Chief of EVA unhappy with aerotropolis progress

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Mar 02, 2013 - Page 14

The chairman of EVA Airways Corp (EVA, 長榮航空) has attacked “a lack of progress” in building a planned airport city around Taiwan’s major international gateway and threatened to relocate the airline’s expansion project overseas.

In an interview published by the Chinese-language Business Weekly yesterday, Chang Kuo-wei (張國煒) criticized the Taoyuan Aerotropolis project as “empty talk” and “an egg without the yolk.”

Chang bemoaned “a lack of progress” in the government’s plan for the NT$500-billion Aerotropolis, centered around Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport near Taipei, to become a regional center for aircraft maintenance.

Delta Air Lines and UPS, the US-based international shipping company, are ready to award five-year contracts to EVA to service their fleet at the Taoyuan airport, Chang said. However, the carrier has been unable to build a fourth maintenance hangar needed to do so.

He blamed the lack of success on difficulties in acquiring land and the fact that his company’s main rival, China Airlines Ltd (CAL, 中華航空), is also vying for the same business.

Chang also said that while direct air links serving cities in Taiwan and China have increased, opportunities generated by transit passengers have been lost to South Korea and Hong Kong.

As a result, Taiwanese airlines operating routes across the Taiwan Strait lose money and Taiwan cannot capitalize on its advantages as a regional transit center, he added.

The Taoyuan Aerotropolis could become a transit center matching Hong Kong, Singapore and Seoul if Chinese passengers were allowed to get their connecting flights for the US and Europe here after flying in from China, he said.

Chang ultimately threatened to withdraw his company’s support for the aerotropolis project in the interview, and suggested a rethink of a proposal to build a cluster of air and space manufacturing activities in Taiwan, including moving the planned investment overseas.

In recent years, EVA has expanded into the production of aircraft components and was planning to further invest in the manufacturing business as part of the aerotropolis project.

The head of the company operating the Taoyuan airport yesterday disagreed that the project was “empty talk,” but said the local airline’s sense of urgency was understandable.

Taoyuan International Airport Co (桃園國際機場公司) chairman Yin Chen-pong (尹承蓬) said that Taiwan has been trying to clear the way for Chinese passengers to transit in Taiwan to third countries.

At present, China’s government forbids its citizens to transit through Taiwan to a third country because that would require Taiwan’s immigration officials to stamp Chinese passports, a procedure that China fears would imply Taiwan is a sovereign state.

The issue is currently being discussed in cross-strait talks, but has yet to be resolved.