Flying from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice-versa)

A year or two ago the cost of flying from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap was ridiculously high, with a round-trip flight costing upwards of $200. Now, though, Cambodia has licensed several new airlines and flights from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice-versa) have gotten surprisingly cheap. In this post we’ve got some background on the Cambodian aviation industry and review the best flights from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

Cambodia Angkor Air

Finally! It’s affordable to fly between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap.

A year ago, only one airline was licensed to fly between Phnom Penh and Siem Reap, Cambodia Angkor Air, who have used their monopoly on the Phnom Penh to Siem Reap route to keep prices high. Starting at the end of 2014, though, Cambodia started licensing other airlines to fly domestically in Cambodia.

Cambodia may be a bit too free-wheeling when it comes to the licensing. The UN’s International Civil Aviation Organization have expressed concerns that airlines are using the country’s lax regulatory standards as a backdoor route to obtaining their Airline Operating Certificate (AOC). Airlines that would not be able to obtain their AOC in their home country (specifically, China) set up flights in Cambodia to obtain their AOC. In some cases — such as with Apsara Air — soon after being granted an AOC the airline then ceases flying their domestic Cambodia flights. The UN’S ICAO is planning another audit of Cambodia’s aviation authority at the end of the year, but the last one in 2007 ranked the country well below international standards.

To compound the problem, there are rumors swirling that several of the domestic airlines are offering “pay to fly” programs that allow trainee pilots to earn flight hours by paying large sums of money to airlines to let them fly. The fact of the matter is that domestic flights in Cambodia are certainly not as safe as those back home, but neither are the roads!

Below, we cover who is offering Phnom Penh to Siem Reap flights:

Cambodia Angkor Air

Cambodia Angkor Air is the longest running-airline offering domestic flights in Cambodia. Cambodia Angkor Air is owned by the Cambodian government and Vietnam Airlines, and their pilots are all from Vietnam Airlines. As far as safety goes, Cambodia Angkor Air is the airline favored by government and embassy personnel for having the best safety standards (but it’s all relative, of course). They fly ATR72 turboprop planes on the Siem Reap-Phnom Penh route. They’re French-Italian planes and considered much safer than the Chinese MA60 turboprop planes flown by Bayon Airlines. The flight takes about 50 minutes and economy bookings include 20 kg baggage. They suggest arriving an hour before boarding.

Cambodia Angkor Air ATR72

Cambodia Angkor Air flies ATR72s prop planes for domestic flights.

Cambodia Angkor Air has recently lowered their (previously exorbitant) prices in response to the influx of new airlines. Flights can currently be purchased for $70 one-way and $140 return. Their schedule changes regularly, but usually have four or five flights a day. Check their review of Cambodia Angkor Air for more about the airline.

Bassaka Air

Bassaka Air is a relative newcomer in Cambodian airspace and has quickly driven the prices for Phnom Penh to Siem Reap flights. Flights on Bassaka Air start at just $19, and even the high-priced ones are less than $50.

Cambodia Bassaka Air A320

Bassaka Air flies a big A320 Airbus.

The airline is a joint venture between the Naga casino company and the Chinese government. The airline have two planes, A320-200 Airbuses, that were formerly owned by Vietnam Airlines. The A320-200s are big planes that seat 168 passengers, making the trip shorter on than Cambodia Angkor Air and Bayon Air, who both fly this route in smaller, slower propeller planes.

The flight takes about 45 minutes and economy bookings include 20 kg baggage. Bassaka Air offers one flight per day in either direction, and they suggest arriving 45 minutes before boarding. The caveat is that because small airlines in Cambodia disappear so regularly, we wouldn’t hold our breath that Bassaka Air will stay in business. Meaning, don’t book too far in advance and I wouldn’t recommend using them as a connecting flight for an international flight, unless you give yourself a day’s padding in case something goes wrong. For more information, read our full review of Bassaka Air from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap.

Cambodia Bayon Airlines

Cambodia Bayon Airlines is another new airline flying in Cambodia that is offering a daily Phnom Penh to Siem Reap flight, and one from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh. Prices are cheap, starting at $32 each way. However, Cambodia Bayon Airlines is flying the infamous Chinese MA60 (“Modern Ark 60”) propeller plane, that has been banned from flying in the US, Europe, UK, New Zealand, and Australia. Recently, countries like Tonga, Nepal, and Indonesia have either gotten rid of or banned the MA60 due to safety issues. Cambodia Bayon Airlines, on the other hand, has 19 more on order, presumably because no one else would take them.

Cambodia Bayon Airlines

Cambodia Bayon Airlines flies Chinese MA60 turboprop planes.

For this reason, we’re not so keen on flying with Cambodia Bayon Airlines. If you are feeling adventurous, though, the flight takes about 50 minutes and economy bookings include 20 kg baggage. Bassaka Air offers one flight per day in either direction, and they suggest checking-in a minimum of 30 minutes before boarding. As with all new airlines, we are not counting on them being around for very long. To learn more, we have a much more detailed review of Cambodia Bayon Airlines from a recent flight.

11 Responses to Flying from Phnom Penh to Siem Reap (and vice-versa)

    Philemon says:

    Cambodia Airways is the best way to go they officially obtained the AOC certificate with IATA and ICAO. Unlike Cambodia Angkor Air who is 50% own by Vietnam Airline.

    Bernice says:

    Hi, will you be doing an update on the airlines considering that there are many airlines in Cambodia now and recently I read reviews on TripAdvisor, most of them recommended to avoid Cambodia Angkor Air.

      Lina says:

      Yes, this needs to be updated. However, even though Cambodia Angkor Air sucks, they are the most reliable overall. There are constantly new airlines entering the market that disappear without a moment’s notice. So while there may be better choices if you are buying a ticket for within the next week, if you’re planning in advance (as most tours do) CAA is still the best choice.

    Caterina says:

    Hello I wanted to ask you a really basic question, cause I try to check around but could not find the right answer, though, my flight land in Phnom Penh at 10 pm do I have a chance to catch last night Ibis bus at 11.30pm?I am really struggling with it, cause I see the bus stop is quite far from the airport…Thank you very much

    Lauren says:

    Hi.. do you think it’s safe to fly with these airlines?

    rob says:

    hi –

    i am a US citizen. i just surrendered my passport in order to apply for a visa extension, but i wish to fly WITHIN the country before it gets returned to me.

    i have THREE additional pieces of valid government-issued photo identification: a US passport card (which is not at all valid for international travel by air), a California driver’s license, and a California ID card.

    may i use these other forms of ID for travel domestically?

    i’ve looked around the internets, but i can’t find a conclusive answer to this. hoping someone here can clue me in!

    with love and thanks,

      Lina says:

      I cannot make any promises, but I have flown on domestic flights without a passport. Once with a California driver’s license, and one with a xeroxed copy of my passport. As usual in Cambodia, your mileage may vary. I thin you’ll probably be okay, but you want to be safe, you can take the bus.

    Tereza says:

    Hello, is it still valid the 20kg of baggage for CAA? So one baggage with max.20kg + one cabin baggage / one person?
    Thank you.

      Lina says:

      Yes, that’s correct.

        Steve Broadbent says:

        Interesting story about trainee pilots paying for right seat time (hours building) as pretend 1st officers. Those sort of rumours have circulated in aviation roughly as long as aeroplanes have been used to transport people. Without the ATPL level licence, which IIRC requires 500 hours PIC (pilot in COMMAND) in the log book, they’re not allowed to sit in that seat while the engines are running. CPL (commercial licence) doesn’t cut it for airline transport operations.

        Having said all that, such things are not impossible, if enough people can be persuaded to turn a blind eye…. Surely not in Cambodia though?

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