A Boeing 767 left Shanghai for Taipei on Tuesday morning, the first mainland-run chartered flight to the island province for the Spring Festival, or the Chinese lunar new year that is to fall on Jan. 29.
Flight FM 807 of Shanghai Airlines took off from Shanghai Pudong International Airport at 9:10 a.m., carrying 251 Taiwan compatriots, including two on wheelchairs and three unaccompanied children, airlines sources told Xinhua.
Before the takeoff, a group of stewardesses dressed in Chinese-style gowns and red uniforms welcomed the passengers at the entrance of the cabin, speaking Mandarin and the southern Fujian dialect that is widely spoken in Taiwan.
"It's an honorable mission to pilot the flight to Taiwan," said Ding Xingguo, vice-president of Shanghai Airlines who also piloted the first Spring Festival charter flight to Taiwan last year and therefore became the first mainland pilot to land in Taiwan in 56 years.
"The weather report said it's windy in Taipei, but I'll do whatever I can to fly well," he told Xinhua in an exclusive interview before the takeoff.
During the 2.5-hour flight, the airlines would present the passengers with gifts, which include cardcases with dainty make-up patterns featuring Beijing Opera, Chinese-style dolls and small drums, balls and lanterns symbolizing good luck and festivity.
The crew also celebrated the birthday of two passengers, Gu Qiujie and Jiang Xianming, with cakes, greeting cards and a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You" which was joined by everyone on board.
The flight is due to arrive in Taipei at 11:45 a.m. and the return flight on Tuesday afternoon will take 154 Taiwan compatriots to Shanghai.