Cambodian start-up Mekong Airlines has concluded a deal with International Lease Finance (ILFC) to take an ex-Continental Airlines Boeing 737-500 on a three-year lease and remains on track to launch operations in mid-January.

The carrier, which aims to fill the void in the market left by the October 2001 collapse of Royal Air Cambodge, had earlier planned to start with an Airbus A320, also from ILFC, but says the last-minute switch to a 737 was made for "purely commercial reasons".

Mekong Airlines commercial manager Ross Pollock says the 737-500 is small enough to be operated economically between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap as well as on onward connections to Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur and Singapore.

Mekong is being launched by a group of Australian industry veterans and has said in the past that its investors are from Cambodia and the USA. It intended to start flying last February, but plans were deferred several times. Operations are now due to start in the second half of January subject to Cambodian regulatory approval, says Pollock.

Source: Flight International