The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) said yesterday that it was planning to switch the functions of the first and second terminals of Taipei’s Songshan Airport as it had become more than just a domestic airport.
The airport has seen a decline in the number of of domestic flight passengers since the high-speed rail became operational two years ago, but at the same time it has started to see an increase in international passengers from China because of the start of cross-strait charter flights.
Passengers from China now have to disembark at the first terminal and cross a hallway to the second terminal where they then pass through customs and inspection.
CAA Director-General Lee Lung-wen (李龍文) said that Songshan was now positioned as an airport serving mainly passengers arriving for business.
Those coming for tourism mostly land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, he said.
Lee said that the international arrivals hall would be relocated from the second terminal to the west side of the first terminal by the end of the year.
The inspection, customs and quarantine (ICQ) area in the second terminal would be torn down and remodeled to become the domestic flight terminal, he said.
Lee added that the construction was scheduled to be completed in either August or September next year.
The CAA, on the other hand, is planning to start remodeling the first terminal in October next year, work that is scheduled to be completed by August 2010.
Lee said that the runway at Songshan currently has a capacity to handle 36 departing and arriving flights per hour.
Between 1997 and 1998, the airport handled a total of 500 domestic flights a day.
However, Lee said that it did not mean the airport could take that many international flights a day because the terminals and other infrastructure at the airport remained limited.
The check-in time needed for domestic and international flights was different as well.
International flights use bigger aircraft like the Airbus 330 that can accommodate more than 200 passengers, he said.
Lee said the number of international flights would be capped at between 20 and 30.
All international transit flights would land at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, he said.
Lee said the airport would take flights between two cities only, adding that airlines flying to Songshan may be asked to pay higher aircraft departure and landing fees.
Lee said the airport may offer international flights to cities in China and other countries in northeast and southeast Asia, adding that the bureau was working to secure flights to Japan’s Haneda International, South Korea’s Gimpo and Shanghai’s Hongqiao airports.
“All these airports have one thing in common: They are all inner city airports,” Lee said.
Meanwhile, as the Taipei MRT’s Neihu Line, scheduled for completion in June, will also stop at the airport, the CAA notified the Taipei City Government to take heed of the change in the status of the airport.
In related news, China’s Cross-Strait Tourism Exchange Association said on Monday that the number of Chinese travel agencies handling tour groups to Taiwan had increased from 33 to 146. The Chinese government now allows residents of 25 provinces to visit Taiwan.