Airlines urge increase in cross-strait direct flights

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Tue, Jun 18, 2013 - Page 3

Taiwan and China should increase the number of cross-strait direct flights and allow Chinese passengers to transit via Taiwan to other countries, the nation’s airlines said yesterday.

Taipei Airlines Association (TAA) chairman Sun Hung-hsiang (孫洪祥), who is also the chairman of China Airlines (CAL), said at a cross-strait aviation exchange forum that the cross-strait service has been growing rapidly ever since regular direct flights become available.

He said that both sides dispatch a total of 616 cross-strait flights per week, with cross-strait flight service available in 10 airports in Taiwan and 54 airports in China.

However, Sun said there were still fewer direct cross-strait flights than direct flights to China from Hong Kong or South Korea.

Sun said the number of passengers boarding cross-strait direct flights was growing at 2 percent per year, which accounts for about 55 percent of cross-strait travelers per year. This means 45 percent of travelers still travel to China via a third country.

Sun added that Chinese traveling overseas can transit via Hong Kong, South Korea or Japan.

China should allow its citizens to transit in Taiwan as well, he said.

Speaking on behalf of Taiwanese carriers, Sun said that flight and cabin crews for Taiwanese carriers should follow the same procedures in passing through customs as those from other countries, adding that the same principle should be applied in issuing airworthiness certificates for aircraft.

He urged China to open its northern aviation route to Europe-bound flights from Taiwanese carriers, which would greatly shorten their flight time.

The seminar, which opened in Taipei yesterday, was held by the TAA and China’s Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council.

Civil Aeronautics Administration Deputy Director Lee Wan-li (李萬里), Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council director Pu Zhaozhou (浦照洲) and Civil Aviation Administration of China Deputy Director Xia Xing-hua (夏興華) also attended the seminar.

To facilitate further development of the cross-strait flight service, Xia said that flight carriers in Taiwan and China could arrange their flights more flexibly if the market were more open.

Meanwhile, he said that there should not be any cap on the number of carriers operating cross-strait flights.

Xia said that both sides should strive to have straighter air routes for cross-strait direct flights, including allowing Taiwanese carriers to fly to Europe via Chinese airspace.

He added that Taiwanese carriers should be able to have aircraft maintenance facilities in China, which could include Chinese carriers as co-investors.

Cross-strait flight services were launched in 2003, when Taiwanese carriers offered one-way charter flights from Shanghai for Taiwanese in China during the Lunar New Year holiday. The charter flight service was further expanded to two-way Lunar New Year charter flights in 2005.

The weekend cross-strait charter flights became available in July 2008. In December of the same year, both Taiwanese and Chinese flights started to fly on the designated routes for direct flights.

Regular cross-strait direct flights were officially launched in 2009.