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After 37 Year Hiatus, Air France Resumes Flights

French Transportation Minister Thierry Mariani, right, accompanied by Cambodia Deputy Prime Minister Sok An, left, walk out after the launching ceremony at Phnom Penh International Airport in Phnom Penh, Cambodia, Thursday, March 31, 2011. Air France pass

Air France resumed direct flights to Cambodia on Thursday, after it last pulled up its wheels in 1974 ahead of a Khmer Rouge takeover.

Officials said the resumption of flights was due to an increase in tourism and investment in Cambodia. Air France’s Flight 274 will fly three times per week with a stop in Bangkok.

“By putting Phnom Penh a few hours from Paris, Air France aims to support the tourism and economy of Cambodia, by facilitating the movement of businessmen and allowing French and European companies to expand their presence,” Jean-Cyril Spiretta, president of the airline’s administration, told reporters at the airport Thursday.

Cambodia received some 2.5 million tourists in 2010, with nearly half a million from Europe, and 113,000 from France alone, according to official figures. An estimated 4,000 French citizens live in Cambodia, and another 80,000 Cambodians live in France.

Pierre-Hanri Gourgeon, executive director of Air France, said the airline expected around 70 percent of its passengers to come from France and another 20 percent to come from Cambodia, with the remainder coming from cities in Europe.

Council Minsiter Sok An, who greeted the first flight as it touched down Thursday afternoon, said the new route “brought France and Europe closer to Cambodia.”