United Airlines (UA) is scheduled to restart a daily year-round non-stop flight service between San Francisco and Taipei in April, in anticipation of increased two-way travel following Taiwan’s inclusion in the US’ Visa-Waiver Program in November last year.
The airlines is to resume its daily San Francisco-Taipei service on April 9. The route has been suspended since Sept. 1, 2008, amid a global financial crisis and skyrocketing fuel prices.
UA vice president of Atlantic and Pacific sales James Mueller said at a news conference in San Francisco on Tuesday that although the international air travel market is forecast to remain flat or even contract slightly this year because of prolonged European economic stagnation, Asia will still see strong market growth.
Mueller said UA therefore has decided to start a daily non-stop San Francisco-Taipei service, adding that he is confident of the passenger-load factor on the route.
Mueller also cited two other major reasons behind the airline’s decision to launch the new service — continued growth in Taiwan-US trade and an anticipated increase in travel demand spurred by the visa-waiver program.
UA will target two major groups of passengers — business travelers and holidaymakers — on both its incoming and outgoing flights, Mueller said.
Taipei-based China Airlines, which operates seven flights per week between Taipei and Hawaii via Tokyo, is likely to add two direct flights on the route from June.
EVA Airways also plans to increase its peak-season flights between Taiwan and the US. The airline said it would increase the number of seats on its US-bound flights by 4 percent this year.
More than 10 years ago, Taiwanese made more than 600,000 visits to the US annually.
However, the number has been declining since the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the US because of a combination of negative factors, such as stricter US visa regulations and higher fuel costs, travel industry executives said.
The annual number of US-bound visits still exceeded 500,000 between 2004 and 2008, but the figure has fallen below the 500,000 mark in the wake of the global financial crunch.
The number saw a rebound last year, with the figure reaching 440,000 in the first 11 months of the year, or a nearly 20 percent year-on-year increase.