PHNOM PENH (The Phnom Penh Post/Asia News Network): A freshly-inked supplementary memorandum of understanding (MoU) to the Cambodia-Swiss air service agreement (ASA) may be a promising catalyst for new international commercial flights to the kingdom as well as an uptick in European visitors, according to tourism and civil aviation industry insiders.
The MoU was signed on May 23 in Switzerland between State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) chief Mao Havannall and Federal Office of Civil Aviation of Switzerland (FOCA) director for aviation policy and strategy Francine Zimmermann, SSCA spokesman Sinn Chanserey Vutha revealed.
Supplementing the Jan 6, 2007 ASA, the new deal is primarily focused on the promotion of flight connectivity between the two countries, especially with Techo International Airport, which is scheduled to open in early 2025 and serve Phnom Penh, the spokesman said.
“This MoU will support the capacity of carriers of either country to conduct flights as well as exercise their fifth freedom rights... given the still-limited demand for direct flights between them,” he said.
Chanserey Vutha was referring to the Fifth Freedom of The Air, or “the right or privilege, in respect of scheduled international air services, granted by one state to another state to put down and to take on, in the territory of the first state, traffic coming from or destined to a third state”, as defined by UN agency International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO).
“The agreement will enable airlines to conduct market research and accommodate new flights,” he said, adding that the capital’s new airport will be classified as 4F, and improve the kingdom’s potential for tourism, investment and major international meetings.
For reference, in the “4F” code designation, the number “4” means that the airport’s runway is longer than 1,800m and the letter “F” signifies that the runway is designed for aircraft with a wingspan of up to but not including 80m, and landing gear where the outside edges of the outermost wheels are less than 16m apart.
He stated that numbers of international tourists flying into Cambodia are approximately two-fifths of their 2019 levels, and predicted that the overall volume of inbound passengers in 2024 would be roughly equal to that of 2019.
Chanserey Vutha’s first claim was confirmed by Ministry of Tourism figures, which show that 481,582 international visitors to the kingdom arrived by air between January and March, equivalent to 37.07 per cent of the 1,299,122 registered during the same three-month period in 2019.
Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan opined that launching flights to the European market would be an effective implementation of the international Open Skies regime.
“Because they stay longer and spend more money on their travels, we can be sure that the European market is legitimately aiding in the recovery of our tourism sector. Therefore, the more flights we have from Europe, the more we’ll benefit from Western guests’ coming,” he said.