Cambodia’s Sihanouk airport upgrades runway, Flights to begin before end of 2020

Cambodia Construction News
Minister in charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation Mao Havannall (third from left) and Governor of Preah Sihanouk province Kuoch Chamroeun (second from left) attend the ceremony for the completion of the extension and renovation of Sihanouk International Airport. KT/Chor Sokunthea

Cambodia’s Sihanouk airport upgrades runway, Flights to begin before end of 2020

Sihanouk International Airport, serving Cambodia’s main seaside resort and port city, has entered a new development phase. The runway has had an extension from 2,500 metres to 3,300 metres.

In the last five years, Sihanoukville has become a destination in the making with its deep-sea port and pristine beaches, attracting both business investors and tourists. Between 2015 and 2019, passengers grew from 94,000 to 1.6 million passengers and the airport had been experiencing triple digit growth nearly every year.

Against the backdrop of the strong traffic growth, the runway project was launched in July 2018 and aims at accommodating larger aircrafts such as B-777-300ER or A-350-1000 operating long-haul direct flights to and from Sihanouk International Airport.

Mao Havannall, Minister in charge of the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation said that the runway extension is critical for the future as both SSCA and the airport concession holders are working together to attract airlines and get bilateral landing rights.

To a question on tax relief for the airport, the minister said: “The government is sensitive to the needs of the tourism and travel industries and, as such, has extended some relief to the three airports as well.

A traditional Khmer blessing ceremony marks the work’s completion of the extension and renovation of the Sihanouk Airport runway and its coming commissioning.
KT/Chor Sokunthea

“This relief will be reviewed periodically and is based against the COVID-19 pandemic because, with the virus making its round around the world a second or third time, the government’s actions would have to be tempered accordingly so the airport and the travel industry can survive.”

He added that the Dara Sakor airport should be ready by the end of 2021 and that terminal construction works are set to commence.

Another airport planned by the LYP Group and Bangkok Airways is still under the masterplan review stage while the planned airport in Koh Rong is too premature because studies need to be done

When asked about the new international airport, the minister said that work was progressing but declined further comment.

Alain Brun, CEO of Cambodia Airports, the company that develops and manages the Kingdom’s network of international airports, said: “To sustain the development of Sihanoukville, an efficient airport system and increasing air connectivity are critical.”

“Upgrading the runway capacity provides new growth opportunities because airlines can operate bigger aircrafts flying to and from more remote markets such as the European one.”

The opening of the new runway is good news for Sihanoukville and the rest of Cambodia at times when things are tough. Cambodia Airports reported that there has been a drop in traffic of people travelling through Phnom Penh, Siem Reap and Sihanoukville airports of up to 75 percent in the last eight months.

Cambodia Airports Public Relations Director, Khek Norinda, said: “We have seen some flights start again but the resumption of air travel will be very slow. Even our domestic flights have nearly come to a standstill. For instance, at Siem Reap International airport, there are one to two weekly flights while no international flights have been operating there since March.”

The government did however announce tax relief measures for certain sectors in response to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, this included the aviation sector.

For the airline companies registered in Cambodia, there has been tax exemptions while it was learned that some companies, including the airport, was given a relief of its one per cent minimum tax every two months upon application to the Ministry of Economy and Finance.