Flights between Taiwan and Hong Kong will be gradually increased to 410 a week after the two governments signed a new aviation pact yesterday.
The new agreement, which also took effect yesterday, was signed in Hong Kong on the same day by James Chu (朱曦), director of the Taipei Economic and Cultural Office in Hong Kong, and John Leung (梁志仁), director of the Hong Kong Economic, Trade and Cultural Office in Taipei.
Previous Taiwan-Hong Kong aviation deals were signed by flight carriers. This time, the pact was signed by administrative officials representing the Taiwanese and Hong Kong governments.
The old pact allowed carriers from both sides to fly a combined 340 flights a week, with each side accounting for 170 flights. It also listed the names of specific carriers and the number of the flights they were allowed to operate on a weekly basis.
Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific was allowed to operate 108 flights a week under the old pact, followed by China Airlines with 105. Other carriers operating the route included Dragon Air of Hong Kong as well as EVA Air and Mandarin Airlines.
Taiwan offers an average of about 48 flights to Hong Kong daily. Based on the new pact, both sides agreed to first raise the number of passenger flights from 170 to 198 a week. That number will increase to 205 when both sides introduce their summer flight schedules in March, at which time the number of daily flights to Hong Kong will be raised to 58.
Meanwhile, the new aviation pact will expand the capacity of cargo flights from 1,700 tonnes to 2,800 tonnes a week, with a further increase to 3,000 tonnes in March.
It also encourages flight carriers to increase flight services by allowing them to offer special charter flight services to Hong Kong departing from Greater Taichung, Hualien, Taitung and Greater Tainan, as well as the outlying islands of Penghu and Kinmen.
Charter flights will be regulated the same way as any regular flights on the schedule.
The new pact lists only the caps for passenger and cargo flights, it does not list the names of the carriers qualified to offer the service. The apportioning of flights will be executed by aviation authorities.
Prior to the introduction of direct cross-strait flights, Taiwanese heading to China were required to transfer in Hong Kong. Demand dropped after the cross-strait direct flight service was launched in 2008.
Ticket prices for flights to Hong Kong sold for as much as NT$10,000 when the service was in high demand, but now the flights can cost less than NT$6,000 in off-peak hours without a fuel surcharge.