The driving distance between Siam Reap and Phnom Penh is just 314.7 km (200 miles) but the roads are so bad the bus trip between the two Cambodian cities takes around seven back breaking shuddering juddering hours. I have done it with a newly relocated dislocated shoulder and I had no wish to recall that memory. While there is now one train line in Cambodia operating and a second one about to be reopened, there is no train from Siam Reap. The flying distance from Siem Reap to Phnom Penh is about 231km (143 miles).
Cambodia has a plethora of new small airlines. As a result, there are several flights a day now between Siam Reap and Pnom Penh. Lanmei’s timing suited me so hence my choice.
I booked at lanmeiairlines.com The website looks visually good but most of the information is actually hidden and hard to find! The translations mean it takes a few clicks to find what you want eg seat selection.
My fare for the short flight was $US3 with an additional $20 surcharge and taxes bumping it to $US32.30 I could have paid more for these enticing options below but there was no explanation of what was included (apart from lower re-booking and refund fees!)
All Western Credit/Debit Cards plus PayPal, Alipay and Unionpay are accepted. Tickets are also available via online travel agents.
- $3 for a standard seat or get an emergency exit seat
- $8 in the front 5 rows except for Row 1 Those rows do not have extra legrooom.
- $9 for an emergency exit seat
For their Guangzhou, Hong Kong and Bangkok routes and my domestic route (because the plane goes on to Bangkok), each passenger occupying a seat is entitled to 25kg free checked baggage. For every other routes, the free allowance is 15kg. It is a little confusing having two baggage allowances and moreover having the two differing ones on their three domestic routes!
Each passenger is allowed to carry one piece of carry-on baggage and one 1 more small item. No one looked too closely at my hand luggage. While most passengers appeared to have no hand luggage at all, some passengers brought on quite heavy items.
Check in: 5/10
I followed the link on Lanmei’s website to their online check page in to see this message. “Please wait and see“. When you enter your ref number and Name, nothing happens as there is no button to press. I soon found out there is actually no online check in facility activated!
The airline states that all Lanmei flights close check in 60 minutes before departures. I chose not test how strict this deadline was and planned to get there 30 minutes before at 6am knowing it is a small airport with only a couple of flights at that time. My tuktuk (three wheeled taxi) was early and there was actually no traffic so I arrived at 539am with heaps of time to spare!
There was no one in the check in line when I arrived. Service by the airport employed check in staff was efficient-but not warm. When I asked for an emergency exit seat there was a moment of conferring with a supervisor before I was told “none available”. He asked if I wanted an a seat “at the front” to which I said yes and got Row 7. If Lanmei are unable to have the airport sell its premium seats, then they are losing a lot of revenue. It would seem to me, a poor business model.
There was no security line and I was through in minutes. The security guard (who was warmer and friendlier than my check in agent asked me “I see you yesterday ?” (Guess all foreigners look alike?)
The early arrival meant I had one of the longest waits for a domestic flight for a long time! The airline waiting hall consists of two shops, a cafe and a smoking lounge which has either been moved or closed as staff were redirecting any potential users.
The boarding announcement was made at 645am. Surprisingly no passengers had lined up prior to the announcement. One gentleman (not Cambodian) decided that involves simply stepping in front of me in the queue!
At Siam Reap domestic, passengers either walk a short distance to their plane or are bussed there. This involves a climb up airport stairs which can be difficult if you are older of which there were several passengers on my flight. I personally love walking the tarmac but many do not.
Once through the airport gate, an official halted our progress and made us wait until there was a small group of us before leading us to the tarmac. There, most of the passengers stopped to take photos of themselves in front of the plane so I was actually the first one on board. A very friendly crew welcomed customers on board in English, Mandarin and Khmer.
There was a bit of self seating as some passengers placed themselves wherever they wanted. For example, one gentleman attempted to sit in row 6 with a boarding pass that clearly read 32! This meant cabin crew did quite a lot of active maneuverings of passengers, something you do not see many airlines. Staff helped a number of elderly passengers to their seat. Two VIP guests were ushered into the front row.
We departed the gate a minute or so early and taxied smoothly to the runway and then the pilot gunned it. We tore down the runway and climbed steeply, turning left just after takeoff heading for .Pnom Penh. We reached our cruising height of 3,962 metres (13,000 feet) within two minutes at which point the seat belt sign was switched off. We had no bumps on the climb.
On board: 7/10
The Airbus 321 plane built in 2008 served with Royal Jordanian Airlines as JY-AYK for six years and then Monarch Airlines for three. Lanmei have been leasing it since December 2017. There were numerous clues it had been with Monarch including the seating and screen at the front of the plane.
The plane is one class with the cabin divided into three sections (rows 1 to 10 then 11 to 25 and 26 to 38. Seatguru has a seat map for the previous owner Monarch
Because of their seating structure, the plane was completely full from Row 8 onwards with a sea of heads except in the emergency exits yet almost completely empty rows 1 to 5. Contrast shown here which looks weird.
I asked a flight attendant if I could move to the front row window seat: “sorry sir. Not allowed“. It was worth a try. Clearly, the cabin crew cannot sell such seats which seems a loss of potential revenue for the airline.
One other passenger decided to “self move” into the emergency exit and the crew firmly sent him back to his seat. Another gentleman moved forward but not to a premium seat as the plane taxied onto the runway. The cabin crew member allowed him to stay after checking he had fastened his seat belt before scurrying for dear life back to her seat for the take off.
Disquietingly, the wall near me looked like someone had vomited or thrown their drink up at the wall.
Announcements during the flight were in Khmer, English and Mandarin. No announcements were made from the cockpit
The lavatory had a cracked toilet seat but was clean. Liquid hand soap and plenty of toilet paper was available.
Safety on Board: 10/10
The trilingual safety briefing was very standard and undertaken with a high level of seriousness. Some people would have difficulty understanding the English version of the briefing because of local accents.
The seriousness continued throughout the final cabin inspections with staff carefully and diligently ensuring belts were fastened, children strapped in and phones off.
They were firm but ruthless with people attempting to move around the cabin when seatbelt signs were on.
The slim lightweight seats fitted by the plane’s original owner Monarch are still on board with the special feature that they are non-reclining. Fine by me! The seats have a much lower weight than the traditional seats installed in aircraft reducing fuel costs and emissions. The thin adding was fine for a 50 minute flight but I would be stretch to fly Siam Reap-Macau-Palau for six hours.
There is space for a tablet on the seat but no power outlet, no usb port and no headphone jack. No entertainment was provdied or offered behind the airline’s magazine and on board menu.
No food was provided or available for purchase on this short flight. Drinks were available-for purchase at prices roughly double what you would pay for at stores on the ground in Cambodia. There is no free water available on board. You could carry water through security on this routing.
The Seat belt sign came on at 749am and a few minutes later we headed left and lined up to and at the airport. We encountered some light chop as we descended through cloud and haze. Descent was slow and steady but we came touched down on the runway very fast-almost alarmingly fast I thought. The pilot braked very hard. Wheels down at 804am and at the gate shortly after at -around 806am -four minutes ahead of schedule.
This flight continues onto Bangkok but I left the flight in the Cambodian capital.
The way the arrival process was organised meant a very long walk to the luggage claim area. With no luggage to collect, however, I was out the door of the airport at 815am.
My Flight Rating: 49%-an average okay flight. By comparison, My average rating of Jetstar flights is 62% and Spring: 72%
About the Airline: Lanmei (an abbreviation for Lancang-Mekong River) is a low cost Chinese owned Cambodian carrier which began flying in November 2017 and now operates to 22 destinations linking the three key Cambodian cities of Pnomh Penh, Sikonville and Siam Reap with routes through China/Hong Kong/Macau. I found out that the airline is part of the Chinese Belt and Road Initiative. Cambodia hopes to welcome two million Chinese tourists by 2020.
Skytrax: Lanmei does not have a rating. Lanmei customers give them 63.2% overall on Tripadvosr
Safety Rating: Airline ratings has not rated them yet
Frequent Flyer Program: Lanmei Airlines Club– the world’s most complicated FFP for a low cost carrier with four levels and no partners. A platinum flier must travel with them 60 times in a year to get a status which entitles them to in-flight seat selection for free. And a free in flight meal. Wow!
Negatives: Uncomfortable seats, no wifi, difficult to access seating online, website unnecessarily complex.
Would I fly them again? Lanmei airlines slogan is “Be unique“. There was absolutely nothing unique about today’s flight. As a customer service experience, it didn’t stand out on any way. I thought the other Chinese low cost carrier i have recenty flown Spring airlines offered so much more.