Direct flight services between Taipei Songshan Airport and Shanghai Hongqiao Airport were officially launched yesterday, with many passengers complaining that the tickets were too expensive.
The nation’s first flight to Hongqiao was made by China Airlines (CAL, 華航), which left at 8:45am. The Boeing-737 aircraft carried mostly officials from the Taipei City Government and the Ministry of Transportation and Communications, as well as lawmakers serving on the legislature’s Transportation Committee.
Flights by TransAsia Airways (復興航空) and EVA Airways (EVA, 長榮) also took off at 1pm and 1:15pm respectively. All three flights from Taiwan had an average passenger occupancy of about 80 percent.
A flight from China Eastern Airlines (中國東方航空) was the first and the only flight departing from Hongqiao yesterday.
CAL and EVA held inauguration ceremonies at Songshan to celebrate the historic moment.
Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Director-General Lee Long-wen (李龍文) thanked Taipei Mayor Hau Lung-bin (郝龍斌) in a speech at the ceremony, as Hau was the first to mention that both sides should aim for the launch of the Songshan-Hongqiao route by June 14.
“Both Songshan and Hongqiao are city airports and the direct flight service between these two airports also expands Songshan’s function as a business airport,” Lee said. “Commuting between Taipei and Shanghai within a day has now come true.”
Lee told reporters after the ceremony that the CAA would monitor the flight service for a month and would use the information collected as a reference for cross-straight negotiations in October.
“Now, those heading to Shanghai from Taipei can save at least two hours, one hour to [Taiwan] Taoyuan International Airport and one hour to downtown Shanghai,” Lee said.
A total of 14 round-trip flights are now offered between Songshan and Hongqiao. Thirty-six other round-trip services will be distributed among local carriers, but a detailed plan has yet to be worked out and will not be implemented until July 5.
The majority of flights to Shanghai continue to be operated from Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport and Shanghai Pudong Airport.
Expecting an increase in demand, CAL and EVA have said they planned to rent several Airbus 330 aircraft to accommodate more passengers when construction work on runways at Songshan is completed in October.
At present, airlines can only use smaller model aircraft, such as Boeing 737s, which can carry about 150 passengers.
An Airbus 330-300 model aircraft would enable airliners to carry up to 335 passengers at a time.
Many passengers yesterday said tickets for the Songshan-Hongqiao flight were far too expensive. Some Chinese tourists also complained about the poor facilities at Songshan Airport.
Taiwanese entrepreneur Chang Hsiu-wan (張秀琬) returned to Taiwan yesterday with her family to the celebrate Dragon Boat Festival.
“A business-class ticket costs 7,000 yuan [NT$1,024], which is about the same amount you pay from Taiwan to the US,” Chang said. “Economy class costs about NT$4,500. The tickets are too expensive,” she said.
Hau left for Shanghai yesterday to mark the launch of direct flights between the two cities.
Hau, who left for “Taipei Culture Week” at the Shanghai World Expo, said the direct flight service was the first step in the “golden decade” envisioned by President Ma Ying-jeou (馬英九).
“It was my campaign promise to have direct flights between Songshan and Hongqiao airports, but this promise did not receive any positive response under the [then] Democratic Progressive Party [DPP] administration,” he said. “Now the dream has come true following the change of government.”
Hau added that direct flights between Songshan and Japan's Tokyo-Haneda Airport are scheduled to begin in October.
With South Korea's Gimpo International Airport joining the service route, Hau said the four cities — Taipei, Hongqiao, Haneda and Gimpo — would form a “one-day living circle” where air travel would be easier and travel time significantly reduced.
That would bound to attract international businesses to set up their operations in Taipei, he said.