A new airline is being readied for launch in Cambodia to fill the gap in the market left by the collapse last year of national carrier Royal Air Cambodge (RAC).

The carrier is to be known as Mekong Airlines and is backed by a group of Australians through a company called VIA Aviation. It says an air operator's certificate was secured from the Cambodian government late in December, and services should start soon.

Business development manager Anthony Sandford says that Mekong will launch with three wet-leased Boeing MD-83s and two ATR-42 turboprops arriving from Freebird, a Turkish company, on an ACMI (aircraft, crew, maintenance & insurance) basis.

The new carrier plans to operate on international routes formerly served by RAC to major cities in South-East Asia and China, including: Bangkok, Guangzhou, Ho Chi Minh City, Hong Kong, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, and Shanghai. It will also operate domestic services.

China's Hainan Airlines, meanwhile, is in talks with the Cambodian government on a possible revival of RAC. But the defunct carrier has large debts, and is facing several lawsuits from creditors, making a restart difficult. RAC was established in 1994 as a joint venture between the Cambodian government and Malaysia Helicopter Services, now known as Naluri, the holding company which also controlled Malaysia Airlines.

RAC stopped operating in October. Cambodia already has other independent airlines, but none has made much of an impact on international markets.

Source: Airline Business