Wed, Dec 29, 2004 - Page 2 News List

Charter flights still possible: MAC

LUNAR NEW YEAR The vice chairman of the Mainland Affairs Council said that airlines could still organize cross-strait flights if China insists on refusing to discuss the issue

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Just weeks before the Lunar New Year, the nation's top cross-strait policymaking body yesterday said that even if official talks with China do not materialize, it is not too late for airline carriers to secure charter flights on their own.

"If Chinese authorities are really facing difficulties in offering charter flights, local airline carriers can do the job," Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) Vice Chairman Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) said at a press conference after a closed-door meeting with the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) legislative caucus.

Chiu said that the government would be willing to allow charter flights to service new routes, saying that flights to and from Kaohsiung were a possibility. In the past, cross-strait charter flights had been limited to CKS International Airport.

The council expressed the hope that China would approve flights to and from Guangzhou and Beijing. In the past, charter flights had been limited to stopping over in Shanghai.

Chiu said the government had offered in September to negotiate about direct and reciprocal charter flights for Taiwanese businesspeople based in China to return home for the holiday. The flights would have called for semi-official or official negotiations, as agreements would have been required on new flight routes. However, he said the government did not rule out implementing flights unofficially, which was the case last year.

In February last year, cross-strait charter flights were successfully introduced for the first time. However, negotiations had not been conducted, and instead airline carriers wishing to offer a charter service over the holidays had applied to both governments for approval. Only Taiwanese carriers had offered a charter service last year, with forced stops in either Hong Kong or Macau.

KMT spokesman Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭), caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福) and central policy committee executive director Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權) yesterday urged the government to speed up efforts to establish charter flights, saying that official negotiations were unnecessary.

Chiu said that the council's policy did not differ from that proposed by the KMT. He said that, while official negotiations would have been ideal, as they would have allowed for direct and reciprocal flights, he said that implementing flights unofficially was still a viable option.

However, Council Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮) admitted on Monday that prospects for establishing flights unofficially were bleak. Interested carriers would have to apply for approval with both governments, and flights would have to make stopovers in a third country.

Chiu said yesterday that there was still sufficient time, noting that it had taken 27 days for carriers to apply to offer charter flights and complete all necessary preparations last year.

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