Sunday, December 9, 2007

Air Finland's arrival creates direct Cambodia-Europe air route for the first time

PHNOM PENH, Cambodia: A direct commercial air route between Cambodia and Europe was opened for the first time Friday with the arrival of an Air Finland flight, officials said.

The Air Finland Boeing 757 landed with 215 passengers at the main airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia's capital, said Khek Norinda, a spokesman for the airport's operator, the French company Societe Concessionnaire des Aeroports.

The plane, with a crew of eight, flew from Stockholm, Khek Norinda said, adding that Air Finland plans to operate three charter flights to Cambodia each month.

The plane's arrival Friday was the first by a European commercial airline, he said, saying he hoped the direct link would help increase the number of European visitors to Cambodia and reduce the country's dependence on neighboring countries' airports and carriers.

"However, we need more time to assess accurately the effects of direct flights from European countries. We're just at the beginning," he said.

Air travel to and from Cambodia is currently dominated by foreign-owned airlines.

Last month, the government signed a joint venture agreement with two Indonesian companies to form a national airline to tap the country's growing tourism industry.

Cambodia received 1.4 million visitors between January and September this year, up nearly 19 percent from the same period in 2006, according to statistics by the Tourism Ministry. It has forecast that total tourist arrivals this year will exceed last year's 1.7 million.

The ministry said South Korean, Japanese and U.S. nationals respectively lead the list of foreign arrivals in Cambodia.

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