Thu, Jan 16, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Ticket sales low for Lunar New Year China flights

By Lin Miao-Jung  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

Charter flights between China and Taiwan now face a new stumbling block in the form of low ticket sales, state media reported yesterday.

The indirect flights, given the go-ahead by the Cabinet last month, are meant to enable Taiwanese living in China to go home for the Lunar New Year holiday, but few are interested.

Of the 1,600 seats available from Shanghai to Taiwan during the Lunar New Year, only 600 have been booked, one Chinese-language newspaper reported.

The reason is that the flights, scheduled from Jan. 26 to Feb. 10, are as inconvenient as existing services, which must stop in Hong Kong or Macau before continuing to Taiwan.

The only real difference is that the chartered flights will be operated by Taiwanese airlines as opposed to the regular indirect flights by Hong Kong and Macau carriers.

But this subtle difference is not luring customers, the paper reported.

"The indirect charter flight service does not provide more convenience than existing flight routes between Shanghai and Taiwan operated by Hong Kong and Macau airlines," Xie Lijun, secretary general of the Shanghai Taiwan Business Association, told the newspaper.

Chinese state media have reported that China has approved charter flights by several Tai-wanese carriers, including Far East Air Transport Corp, which got the go-ahead earlier this month.

The stopover in Hong Kong and Macau is the result of Taiwanese government rules, imposed because of security fears.

KMT Legislator John Chang (章孝嚴), who proposed the flights, had urged direct flights without stopovers -- a suggestion supported by Chinese authorities.

The Cabinet on Dec. 4 approved the unprecedented chartered service, but rejected direct services. Taiwan has banned direct contact in trade, post and transportation with China since the two sides split in 1949.

Chang has reportedly indicated he will push for direct flights without stopovers for this year's Mid-Autumn Festival or next year's Lunar New Year.

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