Mon, Jan 17, 2005 - Page 3 News List

Macau likely to be hurt by flights

LONG-TERM IMPACT If direct flights become a reality, the former Portuguese territory would suffer more than Hong Kong from the loss of passengers from Taiwan


Lunar New Year direct cross-strait holiday flights will have little impact on Hong Kong and Macau because they will be temporary, but should direct flights become the norm, the two territories could be adversely affected, travel and media sources said yesterday.

"Direct" cross-strait holiday charter flights in 2003 were not direct at all; the only difference from regular commercial flights was that passengers, instead of having to change planes in Hong Kong or Macau, were allowed to stay on the same plane they departed on as it touched down in one of the third places and then took off again.

This year, both sides agreed that no landing in a third place will be required, but the charters must detour and fly over Hong Kong's air space en route to their destinations.

A spokesman for the Hong Kong-Macau Shuttle Bus Association estimated that bus transportation business during this year's flights is expected to decline 6 percent to 7 percent during the Lunar New Year period. He said that about 100,000 Taiwanese travel via Hong Kong to China to visit relatives or for family reunions during the Lunar New Year holiday every year. Of these, about 30,000 headed to Guangdong Province by bus.

The impact is limited since the charter flights will only operate for 23 days, from Jan. 29 to Feb. 20. However, the spokesman said that the shuttle bus association will have to study its business strategies if the new agreement is extended to allow air carriers to operate direct flights in the long term.

Chiang Su-hui (江素惠), a Hong Kong-based political observer, said that the landmark pact between Tai-wan and China on Saturday is a forerunner of overall direct transportation linkst.

Hong Kong's entrepot role will be completely phased out once direct air and shipping links across the TaiwanStrait are fully implemented, she said.

However, Liu Yue-shao (劉銳紹), a Hong Kong-based news commentator, said that Hong Kong's role as an entrepot will not be affected noticeably if the exchanges of direct charter flights become a reality because it is an international port city that already sees large numbers of international flights, cross-continent shipping and is a key transshipment center.

By comparison, Liu said, Macau stands to be much harder hit if direct links are to be opened as some 70 percent of the former Portuguese colony's daily flights are for transshipments.

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