Four-nation pact allows subsidiary to operate new routes in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam

Bangkok Airways is set to take advantage of its fifth freedom rights through Cambodia to operate flights originating in four neighbouring countries. The airline, through its wholly-owned subsidiary Siem Reap Airways, plans to add flights from Wang Prabang in Laos to Danong-Hue in Vietnam and from Hue to Siem Reap in Cambodia.

The airline established Cambodia-based Siem Reap Airways to "get around legalities in Thailand", says vice-president, maintenance and engineering Marc Kirner. Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar and Vietnam have an open skies agreement allowing carriers from one country to operate international services in each others' territories. Bangkok Airways operates a continuous "flip-flop" wet lease deal with Siem Reap Airways, with all crew and support based in Thailand. The Cambodian subsidiary uses aircraft from Bangkok Airways' fleet of nine ATR 72s and two Boeing 717s.

Peter Wiesner, vice-president, marketing says that Thailand was not included in the four-nation pact as its aviation industry is much better developed than its neighbours. Bangkok Airways already has the rights to fly to the cities of Bagan and Mandalay in Myanmar, but says that restrictions placed on foreign tourists by the military junta make the destinations "difficult" at present.


Hue Luang Prabang, and Siem Reap, the latter which is home to the Angkor Wat Buddhist temple complex, form part of Bangkok Airways' Mekong world heritage tour, linking them to UNESCO-protected sites in Bangkok and Sukhothai in Thailand. The establishment of a Cambodian subsidiary was key to making this network possible, says Bangkok Airways president Dr Prasert Prasartthong-Osoth. The airline has been "encouraged" by the Cambodian government to increase services following the collapse of flag carrier Royal Air Cambodge late last year (Flight International, 22-29 January). Prasert says that Cambodian investors will be invited to own shares in Siem Reap Airways eventually, but at present the administration has granted Bangkok Airways a suspension of the regulation requiring Cambodian majority ownership.

Bangkok Airways is also to add a second Chinese city to its route network from late March. The carrier will fly to the southern city of Xian, in partnership with China Northwest Airlines. The flights, four times weekly, will fly via Sukhothai, using the ATR 72s.

Bangkok Airways' two 717s will be used for its over-subscribed routes to Samui and the airline is currently in discussions with Boeing and leasing company Pembroke Capital on leasing a third, possibly secondhand example. Kirner, however, says any decision could be affected by closure of the assembly line in Long Beach, California, which would see Bangkok Airways considering other small airliners.

Source: Flight International