Cambodia carrier ends Taipei flights over its financial crisis

The China Post news staff

TAIPEI, Taiwan — Cambodia-based Angkor Airways will suspend its flights between Taipei and the Southeast Asian country today, as it has run into financial difficulties after the detention of a top company executive on criminal charges in Taiwan, the airline’s branch office in Taiwan announced yesterday.

Alex Lou, executive director of the Taiwan branch office, has been solely in charge of sourcing funding for operations, and his detention has plunged the company into financial woes, the office said.

The announcement came in the afternoon, while its flights to Siem Reap, the location of the famous Cambodian historic site of Angkor Wat, had still taken off as scheduled in the morning.

A total of 449 passengers from Taiwan were originally scheduled to take three Angkor charter flights back home in the next four days, the company said. But the office said it has already asked the passengers’ travel agencies to rearrange their clients to fly home from Phnom Penh via China Airlines or EVA Airways.

Lou has been detained following questioning by prosecutors in Taipei on May 1 as part of their investigation into an embezzlement scandal hitting the debt-ridden Fast Eastern Air Transport.

The branch office said the headquarters in Cambodia respects the due process in Taiwan.

The travelers were originally scheduled to fly back to Taiwan from Siem Reap on May 10, 12 and 13.

Although it does not have a representative office in Cambodia, Taiwan’s foreign ministry has appealed to Cambodia-based Taiwanese businesspeople to help the stranded tourists get rooms at local hotels, ministry spokeswoman Phoebe Yeh said late last night.

Taiwan’s government will arrange for Taiwanese airlines to pick up the tourists from both Phnom Penh and Siem Reap over the next four days, with FAT sending a plane on May 13, Yeh said.

For more assistance, Taiwanese citizens can call Taiwan’s representative office in Ho Chi Minh City at 002-84-903927019, the spokeswoman said.

Angkor Airways, a regional airline with three routes between Siem Reap and Japanese cities in addition to its Taipei route, operated 20-23 chartered flights between Taipei and Siem Reap every month.

Although the statement said all flights would be suspended temporarily, there was no mention of if or when the charters would resume.

According to the airline’s website, its charter flight routes include ones from Taipei, Nagoya, Osaka, and Fukuoka to Siem Reap.

But its current flight schedule has only flights between Taipei and the Cambodian destination.

Debt-ridden FAT, Taiwan’s oldest private carrier that has been hit hard by a deteriorating domestic aviation market, filed for bankruptcy protection with the Taipei District Court on Feb. 17 and has been struggling to meet its operating obligations since.

Taipei prosecutors suspect that top-ranking managers at FAT pocketed company funds and purposely let Angkor Airways delay paying FAT the NT$700 million owed for leasing aircraft from the Taiwanese carrier.