Taiwanese students who study in China plan to stage a protest at the Ministry of Transportation and Communications in Taipei today for turning down requests from two Chinese airlines for additional flights, making it difficult for them to come home for the Lunar New Year holiday.
The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) last month rejected applications from Xiamen Air and China Eastern Airlines to offer additional flights for the holiday on the grounds that they have been using the northbound M503 flight route — which China unilaterally launched — despite repeated warnings.
Without prior negotiation, air traffic controllers will not know how to guide flights in emergency situations, the CAA said.
The airlines eventually withdrew their applications, saying that they could not keep waiting for approval.
Chiu Rong-li (邱榮利), head of the China-based Taiwan Students Solidarity Headquarters, said the group would protest the difficulties the students experienced when coming home this year in front of the ministry and the Presidential Office Building.
Many Taiwanese who study in China had to rebook their flights, because the government did not approve the requests for additional flights, Chiu said, adding that they could have bought tickets at 3,000 yuan (US$473), but the price has now jumped to between 4,000 yuan and 5,000 yuan.
Some had to buy business-class tickets because they could not find economy-class tickets, while others chose not to return to avoid the trouble, Chiu said.
The students would file claims for compensation from the government, as it caused them to pay extra for tickets, he said.
“The government should no longer use national security as an excuse for their actions,” he said.
In response, the CAA issued a statement saying that the two airlines still have tickets left in the eight Chinese cities that would have added flights: Shanghai, Wuxi, Nanjing and Hefei on China Eastern Airlines, and Xiamen, Fuzhou, Hangzhou and Changsha on Xiamen Air.
“We believe that the students who returned to Taiwan over the past few weeks know perfectly well that there are still empty seats on the weekly scheduled flights to and from these cities, despite the cancelation of the additional flights,” the agency said.
The CAA also said it has been monitoring ticket prices, which have a price cap, and that no Taiwanese carriers have raised prices.
Even though the CAA does not have jurisdiction over Chinese carriers, it also called on them to refrain from raising prices.
“We want to remind them they have pledged on multiple occasions that they would care for Taiwanese businesspeople and students in China, so they should not exploit the chance to reap profits,” it said.
The agency urged people to book tickets before they sell out and said they can call the Straits Exchange Foundation at (02) 2533-7995 for assistance.
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