If you’re looking to travel Cambodia on a budget then buses are the way to go: internal air travel in Cambodia is super expensive compared to surrounding 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. The options were: spend multiple days aboard long haul buses, cut down on destinations or spend some extra dosh and save time by flying. I guess you can imagine 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 – a relatively new addition to the Cambodian flying scene and like most 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, though admittedly still super expensive compared to internal flights at home in Vietnam. As we were flying just before Christmas the price was inflated further to £188.50 for both of us, still much cheaper than the other airline options available.
Who are Cambodian 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 Cambodian Bayon Airlines, we were even less sure about whether it was worth the time-saving and whether the airline was trustworthy and safe. There are a LOT of mixed reviews our there, and mostly bad.
We did a little bit of research and found out that:
- Bayon Airline is a Cambodia operating branch of the Chinese airline, Joy-Air.
- 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 Cambodian Bayon Airlines operates, but we took comfort that there have been no incidents in Cambodia and that a lot of the incidents reported seem to be caused by lack of pilot training and not the aircraft. Feeling optimistic, we took the plunge and booked ourselves two seats to the beach!
Flying with Cambodian Bayon Airlines
We want to share our experience flying with Bayon Airlines to reassure you that they aren’t as bad as they appear on paper.
The admin side of our experience with Bayon started a bit shaky and we must admit, resulting in us being a little bit worried that they were trying to scam us. Their website seems to still be in the development stages and currently the payment options are 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 typically it did! 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 contacting them via email) asking for confirmation of booking etc.
We had quite a lot of back and forth with the company. They initially wanted me 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. In addition, 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 Cambodian Bayon Airlines was very good – prompt check-in, hold luggage of 20kg included, on time boarding and a quick flight. We even got complimentary water in flight.
And yes, the planes are small and they are propeller. So the flight was definitely louder than others but we had very little turbulence and a smooth take off and landing. All in all propellor seems okay! We also arrived on time which is something to be longed for from other Asian airlines (yes, talking to you again VietJet).
So all in all, we had a good experience flying with them. We recommend flying with them, just be extra careful when making the online payment and be sure to check that you get confirmation emails. If you don’t, like us, then request they send you them manually and be sure to take screen shots of the booking pages to back up your case. Be persistent if you don’t receive it automatically.
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!
Have you ever flown a tiny airline? What was your experience like?
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