Mainland Chinese carriers will be allowed to reduce their fares to Taiwan by as much as 10 to 15 percent and many more flights to the island will be encouraged, according to a senior Chinese official quoted by Taiwan-based newspapers.
Li Jiaxiang, director of the Civil Aviation Administration (CAA) of China, said that even the addition of 40 more weekly flights would not be enough to meet demand for cross-Strait travel.
Currently there are 380 cross-Strait flights per week and existing agreements between mainland China and Taiwan allow for this to rise to 420 per week.
Li did not say when the price cut will take effect. However, earlier this month three Taiwan-based carriers China Airlines, Eva Airways and TransAsia agreed to cut cross-Strait fares by between 10 and 30 per cent in July. A typical return economy class ticket bought online for flights in July from Beijing to Taipei costs US$453 on Air China and US$695 on Eva Air.
China plans to build four more airports in the next four years on the western coastal area of the Taiwan Strait, known as the Haixi area, mainly to serve cross-Strait flights.
In 2009, China created the “Haixi Special Economic Zone”, comprising Fujian Province and parts of the neighbouring provinces of Guangxi, Zejiang, Jiangxi and Guangdong, to strengthen economic links with Taiwan.
Until a couple of years ago there were no direct flights between the Mainland and Taiwan, resulting in a boom for Cathay Pacific/Dragonai, which carried much of the traffic by transiting passengers through Hongkong, the carrier’s home base. When flights were first permitted they were still forced to fly via other airspace, usually Hongkong or Macau, adding hours to the journey.
However, a thaw in political relations led to aviation agreements in 2008 that have seen direct flights between several cities in the Mainland and Taiwan mushroom.
Last year, 5.4 million people travelled between mainland China and Taiwan. It is estimated that there are 50,000 Taiwanese-owned businesses on the Mainland and around 1 million Taiwanese working there.