Sat, Mar 20, 2004 - Page 10 News List

Domestic airlines enjoy election boom

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

The presidential election today is becoming a bonanza for domestic carriers, as huge numbers of people rush back to their hometowns to cast their ballots, industry insiders said yesterday.

"Our flights departing from Taipei have all been fully booked since midday [yesterday] to noon Saturday," said Janet So (湛華生), public relations manager at TransAsia Airways (復興航空).

"We also saw full bookings for return flights to Taipei all day Sunday," So added.

The carrier has added 22 flights from yesterday to Sunday to meet the soaring demand for routes including Taipei-Kaohsiung and Taipei-Pingtung.

"We may add additional flights if market demand keeps rising over the weekend," So said.

Recent polls showed that President Chen Shui-bian (陳水扁) and his Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) opponent Lien Chan (連戰) are in a tight contest. As Taiwan has no system for absentee ballots, people must return to their hometowns to vote.

Against this backdrop, both international and domestic airlines have been doing brisk business.

Far East Air Transport Corp (遠東) said that all flights departing from Taipei yesterday were full and they had seen the same situation on flights back to the city on Sunday.

"Excess bookings from customers prompted us to add five more flights in addition to the 20 regular flights on our Taipei-Kaohsiung route," said Hanson Chang (張有朋), Far East's public relations manager.

Daily flights between Taipei and South Korea's Jeju have been fully booked this week to transport China-based Taiwanese businesspeople who are eager to come back to vote, Chang said.

Nadia Huang (黃尤欄), a public relations representative with Mandarin Airlines (華信), said that the company's flights between Taipei and Yangon, Myanmar, and Phnom Penh, Cambodia, had been packed with homecoming Taiwanese businesspeople.

Land carriers also saw a jump in demand.

"We will add 43 trains to carry passengers home for the vote, an increase of 18 percent in capacity compared to normal," said a specialist surnamed Chang at the operation division of the Taiwan Railway Administration (台鐵).

Bus companies also laid on extra services.

"To serve our customers, we added up to seven buses yesterday afternoon and will keep the same policy on Sunday to transport people back to Taipei," said Ashton Lee (李俊仁), public relations manager at Dragon Bus Corp (尊龍), which runs 72 buses between Taichung and Taipei a week.

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