Cambodia Angkor Air is planning to cash in on the surge in travel between India and Southeast Asia with new direct flights starting June 16. These flights will be the first-ever connecting Phnom Penh and New Delhi. Cambodia Angkor Air’s Chief Commercial Officer, Eng Molina, highlighted that these will be the first-ever direct flight services between the two countries.

Initially, flights will run four times a week, with plans to increase to daily service in the first six months if there’s enough demand. The airline will operate these flights using A320 aircraft from its fleet. Molina outlined an ambitious plan: “In the first six months if the market permits, we aim to increase our frequency daily from Delhi,” with the possibility of adding Mumbai flights. This expansion reflects Cambodia’s strong optimism about the Indian travel market, which pre-pandemic sent roughly 75,000 visitors annually.

Ambassador Kuong Koy echoed this sentiment: “We believe that with the addition of direct flights between India to Cambodia, we will not only cross pre-covid levels this year but will double our pre-covid level numbers from India in the next two years. Currently, we are a 40,000 visitors.”

Cambodia is targeting a broad range of Indian travellers. Eng Molina said the airline will focus on “leisure travellers from India” in the first year, capitalising on Cambodia’s cultural heritage and historical sites. Business travellers are another target group and they even see the potential to attract Indian workers to Cambodia. To attract outbound travellers, Cambodia is promoting itself as a medical and religious tourism destination for Indians. Their goal is to achieve a “load factor of at least 70 per cent of our flights being full.”

Travel trend

This move aligns with the growing travel trend between India and Southeast Asia. Demand for travel to short-haul destinations from India has been on the rise post-pandemic, with countries across Southeast Asia making it easier for Indians to visit by relaxing visa rules. Additionally, new air service agreements are being signed, like the recent one between India and Thailand that “will allow airlines to deploy more flights between the two countries.” This increased connectivity is making Southeast Asia a more accessible and attractive option for Indian tourists.

Popular tourist destinations in Southeast Asia like Phuket, Singapore, Bali, Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur remain popular with Indian travellers. However, there’s a growing interest in exploring new destinations like Baku, Almaty and Nagoya.

Cambodia Angkor Air’s new service is just one sign of this travel trend. Vietnam Airlines has also expanded its flights from India to Vietnam, using A321 aircraft. They even offer connections to other destinations beyond Vietnam from India. In the competitive Phuket travel market, established airlines like IndiGo and Air India are now facing new competition from SpiceJet.

While Cambodia Angkor Air will operate its flights independently for now, Eng Molina highlighted they are looking to partner with other Indian carriers for codeshare agreements. This would allow them to tap into a wider network of travelers in India and potentially offer connecting flights to other destinations in Southeast Asia.