Mon, Jan 03, 2005 - Page 3 News List

KMT pushing for direct Lunar New Year flights

NETWORKING The KMT will meet with MAC officials, air carriers and representatives for overseas Taiwanese businessmen in the hope of making direct flights a reality

By Caroline Hong  /  STAFF REPORTER

In hopes of helping Taiwanese businessmen come home for the Lunar New Year holiday, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) said yesterday it would urge the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) to arrange direct charter flights between Taiwan and China.

Saying it would work in an intermediary role, the KMT held a press conference yesterday afternoon to highlight the three main points of its appeal to the MAC.

After talking with the family members of Taiwanese businessmen in China and holding a discussion with six major domestic airline carriers last Thursday, the KMT urged the government to be more flexible and allow its three proposals.

The KMT in 2003 helped facilitate semi-direct charter flights during the holidays for Taiwanese businessmen in Shanghai, KMT spokesman Chang Jung-kung (張榮恭) said. However, in response to the concerns raised by domestic air carriers and the Taiwanese business community in China, the KMT is hoping to arrange flights to and from Beijing and Guangzhou to Taiwan.

Additionally, the KMT also reported that the airlines it had talked to expressed hopes that they would be allowed to arrange charter flights. Previously, the airlines were only allowed to send empty planes to China to pick up passengers for the trip home. In order to reduce costs, the airlines are hoping to be allowed to book passengers for both the planes making the journeys to and from China, said KMT lawmaker and central policy committee executive director Tseng Yung-chuan (曾永權).

"In actuality, we already have an existent situation where airline carriers can have two-sided flights which allows Chinese reporters come to Taiwan. Chinese air carriers asked domestic carriers to demand the right to have two-sided flights," said KMT legislative caucus whip Huang Teh-fu (黃德福) yesterday afternoon.

Furthermore, political considerations prompted flights in 2003 to make stopovers in Macau and Hong Kong. This year, the KMT hopes to arrange genuinely direct charter flights between China and Taiwan.

The KMT has adopted the role of mediator for Taiwanese businessmen abroad and domestic airlines in their negotiation, party officials said. In China, groups representing Taiwanese businessmen are talking with Chinese air carriers and the government.

The ultimate fate of the process lies in the hands of the MAC and in the Chinese government. However, if the Taiwanese government can be more flexible, the KMT believes that direct flights could become a reality, party officials said.

Today's visit will be the second the KMT will make to the MAC. The party's legislative caucus made a similar trip last Thursday to confirm the council's support for the KMT's initiatives. Party officials will also talk with domestic airline representatives later this afternoon.

The six airlines the KMT is building ties with are China Air, Eva Air, TransAsia Airways, Uni Air, Far Eastern Air Transport and Mandarin Airlines.

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