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1st cross-Straits flight for the year
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08:56, February 04, 2008

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 Cross-Straits charter flight leaves Beijing for Spring Festival trip
 Charter flight takes Taiwan compatriots home from Shanghai
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The first cross-Straits charter flight for this year left Beijing on Saturday morning for Taipei, carrying 142 passengers across the Taiwan Straits for Spring Festival family reunions.

It was the fifth year that cross-Straits charter flights were offered for the lunar new year, to fall on Feb 7 this year.

Most of the passengers were Taiwanese business people and their relatives, Hainan Airlines, which operated the flight, said.

Some of the Taiwanese scheduled to take the flight back to Beijing were tourists.

The weather in Beijing was fairly good, the company said.

Another flight, with 299 passengers on board, left amid snowy weather in Shanghai after a delay of an hour.

Four round-trip flights were scheduled on Saturday, the first day of the charter flight season between Feb 2 and 15, one from Beijing and three from Shanghai.

"It snowed heavily here today. I was worried but the airline told me that it was well prepared for a safe take-off and flight," said a Taiwanese passenger.

"I am quite excited to go home."

It was the second time for another Taiwanese businessman to take the charter flight.

"It is quite convenient. I hope there will be regular flights on the same route," he said.

About 200,000 Taiwanese now live in Shanghai.

Twelve airlines from both sides will run 94 round-trip flights between Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen in the mainland, and Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan.

The Chinese mainland and Taiwan launched charter flights for Spring Festival season in 2003.

To ensure timely delivery for the charter flight passengers, Shanghai Airlines and China Eastern Airlines, the two Shanghai-based airlines operating charter flights across the Straits, have both pledged to ensure safe and timely flights which start today.

Shanghai Airlines, scheduled to run eight flights, will put into use more than 50 tons of de-icing and snow-removal fluid should the runways be blocked by snowfall, said its spokesman Wang Wanlong.

"Weather permitting, charter flights to and from Taiwan will enjoy the priority of leaving the airport first."

So far, all the tickets for the charter flights from Shanghai to Taiwan have been sold. Wang from Shanghai Airlines said he would like to see more charter flights opened for cross-Straits transportation, so that more people can benefit from the service and cross-Straits exchanges can be boosted.

Source: China Daily/Xinhua

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