A Cambodia Angkor Air flight prepares for take-off at Phnom Penh International Airport.
A Cambodia Angkor Air flight prepares for take-off at Phnom Penh International Airport. Vireak Mai

Air cargo service takes flight

Cambodia Angkor Air launched what it claimed to be the country’s first domestic air cargo service yesterday, using the existing capacity of its commercial passenger flights to fill the growing demand for air shipments.

The new service, called Angkor Express Go, will transport goods along two main flight paths, with shipments travelling between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, and between Siem Reap and Sihanoukville, company representatives said.

Eng Molina, the airline’s general manager of marketing, said there is a growing demand in Cambodia for air cargo, especially for seafood, vegetables and other perishable products that are in high demand in Siem Reap, the country’s main tourism destination.

“We have learned that there is a huge demand for local transportation services, including air transport,” he said. “We believe that there is a big potential for this type of operation.”

Molina said he expects people will start shifting away from land transport and transition to the faster air service for products that depend of rapid delivery times to maintain their quality. Notoriously slow road travel from Sihanoukville to Siem Reap can take 10 hours, while air service can have the goods delivered in about an hour though at a higher cost, he conceded.

Cambodia Angkor Air already operates cargo services, but only on international flights, Molina noted, adding that the airline has transported close to 4,700 tonnes of goods since 2013.

The carrier uses two types of aircraft on its domestic routes. It flies 68-seater ATR72 planes, capable of carrying 400 kilograms of goods, as well as larger Airbus A320s, with 180 seats and a 2,000-kilogram cargo capacity.

Cambodia Angkor Air is one of four Cambodian carriers serving domestic routes, along with Sky Angkor Airlines, Bassaka Air and Cambodia Bayon Airlines. Startup airline JC International Airlines is scheduled to commence service today.

Sinn Chanserey Vutha, spokesman for the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation, said Cambodia already has domestic cargo services through other airlines, though he expects Cambodia Angkor Air’s new service will be popular.

“There is more and more demand for cargo transportation by air, both for international and domestic flights he said. “I think the new service will be used by many and will be successful.”

However, Sin Chanthy, president of the Cambodia Freight Forwarders Association, said he did not expect the new air service would result in any significant shift away from overland transport.

“It just provides more options, but I don’t think it will be overly popular because the transportation fees will be much higher compared to land shipments,” he said. “Cambodian roads are getting much better and the transport of goods is also getting faster and easier.”