Sun, Aug 04, 2013 - Page 3 News List

Kinmen residents protest planned flight price hikes

‘WANT TO GO HOME’:Protesters said they fear airlines are passing the costs of maintaining old aircraft on to consumers and that subsidies will breed resentment

By Lee I-chia  /  Staff reporter

Residents of Taiwan’s outlying islands gather in front of the Ministry of Transportation and Communications yesterday to protest against the planned increase in ticket prices that is to take effect on Jan. 1 next year.

Photo: CNA

Calling out slogans such as “Want to go home, want to have plane tickets,” hundreds of people from the nation’s outlying islands staged a demonstration in Taipei yesterday afternoon, protesting against the Ministry of Transportation and Communications’ (MOTC) approval of increases in domestic flight ticket prices by between 4 and 21 percent.

The crowd gathered in front of the Legislative Yuan and marched through the streets, passing by the Presidential Office to the building housing the ministry, where they handed their petition to officials.

“I have been flying to and from Kinmen and Taiwan on a weekly basis — working in Taiwan on weekdays and going back to my family in Kinmen every weekend — for the past ten or more years,” a man surnamed Chen (陳) said. “If the price rises by about 20 percent, then I would have to spend about an additional NT$3,000 each month.”

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) should ask the airlines to improve their services and the quality of their planes, he said.

“The planes on this route are usually old and the increase in price may be a result of higher maintenance costs, so we refuse to allow the CAA and airlines to transfer this cost to the consumers,” Chen added.

A woman surnamed Huang (黃), with her two small children holding protest signs, said plane tickets for her family of four to return to Kinmen are already expensive — more than NT$4,000 for a return adult ticket — and the tickets are hard to purchase on holidays, needing to be reserved about two months in advance.

Unhappy about only being greeted by the ministry’s Department of Aviation and Navigation Deputy Director-General Chen Chin-sheng (陳進生), who said only that he would hand their petition to higher-ranking officials, the crowd sounded air-horns and shouted. Representatives were later invited inside for a talk.

During the negotiation, the organizer of the demonstration, Chinese Association for Public Affairs of Kinmenese in Taiwan chairperson Huang Bing-chung (黃炳中) said they want the ministry to clearly explain the reason for the price rise by making the actual operating and fuel costs public.

Although the ministry has said that it would subsidize the additional ticket costs for residents of outlying islands, Chen said the protesters demand a reasonable pricing mechanism, for fear they would be resented by the public for benefiting from government subsidies.

Chen Chin-sheng promised to reflect the protesters’ opinions to relevant officials to find the best solution.

While representatives returned to the crowd and asked the protesters to give the ministry one more chance, some remained dissatisfied, saying they would stage more heated protests if their demands were not met.

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