Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport is still on track to open in October 2023, with work on Phase I reaching 44 per cent as of end-September, according to a senior civil aviation official.
Breaking ground on March 15, 2020, the three-phased 700.06ha development is a project of Angkor International Airport Investment (Cambodia) Co Ltd (AIAI), with capital investment of $880 million, more than $500 million of which is to be spent on the first and second phases.
Located in Sotr Nikum district’s Ta Yek commune east of Siem Reap town, the airport will reportedly be able to receive about seven million passengers per year initially, 10 million by 2030, and 20 million by 2050.
Similarly, annual cargo capacity is also expected to rise from 10,000 tonnes initially to 60,000 tonnes by 2050.
State Secretariat of Civil Aviation (SSCA) spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha told The Post on October 19 that work on the first phase is expected to reach 70 per cent by end-2022. Citing the latest AIAI update, he said that the main work was set to be completed by end-March 2023 and that the first test run would be conducted in October that year.
He conceded that construction has been slower than planned, largely as a result of Covid-19 restrictions that prevented engineers from travelling from China, elevated shipping costs, and slow delivery of construction equipment.
According to Chansereyvutha, the airport in its first phase will have 38 gates and be rated Code E, and hence able to accommodate larger aircraft such as A340-300, A350-900, B777-200, B777-300ER, B747-300 and B747-400.
For reference, the Code E rating signifies that the runway is designed for aircraft with a wingspan of up to but not including 65m, and landing gear where the outside edges of the outermost wheels are less than 14m apart.
Pacific Asia Travel Association Cambodia chapter chairman Thourn Sinan recently said that the Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport could become a regional air travel hub as it is much larger in size than the airport it is replacing, and said that the new facility would prove a boon to all sectors in the province, especially tourism.
He speculated that the construction of the new airport may lead to the building of new towns surrounding Siem Reap so as to ease the influx of more Cambodians calling the province home, as well as to more evenly redistribute the local population as the old city becomes increasingly crowded.
Sinan also contended that the new airport’s location far away from heritage sites may prove useful for conservation efforts, whereas he believes that the current facility could pose long-term risks for the cultural relics.
The Ministry of Tourism reported that of Cambodia’s 998,272 total international visitors for the first eight months of this year, 396,591 or 39.73 per cent arrived by air. August air arrivals came to 80,270, up 6.06 per cent from July’s figure, which was up 30.21 per cent over June.