Sat, Jan 21, 2006 - Page 3 News List

Non-stop cross-strait flights begin

TAKING OFF The first charter flight of the Lunar New Year holiday season departed yesterday from CKS airport bound for Shanghai, and flights from China landed in Taiwan

By Shih Hsiu-chuan  /  STAFF REPORTER WITH AGENCIES

Center for Disease Control Director Steve Kuo yesterday passes out ``lucky bags'' to passengers in front of the fever screening station at CKS International Airport, as part of a campaign to get the public to pay attention to their health.

PHOTO: CHU PEI-HSIUNG, TAIPEI TIMES

Taiwan and China kicked off this year's Lunar New Year charter flights yesterday when China Airlines flight CI 585 took off from the CKS International Airport at 8:03am yesterday and touched down at Shanghai's Pudong International Airport two-and-a-half hours later.

The first flight to leave for Taiwan was a China Airlines Airbus A333 which left Shanghai at 12:10pm and landed inTaipei at 3:30pm.

Ye Ling (葉玲), a patient suffering from a rare kind of motor neuron disease, arrived in Taiwan yesterday on one of the first flights, which also signaled the first time that a patient has been transported across the Strait without a stopover in a third destination.

Ye, a well-known singer in Taiwan during the 1950s, was accompanied by her husband Chen Jia-chang (程家昌) and two Chinese medical personnel during the flight.

The two medical staff were given special permission by the government to take care of Ye as the charter flights are only open to Taiwanese citizens.

After landing, Ye was transported directly to Chung-Hsiao Municipal Hospital for further treatment where the two Shanghai-based medical personnel completed the necessary handover procedures with their Taiwanese counterparts.

"We are happy that Ye Ling has returned safely," said Straits Exchange Foundation secretary-general You Ying-lung (游盈隆), who was at CKS airport yesterday to welcome the charter flight passengers on behalf of the government.

This is the third year that the Lunar New Year charter flights have flown across the Taiwan Strait and the second in which nonstop flights between Taiwan and China have been allowed.

Compared with the charter flights of 2003 and last year, the services this year are open to any Taiwanese residents who have valid travel documents and not just Taiwanese businessmen and their relatives living and working in China.

This year's non-stop charter flights will run until Feb. 13 and will be provided by six Taiwanese airlines and six Chinese airlines, which will have a total of 36 flights each during the period.

The government has been urging the Chinese authorities to resume negotiations on cross-strait cargo charter flights and passengers charter flights during the holidays.

Welcoming the start of this year's Lunar New Year flight services, the Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) vowed yesterday to continue pushing for the expansion of the present annual cross-Taiwan Strait charter flight service to allow the services to become available for Taiwanese people on a weekly basis.

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