Sun, Jan 16, 2005 - Page 1 News List

Agreement reached on direct flights

BREAKTHROUGH Negotiators representing Taiwan and China were able to plow through some of the difficulties surrounding Lunar New Year's flights for businesspeople

By Wang Hsiao-wen  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taipei Airlines Association chairman Lo Ta-hsin, center, shakes hands with executive director of China's Civil Aviation Association, Pu Zhaozhou, left, in the Macau Holiday Inn. The director-general of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration, Billy Chang, right, also attended the meeting.

PHOTO:CNA

Taiwan and China yesterday hammered out a landmark agreement on non-stop charter flights for the Lunar New Year holiday, a move hailed by some as the biggest breakthrough in cross-strait relations in years.

"The agreement will have a significant, positive impact upon cross-strait relations," Mainland Affairs Council Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said yesterday.

The agreement ushers in the first "direct" cross-strait flights since air links were terminated after the Civil War ended in 1949. The successful talks may serve as a departure point toward thawed relations between Taiwan and China, the council said.

"This round of talks sets a good example for cross-strait negotiations. Now both Taiwan and China are weighing the possibility of a `Macau model' for further delegates to follow," Chiu said.

During the meeting in Macau, the negotiators decided that a total of 48 flights will take off from Jan. 29 to Feb. 20.

The flights will travel to and from Taipei and Kaohsiung and the Chinese cities of Bejing, Shanghai and Guangzhou.

Six Taiwanese airlines and six Chinese carriers will be authorized to take Taiwanese businesspeople home.

Both sides expressed satisfaction with the progress, and said they were confident they could settle remaining undecided technical affairs soon.

"There is no difficulty. We solved everything very quickly," Billy Chang (張國政), the director-general of Taiwan's Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), told reporters after the meeting.

"In a very short time, in a cordial atmosphere, we have come to an agreement," Pu Zhaozhou (浦照洲), executive director of China's Civil Aviation Association, told a joint news conference after negotiations in Macau.

As the final agreement mapped out the available routes, domestic air carriers are now vying to get their share of the flights.

China Airlines Corp (華航), Taiwan's largest carrier, has reportedly set its eyes on the route between Taipei and Beijing.

Meanwhile, all six carriers also expressed their interest in flights to and from Shanghai, which has a large population of Taiwanese businesspeople. EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空) said that it will strive for flights departing from Taipei, while Far Eastern Air Transport Corp (遠東航空) expressed its interest in the Taipei-Shanghai route.

Smaller carriers also declared their preferences. Mandarin Airlines Corp (華信航空) said that it will fight for the Kaohsiung-Shanghai and Kaohsiung-Guangzhou routes. Also, UNI Airways (立榮航空) said it would like to conduct flights departing from Kaohsiung. Meanwhile, Transasia Airways Corp (復興航空) said that it has excluded Beijing as a first priority.

In 2003, Taiwan and China instituted Lunar New Year flights from Shanghai to Taipei to take Taiwanese working in China home, with stops in Hong Kong or Macau.

There were no such flights last year.

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