Kingdom key destination: Bangkok Airways

Content image - Phnom Penh Post
Tourists visit Angkor Wat temple in Siem Reap. YOUSOS APDOULRASHIM

Thai regional airline Bangkok Airways has announced Cambodia as one of its key destinations, as it unveiled its target to operate 34,000 flights carrying 2.6 million passengers this year.

Bangkok Airways Pcl president Puttipong Prasarttong-Osoth revealed at a press conference on March 10 that the airline’s passenger numbers declined steeply from May to August last year due to the Covid-19 Delta variant outbreak in Thailand.

 

The airline resumed Bangkok-Phnom Penh services in December, which generated about two per cent of total passenger revenue in 2021.

He noted that the aviation sector is forecasted to recover “about 40 per cent” in 2022 due to multiple factors including the increase in regional vaccination rates, a reduction in travel restrictions and the easing of Covid-19 preventative measures in Thailand.

Puttipong said that the airline plans to resume some of its popular domestic and international routes, including Bangkok-Krabi starting on March 27, and Koh Samui-Chiang Mai, Koh Samui-Hong Kong, and Bangkok-Siem Reap in the third quarter of 2022.

He stressed, however, that flight resumptions will depend on travel demand, travel restrictions in each country and Covid-19 measures, all of which could possibly “not be relaxed at the time of planned resumption of operations”.

With a total of 37 aircraft at present, Bangkok Airways expects to whittle its fleet down to 30 by the end of 2022 “as per our current fleet management plans”, Puttipong said.

“Five Airbus A320 aircraft will be returned to leasers when their contracts expire, while another two ATR72-500 aircraft will be sold off,” he said.

 

Puttipong said that Bangkok Airways expects to carry about 2.6 million passengers in 2022, with passenger revenue projected at 8.175 billion baht ($247 million).

He added that the airline anticipates operating “nearly 34,000” flights in 2022, with a passenger load factor of 65 per cent and an average ticket fare forecast in the region of 3,100 baht.

Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA) Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan told The Post recently that the increase in international flights shows that there is strong confidence amongst investors and tourists regarding travel to the Kingdom. Though not yet at pre-pandemic levels, he said it has been a promising start on which the country could rebuild its global trade and investment links.

“Since the Covid-19 crisis is not over, I understand that many tourists do not dare to venture abroad because lockdown of cities is possible at any time,” he said. “Nonetheless, the resumption of flights will be good for investment and trade.”

Flight schedules at Cambodia’s three international airports showed that by the end of January, about 10 domestic and international airlines were operating in Cambodia, with some companies operating flights three-to-four times a week – a frequency which State Secretariat of Cambodian Aviation (SSCA) spokesperson Sin Chansereyvutha told The Post was a good sign that the Cambodian aviation sector would return to normal in the near future.

Earlier in March, two Thai budget airlines announced flights to Cambodia in a bid to spur bilateral tourism after the Covid-19 crisis.

Thai Smile Airlines resumed twice-weekly flights between Bangkok and Siem Reap on March 3, while the Cambodian Association of Travel Agents (CATA) announced that Thai VietJet Air has been working with Phaya Thai Hospital in Bangkok to launch a travel package that aims to serve health tourists coming from Cambodia.