Two of the nation’s airlines are to increase the number of daily flights to Kinmen because of an increase in travelers to China using the three mini-links (小三通).
Tickets for cross-strait flights are in high demand and are relatively more expensive than flights to China via Hong Kong, Macau or other transit airports.
Some, particularly those living in the Central and Southern Taiwan, choose to travel via the three mini links, where they can board a flight to Kinmen or Matsu from regional airports rather than having to go to Taoyuan or Songshan.
Once they arrive in Kinmen or Matsu, travelers take the ferry to Xiamen or Mawei in China and transfer to other cities. More Chinese tourists are coming via the three mini links as well.
Airlines have worked with shipping companies to allow passengers to travel all the way from Taiwan to Kinmen or Matsu with one ticket. On average, tickets for the package deal cost NT$3,000 less than those for direct flights.
Uni Air (立榮航空) has daily flights to Kinmen from Taipei, Taichung, Chiayi, Kaohsiung and Tainan. It plans to increase flights or to use larger aircraft for services to Kinmen in June, with an estimated increase in the number of seats of 27 percent.
Mandarin Airlines (華信航空) also has daily flights to Kinmen from Taipei and Taichung. Starting next month, it will add flights to the schedule, depending on demand.
The Ministry of Transportation and Communications said the number of travelers taking the three mini-links, including Taiwanese and Chinese, has increased from 21,377 in 2001 to 923,192 last year.
The ministry said yesterday that those using the three mini-links in Kinmen would be able to have their luggage checked-in all the way from Taiwan to Xiamen by the end of next month.
Passengers will be given receipts after they check in their luggage in Taiwan. When the baggage arrives in Kinmen, the airlines’ ground staff or local agents will transport the luggage in trucks to the dock after inspection by customs. The shipping firms will then take the luggage and put it on the ferry.
Travelers will claim their bags in Kinmen. The ministry said the measure would only apply to those traveling from Taiwan to Kinmen. Those returning from Kinmen to Taiwan, however, will still have to bring their luggage with them on the ferry and then check it in again at Kinmen Airport because the dock handling the luggage of returning travelers is still under construction.
Meanwhile, Taihwa Lun (台華輪), a shipping service partly subsidized by the government to carry passengers between Kaohsiung and Makung (馬公) in Penghu County, embarked on its first trip from Kaohsiung to Xiamen yesterday.