Fri, Jan 21, 2005 - Page 10 News List

Far Eastern announces extra flights

HOLIDAY ROUTE Its flights between Taiwan and China -- which will make a stop in South Korea -- are quicker and cheaper, the firm says

By Amber Chung  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwanese people in China now have another way to return home for the Lunar New Year holiday. In addition to the the two-way, non-stop chartered flights announced on Saturday, one of the nation's airlines has rolled out extra flights between Taiwan and China via South Korea.

The indirect flights by Far Eastern Air Transport Corp (遠東航空) offer a cheap price tag as the carrier seeks an advantage in a head-to-head competition with several Taiwanese and Chinese carriers that are providing charter flights for Taiwanese businessmen and their relatives between Jan. 29 and Feb. 20.

"Taiwanese people in China who are not qualified to take the chartered flights can take advantage of our service," Rafael Fang (方南海), vice president of Far Eastern Air's marketing and sales said yesterday.

But the carrier is also targeting the increasing number of visitors to South Korea, thanks to popular Korean soap operas, he added.

Some 298,325 Taiwanese tourists visited South Korea last year, up 65.83 percent from a year ago, according to statistics provided by the Tourism Bureau. Hong Kong remained the most popular travel destination for Taiwanese, with 2.56 million visitors, marking 37 percent year-on-year growth.

Starting today, Far Eastern Air will add one round trip daily between Taipei and Shanghai with stopovers in Jeju, South Korea, increasing its flights to 14 trips per week.

The carrier boasts a competitive edge due to a quicker flight time (two hours less) and NT$2,000 cheaper price, compared to other airlines' routes to China via Hong Kong and Macau. It is offering round-trip tickets for NT$12,345 until Feb. 4, when the price will go back to NT$14,000.

Shanghai flight prices

* Far Eastern Air: Taipei-Shanghai, via Jeju, South Korea: NT$12, 345 until Feb. 4

* China Airlines: Taipei-Shanghai for NT$13,250

* EVA Airways: Taipei-Shanghai for about NT$13,000.

Far Eastern Air said the average load factor on the route is expected to reach 60 percent this year after a roughly 50 percent ratio since the flights started last October.

Load factor is a key measure of an airline's financial performance. It measures the average number of seats sold as a proportion of those available.

Far Eastern Air said it would not turn a profit on the cross-strait charter flights, which it will operate between Taipei and Shanghai and Guangzhou.

"We expect an average load factor of no higher than 50 percent for the charter flights," Far Eastern's executive vice president Philip Chen (陳尚群) said yesterday.

Aircraft departing from China will likely carry a 70 percent to 80 percent passenger load, whereas those taking off from Taipei will see much fewer travelers, he added.

The carrier plans to charge around 3,600 Chinese yuan (US$435) for its Shanghai-Taipei flight and between 2,200 and 2,500 Chinese yuan for the Guangzhou-Taipei flight.

"With an apparent oversupply situation in sight, we do not rule out the possibility of reducing our prices," Fang said.

Shanghai Airlines (上海航空) reportedly charges 3,000 yuan on its Taipei-Shanghai route and Xiamen Airlines (廈門航空) charges 2,000 yuan for a Taipei-Guangzhou flight.

China Airlines (華航), the nation's largest air carrier, yesterday announced its pricing policy, putting its round-trip Taipei-Beijing and Taipei-Shanghai tickets on sale at NT$13,950 and NT$13,250.

Mandarin Airlines (華信), an affiliate of China Airlines, sells its Taipei-Guangzhou flight ticket for NT$9,850, while EVA Airways Corp (長榮) said prices for chartered flights would be 20 percent less than normal flights, making its Taipei-Beijing and Taipei-Shanghai flight tickets priced at around NT$13,800 and NT$13,000.

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