Aviation officials defend higher fares to Penghu Islands

Staff writer, with CNA

Sat, Jan 05, 2013 - Page 4

Increases in airfares to the Penghu Islands are necessary because airlines are losing money on the route, an aviation official said yesterday in response to complaints about the proposed hike.

Chinese Nationalist Party (KMT) Legislator Tsai Chin-lung (蔡錦隆) called a press conference to say that the fares to the outlying islands, which have remained unchanged for eight years, should not go up because of the recent decline in international crude oil prices.

Any increase in the round-trip airfare to Penghu, which currently costs about NT$3,500, will “make Penghu residents suffer more,” Tsai said at the press conference.

Flights between Taipei and Magong take about 50 minutes.

Chen Tien-tsyh (陳天賜), deputy director-general of the Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA), responded at the press conference that carriers had to think about their operating conditions and adjust ticket prices to cut their losses.

The CAA has promised ticket prices will not rise ahead of the Lunar New Year, which falls on Feb. 10 this year.

Meanwhile, Tsai said he had received complaints about online ticketing systems used to book flights to the islands. Travelers have told him that the system requires them to pay before they can even put their names on a waiting list, and if they want to withdraw from the waiting list, they are then asked to pay a processing fee, Tsai said.

However, Chen was skeptical of the claim, saying it was unlikely that travelers would have to purchase tickets unless their seats were guaranteed. He said payment implies that a transaction is successful and only after are cancellation fees charged.

Many residents of outlying islands have expressed satisfaction with the online booking system, Chen said, and the CAA is considering raising the proportion of seats made available online.

At present, 60 percent of all seats are booked on the Internet and 40 percent of bookings are made by telephone.