In the last weekend in January, Cambodia and India signed a deal that will enhance the connections between the two countries, including the India-Myanmar-Thailand Trilateral Highway, which may be extended to Cambodia and beyond, as well as an expansion in scheduled flights.
A few days later, the first Bassaka Airline flight between Phnom Penh and Kuala Lumpure took off from the capital city on 31 January carrying passengers and the possibility of new connections with Penang.
Last year, Cambodia’s airports hit a milestone as eight million passengers were waved through their doors, an increase of 14% on the year before, according to Eric Delobel, the CEO of Cambodia Airports.
Four million of those passengers went through Phnom Penh International Airport at Pochentong, with the remainder passing through Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports. Sihanoukville, a relatively new facility, saw an increase of passenger traffic of 162% in 2017, according to Cambodia Airports, which is owned by French company, Vinci Airports.
Mr Delobel attributed the rise to Cambodia’s attractiveness to the outside world, noting that this success “is the success of Cambodia. It shows that Cambodia is an attractive place for all passengers”.
But the growth is not down simply to Cambodia’s innate attractions. Worldwide, increased connectivity and growing demand for airline travel have also played their role.
To respond to this increase in demand, Cambodia Airports officially inaugurated a $26 million new arrivals hall and extension of its boarding concourse at Phnom Penh’s airport last December. The company hopes that it will boost the airport’s capacity to keep pace with the growth in traffic.
Roughly 500 flights arrive in Phnom Penh and Siem Reap airports each week, with Chinese airlines operating 155 direct flights to the Kingdom. The latest one to touch down in Cambodia, Southeastern Chinese Shenzhen Airline, landed its inaugural flight in December and at least five new passenger airlines are preparing to launch operations here within the next year.
However, Cambodia also still needs more direct long-haul flights to other destinations such as Europe in order to make visiting the Kingdom cheaper and more convenient.