Phnom Penh in talks with Thailand's Phuket Air after two independents suspend operations and a third scales back

Cambodia's government is reviving efforts to establish a national carrier now that it is apparent some of the country's independent airlines are faltering.

Thailand's Phuket Air says it is negotiating with the Cambodian government to establish a national carrier to be called Air Cambodia and is interested in the venture because it wants to tap the country's tourist market. Senior Cambodian officials have said publicly that Air France Consulting might also help.

While Phuket Air and the government look to team up, some independent carriers have suddenly halted operations. First Cambodia Airlines, which started in late February, suspended operations on 2 August in the face of mounting losses and returned its only aircraft to the wet-lessor, Singapore-based Orion Air.

First Cambodia was using an Airbus A320 for scheduled passenger services to Asian cities such as Guangzhou, China and Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. First Cambodia is owned by Hong Kong-based Newskyland and Cambodians Suor Pheng and Hun Mana, the daughter of Cambodian prime minister Hun Sen. First Cambodia operations manager Ouk Thach says he is unsure when the airline will restart operations: "I have to wait until after the board meeting."

A senior source at Cambodia's civil aviation authority also says independent airline Royal Khmer stopped operating two months ago and has not said whether it plans to relaunch. Royal Khmer started in April using a Boeing 737-200 for scheduled passenger services to South-East Asian cities.

President Airlines, which earlier this year had three 737s, has also scaled back its operations. It has suspended all overseas passenger services, except to Bangkok, and now has only 50-seat Antonov An-24s for passenger flights.

Cambodian national airline Royal Air Cambodge, a joint venture between Malaysian company Naluri and the Phnom Penh government, collapsed in 2001. In 2002 the government looked at establishing a new national carrier in partnership with Hainan Airlines but the talks failed.



Source: Flight International