Thursday, 18 August 2016

My 88th airline: Cambodia Angkok Air (Phnom Penh to Ho Chi Minh City)

Welcome to my trip report on Cambodia Angkok Air! 


*Aircraft photos are credited to the respective photographers from Airliners.net 


Introduction

For this trip, a new airline was my aim, as long as its reasonable in pricing, I won't mind making a detour just to get to my final destination, Ho Chi Minh City. A few options came into my mind. First: Myanmar International Airlines and I was very close to booking with this airline from Singapore to Yangon and then flying Cambodia Angkor from Yangon to Ho Chi Minh, however visa was required for Singaporeans at a fee of S$80, I decided it was not worth it, so I turned my attention to Phnom Penh as Cambodia Angkor Air flies to Ho Chi Minh City with 4 flights daily. Airfare wasn't cheap, I paid around U.S$100 for this short 40 minutes flight and the aircraft was scheduled to be operated by ATR-72-500. Once that was decided, I made the booking and at the same time settled my Singapore to Phnom Penh flight which Malaysia Airlines took the honour to fly me there via Kuala Lumpur, you can check out that trip report over here.

My booking 

For a small airline, it has a decent working website but has its own flaws. Doing the booking was flawless, had the ticket issued to me without problems. Only thing is you can't do web check in or selection of seat. Checking in for international flights with this airline opens 2 hours before departure and 1 and a half hours for domestic flights, so you can't do early check in as well. Kind of disappointing to be honest. 


This airfare you see below exclude taxes - another thing I don't like. They should list the airfare including taxes


Once you click the continue, the actual airfare appears. I thought I was only paying $57 but it turned out to be $104, was hesitant for a moment since it was such a short flight. In the end, I decided to do it since this was probably my only time flying on this airline.


Once this is confirmed, I received the information below. This airline uses the same web operator as Vietnam Airlines.


The layout of the ATR-72-500 aircraft


History of Cambodia Angkok Air 

This airline is the national airline of Cambodia started operation in July 2009. This airline is a joint venture between Cambodia Government and Vietnam Airlines, that's why some aircraft you see have Vietnam Airlines cabin interior. This full service airline operates a small fleet of ATR-72-500 and Airbus A321 used on popular tourist destinations. The network is small but the airline prefers to play safe than sorry. This airline enjoys the monopoly of the Cambodia aviation market, that's why air tickets are not cheap. It code shares with Vietnam Airlines and some of the aircraft (under leased from Vietnam Airlines) can operate Vietnam Airlines flights too (usually on domestic flights). Lately, this airline has 2 rivals joining in to give this airline a run of its money, they are Bassaka Air and Cambodia Bayon Airlines. I have plans to fly on those airlines in the near future. 

Current flight schedule 


Fleet of Cambodia Angkok Air 

ATR-72-500 (3) XU-235 to XU-237


Airbus A321 (3) XU-349 to XU-351


Info about Phnom Penh Airport 

Photo of Phnom Penh Airport (Photo: Chikumaya)




The former name of this airport was Pochentong International Airport. The Government of Cambodia signed a concession agreement with a French-Malaysian joint company (SCA) to operate this airport for 20 years. In return, the company would improve the airport's infrastructure which includes new terminal and cargo terminal, new runways and installation of ILS (Cat 3 Instrument Landing System). This modern looking terminal cost around $20 million and features 5 aero-bridges, 1000 parking lots and VIP and CIP facilities. Daily Queen is the first international franchise to set up in Cambodia while Starbucks made its first appearance in this country at the new terminal. 

Currently these airlines operate to this airport (August 2016)

Air Asia 
All Nippon Airways (1st September 2016 onwards)
Asiana Airlines 
Azul Air 
Bangkok Airways 
Bassaka Air 
Beijing Capital Airlines
Cambodia Angkok Air 
Cambodia Bayon Airlines
Cathay Dragon
China Airlines 
China Eastern 
China Southern 
EVA Air 
Hong Kong Airlines 
Jetstar Asia 
Korean Air 
Malaysia Airlines 
Qatar Airways
Shandong Airlines 
Silk Air 
Thai Air Asia
Thai Smile 
Vietnam Airlines

Photos of the airport (photographed by me)


Land side 

After arrival, I explored the airport for a short while since I had 6 hours to kill. Initially my plan was to just hang around, check out the facilities before making my way to the Premium Plaza lounge to rest. Good thing I didn't make online reservation because the lounge is located at the air side and I wasn't able to do check in early. I had to wait for 4 hours before I could do so. 




There were a few restaurants outside 


Taxi drivers were waiting outside the airport. I tested Uber, but nothing appeared on my application. 



Dairy Queen - the first foreign franchise to set up in Cambodia 


From arrival hall to departure hall, the only way to get there is by walking outside of the terminal.


I would like to try on one of these the next time I am here!




This way to the departure hall 


Just a security guard standing outside, he randomly checks passengers for their itinerary. 




The interior of the terminal 


Looks quite new. Free Wifi is available but only at certain parts of the terminal. 



For 2 hours, I spent my time over here clearing my work. 


Check-in counters of several airlines 


You can purchase your tickets here for last minute travel, located at the far end of the terminal.




My lunch: Coke and Pizza 

I had to settle for one of the cafes that accept credit cards. This Pizza is supposed to the cafe's speciality but it was disappointing.



After enjoying my meal, it was time to check in. Got my boarding pass and I am the 5th passenger to do so.


The staff's English was limited but he checked in for me swiftly and I got my boarding pass not long after. 


The departure board, not as many flights over here compared to Ho Chi Minh City.



The decoration helps to brighten up the interior 


I was lucky that there was not queue at the immigration counter. I got my passport stamped and I had to go through security check. After that I was at the air side and all these took less than 10 minutes. 

 Air Side

We have to walk through this Duty Free shop to get to our gates. Good way to attracting passengers to purchase something before the flight.



Once that was cleared, I check out the air side. There are some more shops at one part. As the airport is not big, to get from one end to the other didn't take long.


There are a few cafes located at the air side, so if you have time, you could come and enjoy a cup of coffee before boarding your aircraft. 




This side of the terminal looks better, more spacious. The lounges are located at the floor above. 



Not ideal for plane photography but you can enjoy the traffic movement while seated at one of the benches


There is even Starbucks at this airport 


Quite a pleasant airport, better than I thought 


Checking out the lounges upstairs 


Plaza Premium Lounge - U.S $39 for 2 hours. I decided to skip it since I had less than 1 and a half hours to go before my flight. 


The view from upstairs 


Paid Lounge and free for the lounge's partners customers


Bangkok Airways Lounge 


Once the departure time was near, I made my way to the departure gate. Gate 20 and 21 are located on the first floor, this means one thing, our aircraft was parked at a remote parking lot. 


One last look


This was where my gate was. Later on it turned out to be full as 2 flights were departing around the same time. 



Water cooler is provided at several parts of the terminal 



See how crowded this place become? The other flight was Air Asia bound for Kuala Lumpur. Unfortunately for them, their flight was delayed and had to stay a while longer. (40 minutes to be precise) 


During my wait, I saw my aircraft coming in and it was about 40 minutes before schedule departure time. It means a short rest of the aircraft after completing its domestic flight. Boarding was called 17 minutes before the schedule departure time. We boarded onto the bus but was made to wait for a good 10 minutes because some passengers decide to take their own sweet time. Once the last passenger was on board we were on our way. I could see some passengers giving him an annoying look.

Flight route: PNH-SGN

Miles: 132


My ride: XU-235 




Always fun to board the aircraft this way 


2nd time flying on the ATR-72-500 series, 6th time overall for the ATR-72. The other 4 times I flew on was the -600 series.


Date of departure: 5th August 2016
Airline: Cambodia Angkok Air 
Flight: K6818
Flight route: PNH-SGN
Aircraft: ATR-72-500
Registration: XU-235 (leased from Vietnam Airlines)
Delivered on 1st Feb 2010 (initially registered as VN-B227 then was re-registered to XU-235 in 2013
Engines: 2 X PW 127F
MSN: 899 
Gate: 20
Seat: 6A 
Duration: 40 mins 
Load: 90% 
Boarding by bus: 1638
Pushed back: 1702
Take off: 1709
Schedule departure: 1655
Schedule arrival: 1755
Actual arrival: 1745
Departure runway: 23 
Arrival runway: 25R

Once on board, I took as many photos as I could before setting down. The seat was quite worn out but comfortable for the short leg. Legroom space was tight and the cabin was filled up quickly. However, one (fill in the blank) behind me cannot mind his own business, and told me to stop taking photos. To avoid getting into trouble thanks to this (fill in the blank), I took a few more window shot photos and that's it. Fortunately taking cabin photos was not a problem at all, I took them during boarding and disembarking. 

Checking the instructions on the safety card (during the flight), I saw a note stating that photos and filming are prohibited unless permission was given and also the cabin crew making the 'welcome' announcement also emphasis on this point. Hopefully this policy will change in the near future.

One class cabin: Economy Class 

2-2 layout of 72 seats 


The ceiling is low so tall passengers have to mind their heads. 


The leather seat with tight seat pitch 


This is my seat, unfortunately sitting in front of the (fill in the blank) passenger.



No In-Flight Entertainment system 




 For the ATR-72, the 72 passengers are taken care by 2 crew. For my flight, we had the male attendant in front and the female attendant taking care of the rear. 


The airline's logo on the head cover 



Alighting and Disembarking are always done from the rear of the aircraft. 


Last few shots before I left the aircraft 



Legroom space, bearable for this short flight. Any longer than 2 hours, I won't be on this aircraft. 



In-flight experience 

Boarded the aircraft and settled down with all the passengers on board. The cabin crew welcome us on board, they were busy but at least were friendly towards us. I took a photos of the cabin and the crew were ok about it. Important announcements were made and soon we were on our way to the active runway. 

The usual procedure for ATR-72 or other turboprop aircraft is because this kind of small aircraft do not have APU (A power system that powers electricity to the aircraft when the engines are off). Once the airport vehicles are cleared away from the aircraft, one of the engines will be started. Once stablised, power connecting the APU vehicle to the aircraft would be disconnected and the aircraft soon would pushed back (for our case) and the during the push back, the 2nd engine can be started up. 

Take off was powerful and smooth. To be honest I felt a bit nervous about flying the ATR or any other turboprop aircraft because they tend to toss around easily especially in windy conditions. Fortunately for this flight, it was very smooth, no turbulence at all from the start to the end. Even though the weather in Ho Chi Minh city looked bad, we landed smoothly. 

In-flight service was limited since it was a quick 40 minutes hop. At least a bottle of water was provided for each passenger and for the crew it was an easy job for them. 

Once on the ground, they thanked us for flying with them and wished us a good stay in Ho Chi Minh City. Good set of crew I must say! For them they would prepared the cabin for the return flight to Phnom Penh. 

What's inside the seat pocket? 

Safety card 


Remember the rules especially the Pokemon Go players.


Disposal Bag 


A bottle of water was served on this flight 


Some window shot photos 

Before take off, window is quite dirty 


After pushed back 


Heading towards runway 23 


No take off photos/video, thanks to someone. A few passengers in front were happily snapping, why didn't that (fill in the blank) say anything about it? 

Cruising for turboprop aircraft is done at a lower flight level than jet planes.


Parked at a remote parking lot at SGN airport 


After arrival, I managed to snap a few more shots of the aircraft

Thanks for the ride, XU-235! 



Spotted VN-A866 taxiing in front of us! I flew on this aircraft recently, you can check out the trip report over here.


The bus ride took around 5 minutes and we were dropped off at the arrival hall for international flights. 


My rating:

Phnom Penh Airport experience: 7/10
Check-in staff: 5/10
Cabin interior: 6/10
Cleanliness: 8/10 
Seat comfort: 6/10
In-flight service: 7/10
Aircraft condition: 8/10 
In-flight drink: 6/10 (Bottle of mineral water)
In-flight enjoyment: 6/10 
Punctuality: 10/10
Overall rating: 69/100

Conclusion

Apart from the incident, it was a good experience with this airline. Airfare is quite expensive considering this is a turboprop operated flight and a short flight, thanks to the lack of competition. I am glad to finally tick this off my list, perhaps in the near future I would fly the airline's A321 from Siam Reap to Ho Chi Minh City. The reason why I didn't do that is because of the pricey airfare from Singapore to Siam Reap. Things are improving at Cambodia so if you decide on which airline to fly there or the domestic flights, you can be rest assured that the safety record of this airline is fine especially the airline is taken good care by Vietnam Airlines which I have a good amount of experience with. This airline is the biggest Cambodia airline and according to the locals, its the preferred airline over the other 2 companies. Currently, it has no plans for further expansion as the airport infrastructure of the major airports in Cambodia are limited. 

Thanks for reading! Hope you enjoy this trip report.

Cheers,
Charles 

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