Sat, Sep 24, 2005 - Page 3 News List

MAC urges Hong Kong to allow flights

BY SHIH HSIU-CHUAN  /  STAFF REPORTER

Taiwan's top cross-strait policy making body yesterday urged Hong Kong to permit Taiwanese airlines to participate in Taichung-Hong Kong charter flights in the spirit of equality and reciprocation.

While Hong Kong-based Express Airlines has been approved to operate charter flights between Chingchuankang (清泉崗) Airport in Taichung and Hong Kong, the Hong Kong Administration hasn't allowed Mandarin, a Taiwan-based airline, to engage in the business.

Mandarin Airlines filed the application with the Hong Kong Administration at the end of last month, shortly after Taiwan's Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) approved an application by Express Airlines to operate Hong Kong-Taichung charter services.

"It's hard to gauge why the Hong Kong Administration has been reluctant to approve Mandarin's application. We wish that the Hong Kong Administration would approve the application as soon as possible, in line with the principles of equality and reciprocation," said You Ying-lung (游盈隆), the vice chairman of MAC.

It was reported in a local daily newspaper yesterday that Hong Kong's refusal to issue landing permission to the Taiwanese airline was a result of its dissatisfaction that Taiwan's government had used the charter flight route as a campaign instrument.

The green light for Taichung-Hong Kong charter flights was announced by MAC Chairman Joseph Wu (吳釗燮), accompanied by Chiu Tai-san (邱太三) and Lin Chia-lung (林佳龍), the DPP candidates running for Taichung County commissioner and Taiching City mayor respectively. The opposition therefore said the announcement was a promotional stunt by the two candidates.

You yesterday told a press conference that the green light was given by the government for technical reasons -- such as helping to promote tourism in Taichung and providing convenient transportation for the people of Central Taiwan -- and not for political reasons.

"Mandarin Airlines has been communicating with the Hong Kong Administration, and we hope the Hong Kong Administration does not have any political considerations with this issue," You said, responding to media speculation.

You said that the Taichung-Hong Kong charter flights would be helpful in furthering the exchanges between both sides, which should not be blocked for political reasons.

Hong Kong Express began operating its charter services on Sept. 3 while Mandarin Airlines was planned to start its service yesterday.

More than 100 passengers who had booked a Mandarin Airlines flight to Hong Kong yesterday were asked to change their flight at the last moment.

The airline said that the tickets for yesterday's flight were sold by travel agencies.

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