If you’re looking to travel Cambodia on a budget then buses are the way to go. Internal air travel in Cambodia can be super expensive compared to nearby countries like Vietnam and Thailand. Unfortunately for us we had only one week to explore as much of Cambodia as possible, meaning that somewhere a compromise had to be made. Our options were to either spend multiple days aboard long haul buses (urg), cut down on destinations (waaah) or spend some extra dosh and save time by flying. You can guess what we decided upon! Cutting out destinations really wasn’t an option and with only a week to explore, our time was too valuable.
Luckily, while searching for the most affordable flight from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville, we came across Cambodia Bayon Airlines. They are a relatively new addition to the Cambodian flying scene and like many things in Cambodia, named after a temple in Angkor. They currently offer the cheapest flights on the Cambodian market, which granted isn’t very big or cheap in general. But they are the most budget friendly option with flights normally in the region of £60, which is still super expensive compared to internal flights at home in Vietnam. We were flying just before Christmas, so the price was inflated further to £188.50 for both of us. But still, it was much cheaper than the other airline options available.
Who are Cambodia Bayon Airlines?
This was one of the biggest expenses of our whole trip and we were really torn over spending this much on an internal flight. After a little bit of research into Cambodia Bayon Airlines, we were even less sure about whether it was worth the time-saving. There are a LOT of mixed reviews our there which made us question whether the airline was trustworthy and safe.
Before booking, we did a little bit of research and found out that:
- Cambodia Bayon Airline is a Cambodia operating branch of the Chinese airline, Joy-Air.
- Cambodia Bayon Airlines fly the MA60 turboprop-powered plane.
- The MA60 carries with it some negative baggage and apparently is banned/not certified in the EU/USA and more. It has been involved in a high number of accidents, however when looking at the details of these some of the incidents many don’t appear to have been cause by airline malfunction, as suggested by a commenter here.
So, there seems to be a bit of negative press following around the plane model which Cambodia Bayon Airlines operates. We took comfort discovering that there have been no incidents in Cambodia and that most of the accidents reported seem to be caused by lack of pilot training, not aircraft issues. Feeling optimistic, we took the plunge and booked ourselves two seats from Siem Reap to Sihanoukville.
Our experience flying with Cambodia Bayon Airlines
We want to review our experience flying with Cambodia Bayon Airlines to reassure you that they aren’t bad like they appear on paper.
The admin side of our experience with Cambodia Bayon Airlines started a bit shaky which left us a little bit worried that they were a scam. Their website seems to still be in the development stages and the only payment options were by visa card or PayPal. We opted to go with PayPal for the added security of being able to claim the money back if something went wrong (which of course it did). Of course having done this, something had to go wrong!
Immediately after booking and receiving a successful payment message from PayPal, the booking site redirected and told us that it had been unsuccessful. We ignored this message, not wanting to fall prey to repeat bookings/payments. We messaged the company through Facebook (quicker than email) asking for confirmation of booking to be emailed to us and ended up with quite a lot of back and forth with them. Initially we were asked to request a refund from PayPal and complete the whole booking process again, while they held the seats reserved in my name (logic?). We said no to this, as its not a simple process to get a refund from Paypal. Plus, we had already paid and the seats were reserved for us, so we didn’t fully understand the issue with sending a manual booking confirmation. Anyway, after a few days they finally sent through a manual booking confirmation. The logic in trying to get a refund and then restart the process despite just needing a manual booking confirmation sent seemed flawed to us, but regardless we got there in the end.
Aside from this initial booking glitch, our experience with Cambodia Bayon Airlines was very good. We had a prompt check-in in Siem Reap. Hold luggage of 20kg was included in the ticket price. We were on time boarding and experience a quick flight. There even got complimentary water in flight.
And yes, the planes are small and they are propeller. So the flight was louder than flying by normal airplane, but we experience hardly any difference in turbulence and a smooth take-off and landing. All in all propellor was okay! We also arrived on time which is something to be longed for from other Asian airlines (yes, talking about you again VietJet).
Hopefully the online glitches with Cambodia Bayon Airlines are resolved and perfected soon, because other than that it has been one of our better flight experiences in Asia! We enjoyed our experience flying with Cambodia Bayon Airlines and would definitely recommend them as a budget-friendly and fast way to travel across Cambodia. Just be extra careful when making the booking/payment, take screenshots and request a manual confirmation email if you don’t receive it automatically like us.
Have you ever flown a tiny airline? What was your experience like?
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For more on Cambodia:
- Spending Christmas on Koh Rong Sanloem
- Quick Guide: Angkor Wat at Sunrise
- The Pipes Resort, Koh Rong Sanloem