Tue, Mar 17, 2009 - Page 3 News List

Expansion of air services next on cross-strait agenda

By Shelley Shan  /  STAFF REPORTER

Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Deputy Chairman Kao Koong-lian (高孔廉) said yesterday that the third round of cross-strait negotiations with China would address issues related to the right of airlines to provide connecting flights and for passenger flights to carry cargo.

The right to provide connecting flights, also known as the “fifth freedom of the air,” means that an airline can carry passengers from one country to another, and then on to a third country.

Kao, however, said the connecting flights issue was about allowing cross-strait carriers to extend their flights to more than one city in China.

“Although the cross-strait direct charter flight service is available in Shenyang, these flights have a very low passenger occupancy rate and have to stop at Shanghai first to pick up more customers before coming to Taiwan. The connecting flight service would make direct flights between Shenyang and Taipei possible,” Kao said at a ceremony to mark the opening of Air China’s Taipei office.

He also said he hoped that the third round of negotiations would make regular cross-strait flights possible.

Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) Director-General Lee Lung-wen (李龍文) spoke at the ceremony about the urgency of increasing the number of cross-strait daily charter flights before proceeding with regular flights.

Lee conveyed his message directly to Air China chairman Kong Dong (孔棟) and said he hoped Kong would take it back to China, even though it was not on the agenda of the cross-strait negotiations.

Kong said it was a crucial issue that would be addressed at the meeting between the SEF and the Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and that it was not up to him to decide.

Meanwhile, the CAA confirmed the nation’s airlines had decided to halt cargo flights between Taoyuan and Guangzhou as the lack of demand for such flights had made the route unprofitable.

In related news, Department of Aviation and Navigation Director-General Yin Cheng-pong (尹承蓬) said the Oceanlala (海洋拉拉號) was the only certified cruise ship in the country capable of cross-strait sea transportation.

“The owner has applied to operate charter cruises between Taichung and Xiamen, and the application has been approved by the Taichung Harbor Bureau,” Ying said. “The first cruise is scheduled to sail on April 10.”

Ying said the Oceanlala weighs 2,400 tonnes and can carry 540 passengers. A trip from Taichung to Xiamen would take about five hours.

Ying said a cruise ship must first be certified as an overseas cruise liner before it would be permitted to sail across the Strait, adding that both Taiwan and China were considering establishing qualifications to specifically regulate ships from both sides.

Some larger passenger boats, such as the Taihua Ferry (台華輪) that travel between Penghu and Kaohsiung, were not yet certified, Ying said. Uncertified boats could still offer services between Kinmen and Xiamen, or the small three-link route.

No Chinese cruise liner had submitted an application to offer the service, Ying said.

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