Thu, Jul 20, 2006 - Page 1 News List

First non-stop cargo charter flight leaves

CROSS-STRAIT CONNECTION A China Airlines plane left CKS International Airport for Shanghai late last night carrying a shipment from a high-tech company


China Airlines (CAL), the nation's largest air carrier, made the first "non-stop" cargo charter flight to China yesterday, a step toward the liberalization of cross-strait transportation.

The flight had to pass through a third territory's airspace, such as Hong Kong and Macao, but did not have to land.

"This is another historical mission after the first cross-strait passenger charter flight took off in the Lunar New Year in 2003," Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chih (郭瑤琪) said at CKS International Airport yesterday.

"We expect to see more breakthroughs in transportation across the Taiwan Strait and to bring more convenient service to Taiwanese businesspeople," Kuo said.

The B747-400, which carried 63.5 tonnes of equipment for a "well-known Taiwanese high-tech company," left CKS at 10:10pm and was expected to arrive at Shanghai Pudong Airport at 1am today.

China Airlines refused to reveal the customer for the flight although media reports yesterday claimed it was Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co.

Four more charter flights have been arranged for July 25, July 30, Aug. 8 and Aug. 10.

Under regulations announced by the Mainland Affairs Council last month, Taiwanese companies can apply for cargo charters to ship equipment, machinery and parts between Taiwan and their factories in China on a case-by-case basis.

The regulations, however, bar cargo charters from carrying finished goods manufactured in both Taiwan and China.

"The restrictions on the cargo charters may not fully meet the needs and expectations of the aviation industry and China-bound Taiwanese businesses, but we believe the deregulation of cross-strait links will keep going on this basis," said Chang Kuo-cheng (張國政), director general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration.

The charter flights could save shipping costs and time, as well as reducing the potential for damage to fragile, high-tech equipment and components caused by having to land in a third destination.

The traditional shipping route from Taipei to Shanghai via Hong Kong for example, takes four to five flying hours, not including the trans-shipment via another carrier, while a direct flight would only take two and half hours, China Airlines said.

CAL chairman Philip Wei (魏幸雄) said the profit margin for each chartered cargo flight is about US$30,000, or a total of US$150,000 for the five flights.

The new business may help to increase the airline's profits, which have been hurt by soaring fuel costs. CAL's sales grew by 13.72 percent to NT$56.647 billion (US$1.72 billion) in the first half of the year. Cargo business accounted for about 43 percent of its revenue.

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