The first cross-Strait weekend chartered flight from China's mainland to Taiwan took off at 6:31 a.m. from Guangzhou, capital city of the southern Guangdong Province early Friday morning.
More than 100 mainland tourists aboard the Airbus A330 became the first group of people on a sight-seeing tour allowed to Taiwan amid warming cross-Strait ties. The flight has 258 passengers.
The historic flight by China Southern Airlines (CSA) is scheduled to land at Taipei Taoyuan Airport in Taiwan at 8:10 a.m. after a 1,124-km journey
Mainland tourists greets each other before take off in Guangzhou, capital city of the southern Guangdong Province, July 4, 2008. The first cross-Strait weekend chartered flight from China's mainland to Taiwan took off at 6:31 a.m. from Guangzhou early Friday morning.
"I have been expecting to visit Taiwan, the Treasure Island, and my dream will finally come true today," mainland tourist Shi Anwei told Xinhua before boarding the plane. "I was too excited to sleep last night."
Following suit was a flight from Xiamen of eastern Fujian Province that took off at 7:16 a.m. The flight, MF881 by the Xiamen Airlines with 203 passengers, is expected to arrive at the Songshan Airport of Taipei at 8:51 a.m.
Each passenger witnessing the historical moment received a gift package from the airlines, which enclosed a model plane and map of Taiwan.
At a separate ceremony in East China's Nanjing City marking thecity as the fifth new city to conduct the cross-Strait chartered flight, Zheng Lizhong, mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Executive Vice Chairman, said the start of the weekend chartered flight and beginning of the mainland tourists' visit to Taiwan "is destined to open a new chapter in the cross-Straits cultural and economic communications."
A high-ranking mainland aviation official said that since Shanghai was chosen as the first city for cross-Strait flight operation five years ago, "there has been a small step each year, but they have amounted to a major step in the past five years."
"The ever more frequent and convenient flights across the Straits are not only improved means of transportation, they are also an emotional and cultural bridge for the people, and changed the way of thinking of both sides," the official said.
However, he said, real direct flight hadn't been realized yet as all of the planes flew to Taipei by way of Hong Kong.
Quoting Dr. Sun Yat-sen, the great pioneer of Chinese democratic revolution, the official said, "the real success is still in front and we need to work harder."
The first chartered flight from Nanjing started at 8:05 a.m.
Some 760 Chinese mainland tourists from Beijing, Shanghai, Nanjing, Xiamen and Guangzhou started the first weekend charter flight to Taiwan on Friday, three weeks after the mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits and the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation met last month. Source: Xinhua