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New air route to Cambodia by Air China

Air China will start nonstop flights from Beijing to Cambodia as early as November this year.

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According to local media reports, the airline has applied to the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC) to fly to Siem Reap in this November and Phnom Penh in February next year.

It will also need to file with the Air Transport Department of Cambodia’s State Secretariat of Civil Aviation according to its director, Vann Chanty.

He confirmed that officials from the two countries met in Beijing last May to discuss new routes.

“They informed us that Air China would start direct flights from Beijing to Siem Reap and Phnom Penh later this year. But, so far, we have not received any official application.”

Both civil authorities need to approve flights and requests need to comply with bilateral aviation agreements that usually designate carriers and set ceilings on capacity and frequency.

Right now there are services between the two countries out of Shanghai and Guangzhou.

China Southern Airlines operates 10 flights a week from Phnom Penh to Guangzhou and Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines serves both Phnom Penh and to Siem Reap. Roundtrip fares are around US$600 from Shanghai.

Air China is based in Beijing and is a member of Star Alliance. It will use a Boeing B737-800s for daily services to both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

Earlier, Chinese, privately-owned Juneyao Airlines said it was planning to launch direct flights from Shanghai to Cambodia July through to August. They have not materialized.

About 334,000 Chinese tourists visited Cambodia, last year, a 35% leap from 2011, and tourism officials believe it could easily double this year and reach 1.8 million by 2018.

Air China is the lead partner in a Chinese government initiative to improve inbound tourism to Beijing with a new 72-hour visa-free entry for transit passengers. Visitors must have a confirmed flight beyond Beijing to be eligible for the 72-hour stay.

The visa-free stay programme is being promoted heavily on Eurosport during the Tour de France weeks. The mid-day sporting event attracts a massive audience of European housewives who are according to Eurosport are responsible for planning family holidays.

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