Cambodian start-up carrier Mekong Airlines has agreed to lease two Airbus A320s from International Lease Finance (ILFC) ahead of its delayed launch of services that is now set for 1 August.

The Phnom Penh-based airline's business development manager Anthony Sandford says that the agreements were signed recently with ILFC, covering three-year leases with options to extend them to five years. He says the first aircraft is now being reconfigured ahead of delivery while the second should be delivered in September.

Mekong has also agreed to acquire two ATR 42s on lease-purchase arrangements with the manufacturer. Like the A320s, one ATR 42 will be used for the launch and the second delivered in September.

"We've now done all the deals on the aircraft so we're in the final stages," says Sandford.

The carrier, owned by a group of Australian industry veterans through their company VIA Aviation, as well as by Cambodian investors, has been working on a launch for some time and originally wanted to start flying in February. Plans were later deferred several times, partly as a result of regulatory delays.

Sandford says Mekong now plans to start with services to Hong Kong, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur in Malaysia, Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam and Bangkok in Thailand. Flights to Guangzhou in China are also planned, but would initially be operated as charters.

A320s will be used on most of the international flights although the ATR 42s will be used for Siem Reap-Bangkok and Phnom Penh-Ho Chi Minh City services, in addition to being used for domestic flights, says Sandford.

Mekong is one of two new airlines being planned in Cambodia in the wake of the October collapse of national carrier Royal Air Cambodge. The other carrier, Air Cambodia, is being established by China's Hainan Airlines in partnership with the Cambodian government. It is planning an October launch.

Source: Flight International