Mainland official: "non-stop charter flights attainable"

Photo:Chen Yunlin (right), director of Taiwan Affairs Office of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, meets with Tseng Yung-chuan, director of the Kuomintang's central policy committee January 10, 2005 in Beijing. (newsphoto)
Chen Yunlin (right), director of Taiwan Affairs Office of the Communist Party of China's Central Committee, meets with Tseng Yung-chuan, director of the Kuomintang's central policy committee January 10, 2005 in Beijing. (newsphoto)
A Chinese mainland official welcomed Taiwan's efforts of sending a delegation to Beijing to discuss the charter flights issue as the Chinese lunar new year approaches, according to the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council.

"If Taiwan can keep its words and is willing to take flexible measures," said Chen Yunlin, director of the office, "The mainland-Taiwan air links this year can be definitely attainable."

The air link between the two sides has been a long-standing issue, and it becomes particularly prominent during China's lunar new year, when many Taiwan residents choose to fly back to see their relatives on the island, and vice versa.

"We propose direct, round trip flights between the two sides with mutual participation, and the flights can ply several places in China's mainland," said Chen.

China's mainland holds that the issue should be based on non-government cooperation and air companies of both sides could discuss detailed issues in a practical manner, Chen said.

Air companies across the Taiwan Straits have enough experiences and mutual understanding to solve technical problems of non-stop round trip charter flights, said a senior aviation official from the Chinese mainland when meeting with Taiwan delegates Monday.

"We hope the Taiwan authority will stop politicizing a business issue and make it smooth for air companies from the two sides to talk about detailed settlement of charter flight," said Gao Hongfeng, deputy director of the General Administration of Civil Aviation, "The Spring Festival is coming near and we don't have much time left."

The air companies from the two sides can provide charter and ground services for each other after reaching a cooperation agreement and they can sell tickets in the way they usually do, Gao said.

The detailed settlement adopted in 2003 can be borrowed this year as the Taiwan authority also agreed on some items, he added.

"They can be applied on Taiwan flights to the Chinese mainland and vice versa," Gao said.

Taiwan has stopped direct transport links with the mainland since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. Travelers to and from the mainland usually have to go via Hong Kong or Macao, adding several hours to the flight.

Many Taiwan people who have business in the mainland are looking forwards to have non-stop round trip charter flights, which will cost less time and money, during the Spring Festival, the Chinese Lunar New Year for family reunion.

In 2003, six Taiwan air companies opened 16 charter flights to the mainland during the Spring Festival but the flight was one way from Taiwan to the mainland and stopped in Hong Kong or Macao, which roused complaint about poor efficiency among passengers.

The air companies only sold 70 percent of the seats on average per flight in 2003.

"We hopes the charter service to improve this year," Gao said.

The mainland has suggested that the terminals in the mainland can add from one in 2003 to seven this year and those in Taiwan from one to three while the flights can fly through the third place without landing.

In 2003, the charter flights only flied from Taipei to Shanghai in east China.

A four-member delegation headed by Tseng Yung-chuan from Taiwan arrived in Beijing Sunday afternoon for discussion of chartered flights. The delegation said at the airport that they received calls from Taiwan businessmen and their relatives, asking them to make efforts for the operation of charted flights on the festive occasion for family reunion.

The Taiwan authorities agreed to the indirect charter flights in 2003's Spring Festival on certain conditions: only Taiwanese airlines could operate the charter flights; the flights have to fly the routes by landing in a third place and the flight should be only one way, no passengers should be carried on the trip back.

Source: Xinhua/People's Daily



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