PHNOM PENH, Dec. 16 (FN) -- Cambodia's national flag carrier Cambodia Angkor Air (CAA) on Friday commenced direct flights between northwest Cambodia's Siem Reap province and China's Beijing, CAA officials said.

"The first flight took off the Siem Reap International Airport for Beijing at 7:35 pm (local time) today (Friday)," CAA's marketing manager Eng Molina told Xinhua.

According to a CAA's press statement, the airline will operate thrice-weekly flight service by using a brand new Airbus A320 aircraft, which is capable to seat 180 passengers.

"The new Beijing service represents CAA's fifth regular schedule flight to China, following routes between Phnom Penh /Siem Reap to Guangzhou and Shanghai," the statement said.

The new flight is to respond to the rapid growth of Chinese tourists to Cambodia and will offer convenience to tourists in Beijing to travel to Siem Reap province, the home of famed Angkor Wat Temple.

Also, it will be easy for Cambodians to fly to Beijing for leisure or business purposes, it said.

"The five-hour flight will provide Chinese tourist from north part of the People's Republic of China more convenient to visit Cambodia," said CAA's chairman Tekreth Samrach. "We expect that the tourists will enjoy with our new service."

China ranked the second largest source of foreign tourists to Cambodia. According to a tourism data, some 653,144 Chinese holidaymakers visited Cambodia in the first ten months of 2016, up 14 percent over the same period last year.

Established in 2009, CAA is using seven aircrafts--three ATR72-turboprop planes and four Airbuses-to operate two domestic routes and ten regular international routes.