Thu, Feb 15, 2018 - Page 3 News List

Ticket shortage rumors untrue: officials

By Chung Li-hua, Lee Hsin-fang, Chen Yi-chia and Jonathan Chin  /  Staff reporters, with staff writer

Before planned protests by students against the high cost and shortage of tickets for cross-strait flights, officials and airlines on Tuesday said rumors have exaggerated a situation caused by China.

Rising prices and ticket scarcity have been linked to a dispute between Taiwan and China over the Beijing’s unilateral activation of the northbound M503 flight route and its extension lines.

A source in the airline industry said on condition of anonymity that the protesters’ demand for compensation by the government to cover their losses was “misdirected.”

“They should protest the issue with China, not the Taiwanese government,” the source said.

Chinese airlines have more than doubled airfare to about NT$30,000, which is in line with their practice of hiking prices when demand is high, the source added.

Taiwanese carriers have kept their fares at less than NT$15,000, because they are obliged to follow the Civil Aeronautics Administration’s price controls, the source said.

Taiwanese airlines have urged their Chinese counterparts to maintain prices at a reasonable level during the Lunar New Year holiday, but they have not been receptive to such concerns, the source added.

As Beijing has a controlling interest in most Chinese airlines, the situation is likely the result of a Chinese strategy to undermine confidence in the Taiwanese government, the source said.

The agency on Tuesday said tickets were available for China Eastern Airlines and XiamenAir flights from the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Nanjing, Wuxi, Hangzhou, Hefei, Changsha, Fuzhou and Xiamen, adding that the Straits Exchange Foundation was ready to assist any Taiwanese traveler in need of tickets.

It also reminded Taiwanese airlines that they have an obligation to comply with government price controls, and called on Chinese carriers to refrain from hiking prices and take into consideration the travel needs of Taiwanese businesspeople and students.

Rumors of a lack of seats have harmed cross-strait goodwill and confused Taiwanese business travelers, Executive Yuan spokesman Hsu Kuo-yung (徐國勇) said.

Although China Eastern Airlines and XiamenAir have canceled additional flights from the eight cities, those scheduled before the holiday would be unaffected, the Mainland Affairs Council said.

Taiwanese business associations in the eight affected cities had reported very few requests for help, indicating that the problem is not severe, the council said.

Most Taiwanese students in China returned home last month during the winter break, and the Straits Exchange Foundation has already assisted the minority who opted to travel during the holiday, it added.

“Reports of Taiwanese students being unable to obtain tickets to fly home are likely baseless rumors,” the council said.

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