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 (
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 (
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.