Yangon this summer, marking its first service to the country.

Cambodia has a reputation as one of the easiest markets for startup airlines to obtain an AOC and has been particularly attractive to operators targeting the high-growth Chinese market. Yet the Kingdom has proven a challenging market, with a list of over 30 now-defunct airlines.

Apsara Int'l Airlines |
Apsara Int'l Airlines |

The most recent was Apsara International Air, which launched in October 2014 but within weeks had mothballed its sole Airbus 320 after incurring huge losses in a price war with other domestic carriers.

In a report issued earlier this year, Australia-based aviation research and consulting firm the Centre for Aviation (CAPA) warned that startup airlines could face severe headwinds in Cambodia’s already oversaturated aviation market.

It said the existing local carriers – which at the time comprised Cambodia Angkor Air, Sky Angkor Airlines, Cambodia Bayon Airlines and Bassaka Air – had all set their expansion hopes on China but lacked the scale and resources to compete with foreign carriers on these routes, or each other.

Source : Phonm Penh Post | Business Travellers