Fri, Feb 02, 2018 - Page 3 News List

SEF launches hotlines to get people home for New Year

By Sean Lin  /  Staff reporter

The Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) yesterday launched two hotlines to help secure flight and boat tickets for Taiwanese planning to return home from China for the Lunar New Year holiday, amid a reduced number of flights during the period due to an unresolved controversy over Chinese flight routes through the Taiwan Strait.

Taiwanese planning their trip home for the holiday can make inquiries by calling 02-25337995, while a hotline for emergency services has also been made available at 02-25339995, the foundation said.

The first hotline is tasked with responding to general inquiries, while people seeking assistance by using the second hotline will be asked to provide their contact information, with their requests forwarded to a call center jointly established by four Taiwanese travel agencies, it said.

The emergency services hotline would also provide alternative traveling routes and means of transportation through nearby cities upon request, it added.

The foundation said it has contacted Taiwanese airlines, including Mandarin Airlines, Uni Air, and Far Eastern Air Transport, among others, asking them to schedule additional flights along the “small three links” to meet the yearly spike in demand for passenger transport over the holiday.

The foundation also reiterated that it was not shutting the nation’s door to Chinese airlines, as criticism from China-based Taiwanese businesspeople mounted after China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air on Tuesday retracted their applications for 176 additional flights during the holiday, after the government put approval for the flights on hold in protest against China’s unilateral activation of four aviation routes on Jan. 4

The four routes include the northbound M503 route and extension routes W121, W122 and W123.

The foundation said it hoped people would understand that the government’s decision against approving the flights was made “with an eye on the big picture.”

The two airlines were adamant about using M503 and the three extension routes despite the Civil Aeronautics Administration’s repeated efforts to reason with them and persuade them not to use the routes, it said.

The northbound M503 route is 11.1km closer to the Taiwan Strait median line than the southbound M503 route, making civil aircraft headed for international destinations prone to entering Taiwan’s air space in the event of a technical difficulty or poor weather and putting aviation safety at risk, it said.

The W122 and W123 extension routes interweave with the existing W2, W6 and W8 routes, dramatically increasing risks to aviation safety and threatening the lives of passengers travelling between Kinmen, Mastu and Taiwan proper, it said.

As aviation safety is an issue that allows zero compromise, the reason for the flights’ cancelation should be obvious, as should the party that should be held accountable, the foundation said.

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