Chen Yunlin (R), chairman of Chinese
mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), and
Chiang Pin-kun, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation
(SEF), shake hands after signing the agreements on cross-Strait weekend
charted flights and mainland tourists' traveling to Taiwan, in Beijing,
China, June 13, 2008. (Xinhua Photo)
by Xinhua writers Fu Shuangqi, Zuo Yuanfeng
BEIJING, June 13 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese mainland and Taiwan on Friday agreed to begin weekend chartered flights across the Taiwan Strait, over which chartered flights have been operated only at major festivals.
Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), and Chiang Pin-kun, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), signed a minute of talks on weekend chartered flights in Beijing.
The service, scheduled to start from July 4, will include 36 return flights for every weekend, from each Friday to the following Monday, and the number will increase according to demand, the minute said.
The flights would be divided evenly between mainland and Taiwan airlines, it said.
The mainland will first open Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Nanjing to the flights, and will gradually add Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Dalian, Guilin and Shenzhen, and possibly more if needed.
Taiwan will have eight terminals, including Taipei Taoyuan, Taipei Songshan, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Penghu, Hualien, Kinmen and Taitung.
According to the minute, the flights from Taiwan to Shanghai will be restricted to a maximum of nine every weekend and those from the mainland to Taichung to six.
All passengers with legal passes to travel across the Strait can take the flights, the document said.
"The environment is favorable. Now there is a beginning, the next step will follow. We can't expect to reach the final target in one step," said Michael Lo, former chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association (TAA), in an interview with Friday's Beijing News.
The mainland and Taiwan would start discussing direct flights across the Taiwan Straits "as soon as possible" and before that all chartered flights will have to fly over Hong Kong, according to the document.
Also on the agenda would be air traffic control system coordination to facilitate direct flights across the Straits, and the start of regular direct flights, but no timetable has been set.
Through chartered services, airlines across the Straits were testing the demand and collecting information for future regular scheduled flights, said Lo. "The mainland market is huge, but so far Taiwan airlines do not have a full picture. If Taiwan opens its tourism market fully to mainland tourists, they will have more confidence."
He expected a good business future for weekend charter flights due to lower costs and shorter times and said they would affect passenger flow through Hong Kong.
About 80 percent of passengers between Taiwan and the mainland transfer in Hong Kong, but the number might reduce by half due to the weekend services, he said.
However, Hong Kong would still have the advantage of operating flights linking many more mainland cities than terminals for weekend chartered service, he said.
Negotiations on chartered freight flights will be held within three months after the weekend services start, according to the document.
The two sides agreed that airlines will swap representative offices. Taiwan promised to allow mainland airlines to set up offices in the island within six months. Mainland companies are allowed to send staff to prepare for the founding of offices.
Taiwan-based China Airlines has set up six offices in the mainland, according to its official website.
Mainland airlines are also busy preparing for the flights.
According to the mainland-based Air China, the company will select attendants who are able to speak Taiwan's Minnan dialect and crews who have experience doing the cross-Straits chartered flights to serve the flights.
Meals will also be specially prepared to suit the different tastes of people from both sides.
"It's the common wish of residents on both sides of the Straits to realize direct flights. It will benefit the aviation industry on both sides," said Zhang Lan, vice president of Air China.
Liu Shaoyong, board chairman of the Guangzhou-based China Southern, also vowed to select the best planes, most experienced crews and stewards for the flights.
"As passionate participators in the cross-Straits aviation field, we're very happy to see the concrete progress reached between both sides. This is what we've been longing for," said Zhou Chi, board chairman of Shanghai Airlines. "It's a very big, important step."
Hu Jie, vice president of Hainan Airlines, said Hainan and Taiwan have many things in common in terms of economic development and hoped that the company could also fly weekend charter flights.
Efforts would be made to simplify entry-exit and custom procedures for passengers and cargo, the document said, and the two sides will continue charter flights during festivals.
The two sides started chartered flight service for the Spring Festival, a major event for Chinese family reunions, in 2003.
Since 2006, the service has been expanded to three other major Chinese festivals: the Qingming (Tomb Sweeping) Festival, the Dragon Boat Festival and the Mid-Autumn Festival.
The mainland-based Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council and TAA were entrusted to discuss and implement details of the agreement, which will take effect from June 20.
Mainland, Taiwan organizations hold first talks in 9
BEIJING, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The chairmen of the Chinese
mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS) and the
Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF) on Thursday convened their first
talks in nine years.
ARATS chairman Chen Yunlin and SEF chairman Chiang Pin-kun
started their talks at around 9 a.m. in Beijing. Full story
Mainland, Taiwan sit together for
weekend chartered flights
BEIJING, June 12 (Xinhua) -- The Chinese mainland and Taiwan began negotiations
on weekend chartered flights here Thursday five years after the service was
adopted for major festivals.
Sun Yafu and Li Bingcai, vice chairmen of the
mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS),
discussed the issue with Kao Koong-lian, vice chairman and secretary-general of
Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF). Full story