Air deal to transform Mainland-Taiwan travel

5 Nov 2008

Air travel between the island of Taiwan and mainland China is to be
transformed with a new deal agreed between Beijing and Taipei.

agreement, signed in Taipei yesterday, will see direct passenger
flights treble to 108 per week and will now raise the number of
mainland cities linked to Taiwan from five to 21.

The charter
flights will be able to be run daily instead of just four days out of
seven as they are at the moment and they will no longer have to fly
detours through Hongkong or Macau airspace. The deal also opens up
routes for private business jets.

Following the end of the
Chinese Civil War between the Communists and Guomindang in 1949, direct
air travel was suspended between the Guomindang-controlled island and
Communist-run mainland.

Growing trade and business links meant
that business travellers between Taiwan and the mainland had to fly
indirect routes via stopovers in third destinations, often Hongkong,
resulting in longer and more expensive journeys.

Analysts say
that Taiwan’s China Airlines and Eva Airways and mainland China’s China
Eastern will benefit the most from fully direct flights.

There are an estimated 1.5 million Taiwanese working and doing business in mainland China.

carriers Cathay Pacific and sister airline Dragonair are expected to
see a drop in passenger numbers and revenue. Cathay’s Taiwan routes account for about 8 percent to
10 percent of its revenue.

Cathay Pacific corporate communications manager Carolyn Leung said:
“It is a bit too early for us to comment on the agreement. We shall
have to wait for more implementation details. So far, the impact from
the existing 18 weekend charter flights is minimal as Cathay Pacific
operates 15 to 16 daily flights to Taipei. There are no plans to reduce
our flights to Taipei at this stage.

“The impact on Cathay Pacific will depend on the pace of introducing
‘scheduled’ direct flights and the number of city pairs to be served. As cross-Strait traffic grows, the triangular Mainland-Hongkong-Taiwan
traffic will also grow with the role of Hongkong as the centre for
trade, commerce and finance gaining further importance,” she said.

Kenny Coyle

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