Sat, Feb 23, 2019 - Page 4 News List

International flights rise by 6%: CAA

TRANSIT HUB:While there was a slight drop last year in the average number of weekly flights to Hong Kong, Macau and the US, weekly flights to other countries all increased

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Lights in the shape of Taiwan are reflected in a window at Gate B7 at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport on Feb. 14, as a China Airlines aircraft takes off in the background.

Photo: Chu Pei-hsiung, Taipei Times

The nation’s airports saw an increase of close to 6 percent in international flights last year, with flights to and from nations targeted by the government’s New Southbound Policy rising even more rapidly, the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said on Thursday.

The policy aims to increase cultural and economic exchanges with the 10 ASEAN members, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam, as well as Australia, Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and New Zealand.

The nation’s airports handled about 292,000 flights last year, rising 5.7 percent from 2017, CAA statistics showed.

On average, the nation handled 2,804 international flights per week.

Except for a slight decrease in the average number of weekly flights to Hong Kong, Macau and the US, weekly flights to other destinations all rose last year, including cross-strait flights, which slipped in 2017.

The most significant growth was in the number of flights to and from ASEAN states, Australia and New Zealand, CAA statistics showed.

The average number of weekly flights grew 12 percent to 608, with the total number of travelers reaching 12.48 million. The top five sources of tourists were Vietnam, Thailand, the Philippines, Australia and Singapore.

The agency attributed the increases to several factors, including Air New Zealand resuming flights between Taipei and Auckland in November last year and weekly flights to Australia jumping from 17 to 29 after a new aviation pact between the two nations took effect in December 2016.

Tourists from the New Southbound Policy-targeted nations grew 14 percent to 2.6 million last year, thanks to a visa program targeting those nations, as well as tourism campaigns by the Tourism Bureau.

China Airlines and EVA Air carried more transit passengers from Southeast Asian nations last year, the CAA said.

EVA, in particular, has focused on expanding the market for passengers flying from Southeast Asian nations to North America via Taiwan as one of its key business objectives, with its transit passenger numbers increasing by 5 percent.

China Airlines’ number of transit passengers rose by 3 percent.

New flight services launched by low-cost carriers also helped bring in more travelers from the New Southbound Policy nations, the CAA said.

Passengers flying in via budget airlines rose 24 percent to 3.66 million, it added.

The nation’s two largest airlines have also been gradually increasing their flights to and from Australia and New Zealand over the past few years. Last year, the two carriers carried about 520,000 passengers on their Taiwan-Australia route, up 34 percent from 2017.

Taiwan would lose all major flight services if it does not use its geographic advantage to develop the nation into an important hub for transit flights, CAA Director-General Lin Kuo-hsien (林國顯) said, citing competition from hubs such as Japan, South Korea, Singapore and Bangkok.

China Airlines and EVA play a critical role in providing long-haul flights or Taiwanese passengers would have to change flights in other hubs, Lin said.

That carriers such as Air Canada and Air France have resumed direct flights to and from Taiwan is good for Taiwanese travelers, as it has helped lower ticket prices, Lin said.

Taiwanese carriers might lose some long-haul passengers after the US Federal Aviation Administration granted Vietnam a Category 1 rating on Friday last week, which means airlines in Vietnam can fly directly to the US, Lin said.

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