Wed, May 17, 2006 - Page 2 News List

Airlines cry foul over flight rights

BATTLE FOR JAPAN One carrier said the government's proposals to solve the contentious awarding of charter flight rights had ignored the rights of the companies

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

A battle over the right to operate charter flights between Taiwan and Japan has intensified this week, after media reports said that the Ministry of Transportation and Communications planned to award the routes to Far Eastern Air Transport and TransAsia Airways.

Mandarin Airlines currently holds the rights to fly charter flights to Japan.

Uni Air and Mandarin Airlines would be given the right to fly between Taipei and Saigon, the Chinese-language newspaper the China Times, reported earlier this week.

However, Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Director-General Billy Chang (張國政) denied the newspaper report on Monday, saying that the flight allocation was still under negotiation.

He said the ministry did not have a preference for the ultimate winner at this point.

There is no timetable for settling the dispute and negotiations will continue until a consensus is reached among all parties, he said.

Last week, the ministry invited officials from all four airlines to a meeting to tackle the issue. The CAA has proposed several possible solutions.

An official who participated in the meeting, speaking on condition of anonymity, said Minister of Transportation and Communications Kuo Yao-chi (郭瑤琪) had attended the meeting but had not made a final decision.

Although the meeting had proceeded peacefully, after it was over, the airline operators expressed anger and protested some of the ministry's proposals.

Tony Su (蘇宏義), chairman of the Uni Airways Corp, said Mandarin Airlines was ranked first among domestic carriers for overall performance, followed by Uni Air, TransAsia and Far Eastern.

Since Mandarin Airlines already has the rights to fly charter flights to Japan, Uni Airways should become one of the first choices should another operator want to join the game.

Su said the ministry intended to tie the two charter flight options -- Taipei-Japan flights and Taipei-Saigon flights -- together and force Uni and Mandarin to abandon the Japanese routes in exchange for the Vietnamese ones.

The interests of the two airlines have been completely ignored, he said.

Chen Mei-wen (陳每文), Far Eastern's general manager, said the company had filed its application to operate the flights according to legal procedure and had made a tremendous effort to win the rights.

Chen added that the Kaohsiung-Hong Kong route was given to Mandarin Airlines in 2002, when Far Eastern's performance was ranked first among domestic airlines.

"Was the result fair?" Chen asked.

Currently, Far Eastern holds the rights to the Kaohsiung-Seoul service, whereas Uni Air has the Kaohsiung-Bali route.

The charter flights that Mandarin Airlines currently offers to Japan go to smaller airports such as those in Hokkaido and Asahikawa.

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