Sat, Sep 03, 2005 - Page 2 News List

China grants airspace to four airlines

AFP , BEIJING

China's aviation authorities yesterday approved applications from four Taiwanese airlines to fly over its airspace after Taipei urged the permission amid rising oil prices.

The General Administration of Civil Aviation gave the green light to China Airlines and its subsidiary Mandarin Airlines, as well as EVA Airways and its subsidiary Uni Airways, Xinhua news agency reported.

It was the first time China has given permission for the use of its airspace to Taiwan, which has been off-limits for 56 years.

You Ying-lung (游盈隆), vice chairman of Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) yesterday said the government welcomed the approval of the Chinese government.

You, however, added that some of the flying routes applied by the airlines were not approved [by the Chinese authority], which the MAC will try to understand the reason.

Premier Frank Hsieh (謝長廷) announced early last month that the government will lift the ban on local airlines flying over Chinese airspace, in a bid to help the airlines reduce flying time and cut soaring fuel costs. After Hsieh's announcement, the four airlines all filed their applications.

The airlines said they wanted to operate routes over China to destinations in Europe and Southeast Asia in a bid to cut costs and combat soaring oil prices.

The permission will be effective as of midnight Sept. 5 for the four airlines' passenger and cargo flights from Taipei and Kaohsiung.

"Anything that is beneficial to the Taiwanese compatriots and aviation industry .... we will, as ever, actively promote and provide help for as much as possible," Xinhua said, quoting aviation authorities.

Under a ban Taiwan imposed on direct transport exchanges with China in 1949, the island's airlines have to take a detour to bypass Chinese airspace en route to Europe and parts of Asia.

The ban was relaxed in February when the Taiwan and China launched their first non-stop passenger flights during the Lunar New Year holidays, which allowed thousands of people to travel and visit their relatives.

But Taipei suspended talks on more such flights after Beijing enacted a controversial "Anti-Secession" Law in March, providing a legal basis for an invasion of Taiwan should it push for formal independence.

additional reporting by Shih Hsiu-chuan

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