Thu, Feb 01, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Lawmakers rebut criticism over flight cancelations

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

Emphasizing aviation safety, lawmakers across party lines yesterday countered criticism by two Chinese airlines over the government’s refusal to approve flights along the controversial M503 and three extension air routes unilaterally launched by China last month.

China Eastern Airlines and XiamenAir on Tuesday canceled their requests for 176 additional cross-strait flights over the Lunar New Year holiday.

“To meet the demand of passengers traveling between China and Taiwan during the holiday, we arranged 106 additional flights, but they were rejected by Taiwan’s civil aviation authority,” China Eastern Airlines said in a statement.

“To avoid causing passengers — particularly Taiwanese businesspeople returning home for the holiday — serious and irreparable losses, we are left with no choice but to cancel the additional flights,” it said.

Since direct air links were established in 2003, Taiwan and China have been “as close as one family whose bond is unshaken by storms or rain,” it said, adding that it condemns the unilateral decision by the “Taiwanese side” that is expected to affect 40,000 passengers.

XiamenAir on Tuesday said that it “cannot wait forever for the response from responsible Taiwanese agencies,” and would be forced to pull all 70 additional flights it had arranged for the holiday.

“The Taiwanese side’s disregard of the need for people on both sides of the Taiwan Strait to travel is using their rights as bargaining chips,” XiamenAir said, adding that the cancelation of its additional flights would affect about 10,000 passengers.

Taiwan’s refusal to sign off on the additional flights “run counter to public sentiment and seriously hurt the feelings of people on both sides of the Strait,” it said.

“I sympathize with the two airlines for not being able to tell the truth under China’s political system. They could only talk the Chinese Communist Party’s talk,” Democratic Progressive Party (DPP) Legislator Wang Ding-yu (王定宇) said.

The airlines should put the incident into perspective, as it was China that breached an agreement it signed with Taiwan in 2015 and, in a blatant disregard for aviation safety, launched the four air routes, two of which are close to existing W6 and W8 air routes, Wang said.

“To these kinds of statements that could not tell right from wrong and whose sole function is to serve as a mouthpiece for China, we can only respond with a laugh,” he said.

Citing data compiled by the Mainland Affairs Council, Wang said the number of total additional flights were down by just one compared with last year’s Lunar New Year holiday, after the council took measures to alleviate the impact of not using the M503 route.

There are still plenty of unbooked seats on approved flights, Wang added.

The Chinese airlines’ requests were rejected because they pose risks to aviation safety, which is a consequence of China’s one-sided action, New Power Party caucus convener Hsu Yung-ming (徐永明) said, adding that this is what really “hurts the feelings” of people on both sides of the Strait.

Taiwanese agencies should provide the two airlines with incentives to encourage them not to use the disputed air routes — for example by allowing them to add more flights between Taiwan and Hong Kong, one of the most lucrative routes in the Strait, throughout the year, he said.

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