Mon, Oct 28, 2002 - Page 3 News List

Charter flight issue gains steam

INITIATIVE A KMT legislator says he has 121 signatures supporting flights between Shanghai and Taipei, a move he believes will be a boon for Taiwanese businessmen

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER

An opposition lawmaker who organized a petition to push for direct charter flights between Taipei and Shanghai said yesterday that he has the support of 121 legislators across party lines and will present his proposal to the legislature next week.

KMT Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴) told a news conference yesterday that the purpose of such a proposal is to help Taiwanese businessmen who live and work in China to come back to Taiwan for family reunions during the Chinese New Year holidays earlier next year.

The 121 signatures, 26 of which were signed by DPP lawmakers, already exceeds half of the 225-seat legislature.

"Charter flights are different from direct air links with China. The flights are operated by Taiwanese companies and are constrained to specially designated locations, times and passengers. Thus, there are no problems in terms of security," Chang said.

According to him, there are estimated 800,000 to 1 million Taiwanese businessmen living and working in China. An estimated 300,000 of them are eager to come home during the Lunar New Year holidays, but only if they are willing to spend money on costly airfare and suffer layovers at other airports.

He added that there are only 142,000 seats available during Lunar New Year.

Chang also mentioned that he hoped that the government would give the go-ahead by the end of November to allow domestic air companies sufficient time to prepare.

Chairwoman of the Mainland Affairs Council Tsai Ing-wen (蔡英文) said last week that the government would study the proposal while answering questions from lawmakers about the matter.

Chang added that such direct charter flights can also test China's sincerity in terms of pushing direct air and shipping links with Taiwan.

DPP lawmaker Chang Chin-feng (張清芳), who also signed the petition, kept a low-profile yesterday and declined to comment.

Domestic airline companies welcomed the proposal yesterday.

Nieh Kuo-wei (聶國維), spokesman for EVA Airways Corp (長榮航空), told the Taipei Times yesterday that after the government approves the proposal, EVA is prepared for the flights.

"Our goal is providing service to Taiwanese businessmen in China. But the first the government has to approve the proposal," Nieh said.

Chan Hua-sheng (湛華生), spokeswoman for TransAsia Airways (復興航空), said there are not many difficulties for the company to prepare the charter flights after the government gives its approval.

"We are more than willing to provide service to Taiwanese in China. As long as the government gives a green light to the proposal, we will actively try to pursue such an opportunity," she said.

According to Chan, the estimated flight time is about 90 minutes on a direct charter flight from Shanghai to Taipei.

Taiwanese usually have to spend several hours when taking flights because the planes stop in Hong Kong or Macau, while traveling between Taiwan and China.

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