Wed, Jul 16, 2003 - Page 3 News List

Russian airline cancels direct-flight plans

MISGIVING Transaero Airlines cited lack of tourists in Russia as the reason for the deal's meltdown, but a foreign ministry official said that tax issues were a major sticking point

By Monique Chu  /  STAFF REPORTER

Russia-based Transaero Airlines has decided to drop its plan to start any direct charter flight between Moscow and Taipei originally scheduled for August to October, its agent in Taipei said yesterday.

"The formal reply we've got from Transaero Airlines is that they would not initiate any charter flight to Taipei this year," Wayne Lin (林偉欽), manger at Phoenix Tour Service Co Ltd (鳳凰旅行社), said yesterday afternoon.

The travel agency has acted as Transaero's agent in Taiwan.

"They have expressed misgivings about the number of tourists planning to visit Russia from Taiwan and vice versa," said Lin, pointing to the cost consideration as the key drive, leading up to the Russian airlines decision to withdraw from the market for the time being.

Transaero faxed its latest decision to its agent in Taipei late Monday night, according to Lin.

Transaero's decision came as a blow to local travel agents as well as officials. Roro Peng (彭淑惠), marketing director at Longway Tour Service Co Ltd, said she was upset by the decision.

"Many have been looking forward to the direct charter flights to kick-start the industry as it can boost the potential market drastically. If the charter flights could have started, the market [of local tourism to Russia was] expected to grow by 300 percent," Peng told the Taipei Times.

The direct charter flight between Taipei and Moscow, if realized, will take only 11 hours and 40 minutes, whereas the current trip to Moscow via a transfer in Hanoi will take at least 18 hours, said Peng.

Peng's firm has joined a six-member alliance among local travel agencies, led by Phoenix, in an attempt to sell Taipei-Moscow charter flights originally scheduled to start from early August, Lin said.

An official at the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), who works directly with charter flight applications, said she has not heard from Transaero's agent regarding the airlines' decision.

The CAA gave its approval to Airline Transaero's plan to start the Taipei-Moscow charter flights in principle in May, before the outbreak of SARS disrupted the airlines plan to go ahead with detailed flight operation applications, the official said.

Last August, China Airlines and Transaero started a one-off charter flight between Taipei and Moscow as a symbolic move to pave the way for the opening of direct regular commercial flights between the two cities.

But the tax issue has been obstructing the stalled aviation pact, according to Shen Su-tsun (沈斯淳), director-general of the foreign ministry's department of West Asian Affairs.

On Thursday, the ministry is slated to hold a banquet in Taipei to mark the 10-year anniversary of the establishment of the Representative Office in Moscow for the Taipei-Moscow Economic and Cultural Coordination Commission, Shen said.

Taiwan and Russia set up their de facto embassies in Moscow and Taipei respectively in July 1993.

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