Tue, Feb 19, 2013 - Page 5 News List

Cross-strait flight frequency to rise

DIRECT FLIGHTS:China is set to open eight additional destinations near remote inland cities to direct flights from Taiwan, while Taiwan will add one — Chiayi

Staff writer, with CNA

The number of weekly direct cross-strait flights is likely to increase this year, from the current 558 to more than 600, amid expanding cross-strait travel, industry sources said.

Under an agreement reached at the end of last year, Taiwan and China can raise the number of weekly direct flights to 616 on expectations that more people will travel across the Taiwan Strait.

This year, China is to open eight more destinations to direct flights from Taiwan, bringing the total to 49.

Meanwhile, Taiwan is to add one more destination to its list of direct flights from China, making a total of 10.

The eight new Chinese destinations would be near remote inland cities such as Yinchuan in the Ningxia autonomous region, Huhehaote in Inner Mongolia, Urumqi in the Xinjiang autonomous region, Zhangjiajie in Hunan Province and Xining in Qinghai Province, Civil Aeronautics Administration officials said.

The new destination in Taiwan would be Chiayi.

Taiwan and China have agreed to each provide three weekly flights to the new destinations on each side, the officials said.

As to when the number of flights will increase, the officials said it would depend on the carriers.

China Airlines, EVA Airways and TransAsia Airways said they were studying the feasibility of launching flights to the eight new Chinese destinations.

Considering that the eight new destinations are usually bitterly cold in winter, it might be more viable to operate charter flight services to those areas only during warmer periods, the three airlines said.

Flights between Taiwan and some first-tier Chinese cities such as Shanghai, Beijing, Nanjing, Shenzhen and Guangzhou remain the most profitable routes for carriers.

Far Eastern Air Transport, a Taiwanese medium-sized international carrier, operated charter flights to Yinchuan and Huhehaote during the Lunar New Year holiday to give Chinese visitors a chance to experience the New Year atmosphere in Taiwan.

The target of 616 weekly flights this year is more than five times the number recorded in the first year after Taiwan lifted a ban on direct cross-strait flights in December 2008, which is a reflection of the sharp growth of travel across the Taiwan Strait.

Last year, about 2.2 million Chinese visited Taiwan, compared with 1.78 million in 2011, government statistics show.

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