Sat, Jan 01, 2005 - Page 11 News List

Charter flights planned for Lunar New Year

HOLIDAY COMING Using the 2003 model, the government is again planning to coordinate with air carriers to organize flights to Shanghai, Hong Kong and Macau

CNA , Taipei

Cross-strait charter flights during the Lunar New Year holiday for Taiwanese working in China could be modeled after similar services that were put into place in 2003, an official of the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday.

Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Johnnason Liu (劉德勳) reacted after the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said that it would attempt to secure cross-strait flights.

Lunar New Year begins on Feb. 9.

Liu said that the MAC has repeatedly tried to get China to join discussions on the charter flights, but to no avail.

With only a little more than a month before Lunar New Year, he suggested using the 2003 model, in which the government coordinated with air carriers to organize the flights.

With Beijing's consent, Taiwanese carriers operated one-way charter flights between Shanghai and Taipei or Kaohsiung via Hong Kong or Macau during the 2003 Lunar New Year holiday.

The services were not offered last year, because Beijing insisted that carriers based in China also be allowed to provide the same flight services, but refused to negotiate the necessary technical details with Taiwan.

Liu said that if people believe that more cities should be included in the services, the MAC would be willing to consult with air carriers to expand the services to Guangzhou and Beijing.

If China's air carriers want to apply to Taiwan for charter flights, then the operations will be more complex, since extended bilateral consultation would be needed to reach an agreement.

The KMT legislative caucus said in a news conference earlier yesterday that the government has not actively promoted the charter flights and that the KMT will step in and take control in paving the way for the services to be opened.

KMT lawmaker and central policy committee executive director Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) noted that many Taiwanese working in China have shown interest in the flights.

"Since the government is incapable of accomplishing this task, the KMT legislative caucus will take over," Tseng said, adding that the KMT caucus and six Taiwanese air carriers will send representatives to China next week to communicate with air carriers there.

KMT Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴) said that if the cross-strait charter flights can be implemented during the Lunar New Year holiday, it will not only ease cross-strait tensions but will also establish a model for direct cross-strait flights.

He said he hoped that Taiwanese executives, their dependents, students and tourists who hold Taiwanese passports and valid travel documents will be able to use the service.

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