Representatives of the nation’s airlines and the travel industry yesterday expressed high hopes for the upcoming meeting between Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) Chairman Chiang Pin-kung (江丙坤) and his Chinese counterpart, Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) Chairman Chen Yunlin (陳雲林), hoping that they would address urgent issues and make substantial changes to cross-strait charter flight services.
Travel Agent Association chairman Yao Ta-kuan (姚大光) said yesterday that the number of charter flights could be increased to at least 200 per week.
The meeting could also help add five more Chinese airports to the list of those eligible for charter flights, he said.
Yao said China only allows residents from 13 provinces to visit Taiwan and only 33 travel agencies in China are authorized to arrange tour groups. He said he hoped these numbers would be at least doubled following the meeting.
Tony Su (蘇宏義), chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association, said on Thursday that both sides had agreed during the first meeting in June that airline companies could start setting up offices on either side of the strait. However, Taiwanese airlines still cannot operate offices in China because the Mainland Affairs Council (MAC) has yet to stipulate guidelines that legalize such business operations in China, he said.
Su said the safety of cross-strait charter flights was another critical issue.
“In China, our aircraft can only take off after a technical professional, whose qualifications have been certified by Taiwan’s Civil Aeronautics Administration [CAA], signs off the plane,” Su said. “Other skilled workers and replacement parts also need to be certified. Likewise, our maintenance crews cannot touch any of the aircraft from China if our technical personnel and the components have not been certified by the Chinese aviation authority.”
These certification mechanisms have yet to be established, so, aside from the passengers and cabin crews, each charter flight also has to carry its own technical crew.
While the two sides have reached a consensus to move from weekend-only charter flights to daily charter flights, Su said the number of Chinese tourists would also have to grow simultaneously.
“There must be a real increase in the numbers of Chinese tourists and that increase cannot be just those who used to take transit flights via Hong Kong and Macau,” he said.
Rather than assigning an airline to fly a certain route, the government should allow airlines to choose whichever route they wish as long as they provide at least one flight per day on that route, he said.
Su suggested there should be at least 84 flights a week when daily charter flights are implemented.
Meanwhile, Minister of Transportation and Communications Mao Chi-kuo (毛治國) said on Thursday that the ministry is aiming to have an average of 1,000 Chinese tourists arriving daily by the end of the year.
Tourism Bureau Director General Janice Lai (賴瑟珍) said that 3,000 tourists a day — one of President Ma Ying-jeou’s (馬英九) campaign pledges — was the maximum number of Chinese tourists that can be accepted per day, not necessarily the number that will arrive.
Mao indicated that more Chinese airports would be available for cross-strait charter flights following the meeting.
Yesterday, Mao said the results of a survey conducted by the CAA last month showed that about 75 percent of Taiwanese entrepreneurs in China said expanding cross-strait charter flights would make them consider returning to invest in Taiwan.
While approximately 54 percent said that they would continue to live in China if daily charter flights become a reality, about 43 percent said they would like to move back to Taiwan.
“It will be interesting to know if the so-called ‘one-day living circle’ will actually be formed,” he said.
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