Wed, Jan 26, 2005 - Page 2 News List

Historic flights to take off Saturday

SHORTER TRIPTickets from Shanghai have been snatched up, while sales in Beijing remain tepid, as `taishang' make plans to return home for the holiday

By Joy Su  /  STAFF REPORTER

Carriers from both Taiwan and China are set to operate the first non-stop flights between Taipei and Beijing since 1949, with the first charter flights for the Lunar New Year slated to depart at 8am on Saturday.

According to flight information provided by the Taipei Airlines Association, the first flights from Beijing will be operated by Air China and Hainan Airlines and will arrive at CKS International Airport at 12:30pm.

Similarly, Taiwan's China Airlines plans to take the lead with the first flight to China departing at 8am on Saturday in Taipei and landing at 12:30pm in Beijing.

The first Chinese carrier to land in Taiwan for the Lunar New Year will arrive in Taipei from Guangzhou at 9:30am on Saturday.

With the landmark agreement on cross-strait flights made only a little more than a week ago, Taiwanese businesspeople living in China have been clamoring to secure tickets in time for their trip back home for the nation's biggest holiday.

"About 80 percent of the tickets were sold on the first day. By the second day, 90 percent of the tickets were gone. All the flights are now fully booked, and we have people on the waiting list," said Hsieh Li-chun (謝力軍), Secretary General of the Association of Shanghai Taiwan Businessmen Invested Enterprises, referring to ticket sales in Shanghai.

Hsieh explained that in response to the successful ticket sales in Shanghai, Transasia Airways (復興) had decided to re-route a Feb. 7 flight originally intended for Guangzhou to Shanghai.

He said that while cross-strait flights were agreed upon a little late, ticket sales were better this year than previously.

"The duration of flights is a lot shorter without the stopover. We can even make it back to Taiwan in time for lunch," Hsieh said yesterday during a phone interview.

While jets will not have to make stops in either Hong Kong or Macau, as was the case two years ago, carriers will be required to fly through Hong Kong's airspace en route to China or Taiwan this year.

While the non-stop flights between the two capital cities are of historical significance, Hsieh Kun-tsung (謝坤宗), chairman of the Taiwanese Merchant Investment Association in Beijing, told the Taipei Times that ticket sales in the Chinese capital were lukewarm.

"Ticket sales have been mediocre," Hsieh said. "Only about 50 percent of the seats for the flight to Taipei on Jan. 29 have been sold, while the flight on Feb. 5 is fully booked," Hsieh said. He added that no other flights would be departing from Beijing.

While all 12 participating airline companies have already made available their flight schedules for the cross-strait flights, Civil Aeronautics Administration Director General Billy Chang (張國政) said that only China Airlines and EVA Airways had been formally authorized by aviation authorities in both Taiwan and China.

He said that UNI Airways and Mandarin Airlines , along with Chinese carriers China Eastern, Shanghai Airlines, China Southern, and Xiamen Airlines would probably be authorized within the next two to three days. Air China and Hainan Airlines in China and Far Eastern and Transasia Airways in Taiwan have yet to submit their applications to the aviation authorities.

A total of 96 flights are being offered by at least 12 airline carriers from both sides of the Taiwan Strait this year.

The flights run from this Saturday until Feb. 18 and allow taishang (Taiwanese working in China) in Beijing, Guangzhou, and Shanghai to take non-stop flights to and from Taipei and Kaohsiung.

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