Transport minister says terminal is not a priority

CHINESE PASSENGERS::The most pressing issue for the airport was to be able to cater for Chinese transit passengers, although Beijing officials oppose the idea

By Shelley Shan  /  Staff reporter

Wed, Dec 18, 2013 - Page 4

Minister of Transportation and Communications Yeh Kuang-shih (葉匡時) said yesterday the nation does not have any plan to build a terminal specifically for the use of low-cost carriers, adding that allowing Chinese passengers to transit through Taiwan is a more urgent issue facing the nation’s largest international airport.

The nation is now home to 15 budget carriers, including Tigerair Taiwan formed on Monday and one established by Taipei-based TransAsia Airways.

The Taoyuan International Airport Corp had considered remodeling a building at the airport previously used by the Grand Hotel’s flight catering service and turning it into a low-cost carrier terminal, but it eventually abandoned the proposal.

Yeh said that as a way to save on costs, budget carriers generally do not invest much in check-in facilities, and that passengers lining up for low-cost carriers’ flights may disrupt the operations of other non-budget airlines.

Yeh said he would leave it to the airport company to decide if the budget airlines should be moved to a specific section in the terminals.

Yeh added that it is unnecessary to lower aircraft landing fees for budget airlines or provide other incentives to attract more low-cost carriers to Taiwan.

“The most important thing to do now is work out a way to allow Chinese passengers to transit through Taiwan,” he said. “Other than this, there is not much of an incentive we can offer to attract [budget airlines].”

The Civil Aeronautics Administration (CAA) has been pushing over the past two years for China to allow its citizens to transit in Taiwan when flying overseas — as they do in Hong Kong, South Korea and Japan. However, China has refused to negotiate over the issue on the grounds that it involves immigration and border control.

Yeh said the nation’s airlines have reacted “a bit too slowly” to the market for budget airlines, adding that the government may have been too protective of the nation’s airline companies in the past.

He said that the introduction of budget airlines, as well as new non-budget carriers, could give Taiwanese airlines a taste of the pressure of competition, adding that the CAA is studying different incentives to lure other international airlines to Taiwan.

Aside from reducing aircraft landing fees, Yeh said the CAA is evaluating incentives such as offering airlines the exclusive right to operate certain routes over a set number of years, or encouraging airlines to land at the Greater Taichung or Greater Kaohsiung airports instead.

In other developments, the CAA said that people can start booking additional cross-strait flights for the Lunar New Year holiday online on Friday, adding that the ticket price of the red-eye flights would not exceed 60 percent of a standard ticket’s price.

The agency said that 124 additional cross-strait flights would be provided by the nation’s airlines from Jan. 17 to Feb. 14, including 70 flights to Shanghai, two flights to Beijing, nine flights to Guangzhou, four to Shenzhen, two to Hangzhou and 37 to other cities.

Chinese airlines would also provide a total of 321 additional cross-strait flights.