Tue, Jan 04, 2005 - Page 1 News List

MAC says direct flights are once again on the table

By Melody Chen and Jessie Ho  /  STAFF REPORTERS

The Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) said yesterday it had authorized the Taipei Airlines Asso-ciation (TAA) to negotiate with Beijing on the implementation of cross-strait charter flights during Lunar New Year.

In response to an announcement by China's Taiwan Affairs Office that Beijing would support charter flights for Taiwanese businesspeople based in China, the council met with the nation's six domestic airlines to discuss arrangements.

Saying that the government was sincere in its efforts to bring about the flights, Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said at a press conference that the TAA would talk with its Chinese counterpart on how to implement "direct flights and two-way passenger transport services," as China had requested.

The council also asked domestic airlines to file applications to agencies in China to operate the flights "in the proper manner and at the right time."

It also urged Chinese officials to respond to the applications quickly so that both sides could settle on a timetable as soon as possible.

Michael Lo (樂大信), the chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association and president of Mandarin Airlines, said the association would negotiate with the Chinese authorities in accordance with MAC instructions.

No date has been set for negotiations, he said.

Taiwan's carriers are delighted that they will be able to carry Taiwanese businesspeople back home.

Six of the carriers -- China Airlines, EVA Airways, Mandarin Airlines, TransAsia Airways, Far Eastern Air and UNI Airways -- organized a total of 12 charter flights carrying more than 1,000 passengers from China to Taiwan during the Lunar New Year holiday in 2003.

The service was unavailable last year because Beijing had insisted that Chinese carriers also participate.

Beijing later refused to negotiate technical details.

A public relations official with EVA Airways said the company was looking forward to providing the direct-route service.

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