Airline services between Taipei and Kaohsiung, once the busiest domestic route, are to be discontinued from the end of next month, as the high-speed rail has taken over most of the commuter traffic connecting the two cities, Vice Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday.
Mandarin Airlines, the only carrier still operating the route, is to terminate its services between Taipei in the north of the country and Kaohsiung in the south after Aug. 31, Yeh said.
He said the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) has agreed to Mandarin Air’s request to close its route service, but that the final decision lies with the ministry, under which the CAA falls.
Yeh said he expects the ministry to endorse the CAA’s decision by next week because the carrier’s request appears reasonable.
Since the launch of the high-speed railway service in 2007, the airline has complained of shrinking passenger loads on its Taipei-Kaohsiung flights, he said.
The average passenger load on each of the carrier’s three weekly flights totals about 30 percent and even then, around half of the passengers are company employees or their relatives, flying on discounted tickets, Mandarin Airline executives said.
The airline said it is losing NT$20 million (US$667,600) per year on the route.
The high-speed rail, which runs north to south along the western corridor of the country, has forced the closure of several other domestic air routes.
After the Taipei-Kaohsiung flights are discontinued, Mandarin Airlines will begin offering three additional flights per week between Taipei and the eastern county of Taitung, the executives said.
With the closing of air services between Taipei and Kaohsiung, the remaining domestic flights will serve the outlying islands of Kinmen, Matsu and Penghu, the mountainous eastern counties of Hualien and Taitung as well as Hengchun (恆春) in southern Taiwan’s Pingtung County.
Apart from Mandarin Airlines, the other domestic carriers are Uni Air, Trans Asia Airways and Far Eastern Air.