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Old January 16th, 2006, 06:22 AM   #201
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CHINA WATCH: Taiwan Airlines Awaiting The Missing Link
15 January 2006
By Alex Pevzner
A Dow Jones Newswires Column

TAIPEI (Dow Jones)--Flying nonstop direct to China for a few weeks a year may not seem like a big deal, but for Taiwan's airlines, they hold out the hope for a greater prize: direct charter cargo flights.

"Charter cargo flights are our dream, enabling us to move goods directly from China to anywhere in the world," said Johnson Sun, spokesman for China Airlines Ltd. (2610.TW), Taiwan's largest airline by fleet and revenue.

However, politics is preventing China Airlines and other Taiwan airlines from realizing that dream.

"It's not complicated technically, but implementing it hinges on politics," said K.W. Nieh, spokesman for EVA Airways Corp. (2618.TW), Taiwan's second-largest air carrier.

Taiwan and China split after a civil war in 1949 and have had no official contacts since then, despite ballooning trade and investment. China considers Taiwan as part of its territory and has repeatedly warned it would use force if Taiwan formally declares independence.

Despite the constant war of words between leaders of both sides, agreement on direct flights, even for a brief period over the important Lunar New Year, represents a small but important step toward the strengthening of ties.

For years, the two sides have discussed direct links, with the first important move coming in 2003 with the first direct charter flights. Talks failed the following year but direct flights - with some easing of rules - were resumed in 2005.

Under the agreement for this year, six airlines from each side will provide a total of 72 flights between Jan. 20 and Feb. 13, a 25-day period. This is up from 48 flights last year, and raises the number of seats by two thirds to 33,596.

Airlines Just Break Even On CNY Flights - Execs

In addition to China Airlines and EVA, the other four Taiwanese airlines participating in the service are Transasia Airways Corp. (6702.OT), Far Eastern Air Transport Corp. (6702.OT), Mandarin Airlines Ltd., and UNI Airways Corp.

As with last year's charter flights, the aircraft will have to take flight paths that pass through Hong Kong air space, although they won't have to stop at a third destination as is currently required for all flights.

However, for the first time, Taiwan is not restricting the flights to Taiwanese businesspeople and their families.

Airline executives told Dow Jones Newswires, that airlines merely broke even on costs for last year's flights, with average passenger load factors just below regular flights. However, they stressed that the political significance of the services, however, far outweighs any potential benefits to the Taiwanese airlines' earnings.

"The importance of Lunar New Year charter flights is that they establish a set communication pattern between the two sides," said EVA Airways' Nieh.

China Airlines' Sun agrees. "It is important symbolically, because it may signal a further relaxing (in cross Strait links) in the future."

Although a repeat of such flights next year to transport the thousands of Taiwanese working in China is by no means certain, this year's flight arrangements are boosting confidence that they could lead to bigger changes in the more lucrative cargo sector.

"Cargo flights are the most valuable aspect of direct links with the mainland," said Merrill Lynch analyst Paul Dewberry.

Dewberry estimated that just one charter cargo flight daily to Shanghai, and on to the U.S. West Coast, would add an extra net profit of NT$317 million, or NT$0.08 per share, to China Airlines each year, and net NT$276 million, also NT$0.08 per share, to EVA.

Taiwan's airlines are well placed to tap the Chinese air cargo market, which, at 17% since 1990, has been expanding at double the rate of the rest of Asia's, and likely to continue to grow more than 10% in 2006, he said.

Cargo Flights Lucrative

With a combined fleet of 35 freighters, China Airlines and EVA each derive over 45% of their revenue from cargo operations, and rank among the world's top ten of cargo carriers by capacity.

China's four top carriers combined have 30 freighters.

Some analysts are urging Taiwan to move quickly in this area. Otherwise, Taiwan's airlines risk losing competitiveness to other airlines which are able to move cargo directly from China, and hence more cheaply.

In the absence of a long-standing flight agreement, Taiwanese airlines are taking matters into their own hands and are starting to take stakes in Chinese airlines.

Thursday, China Airlines completed its purchase of a 25% stake in Yangzte River Express Airlines, majority owned by China's Hainan Group, which owns Hainan Airlines Co. (600221.SH).

In the meantime, EVA is still in talks with Shanghai Airlines Co. (600591.SH) for an air cargo joint venture.

Both airlines are aiming for a slice of the lucrative eastern China cargo market, as a mere 5% of the annual 2 million metric tons in throughput capacity of Shanghai's Pudong and Hongqiao airports could boost their revenue by an estimated NT$8 billion, according to KGI's Wang

Taiwan and China plan to resume discussions on charter cargo flights after the Lunar New Year charter flights, "which will provide a better atmosphere in which to resume the talks," said Joseph Wu, head of the top Taiwanese China policymaking body, the Cabinet-level Mainland Affairs Council.

However, few are expecting much progress in the near term.

"Beijing is unlikely to give anything that can be seen as a reward for (Taiwan's president) Chen Shui-bian," said Dewberry.

Chen's term ends in 2008, and in the past year, he has been increasingly marginalized by China's leaders' overtures of friendship to opposition leaders favoring closer ties with the mainland. "(Although) direct links make good economic sense, Chen Shui-bian doesn't have a compelling reason to see the links strengthened," said Steve Tsang, director of the Taiwan Studies Program at Oxford University's St. Anthony College

Indeed, China's maneuvers may have only strengthened Chen's resolve to adopt a tougher stance toward the mainland. In his New Year speech, he pledged to push for a new constitution in his last two years in office, despite warnings from China and growing domestic calls for better ties with Beijing.

Donald Zagoria, director of the Cross-Strait Relations project at the National Committee on American Foreign Policy, believes that direct links would increase economic interdependence, further increasing the cost of military conflict, thus making such links less likely to happen.

Despite its overtures toward Taiwan's opposition, China, on its part, may be reluctant to move forward on direct cargo flights as "Taiwanese airlines, with their well-established networks, are a direct threat to China, which wants to develop its own air cargo business," said Dewberry.

Allowing Taiwanese carriers to invest in Chinese airlines is probably the extent to which Beijing will let Taiwan participate in the growing cargo business for now.
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Old January 18th, 2006, 04:06 AM   #202
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Taiwan's China Airlines says cross-strait flights almost fully booked

TAIPEI, Jan 16, 2006 (AFP) - Taiwan's leading air carrier, China Airlines said Monday that said its cross-strait charter passenger flights for the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays have been almost fully booked.

"We will provide 12 round-trip flights totalling 5,903 seats to carry passengers travelling between Taiwan's CKS International Airport and mainland cities including Shanghai and Beijing," a company official said.

"More than 90 percent of the capacity has been reserved; they have almost been fully booked."

He said the airlines' subsidiary Mandarin Airlines will also provide 12 round-trip flights serving Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen.

China Airlines will kick off the charter flights with a flight from Taipei to Shanghai on January 20, he said.

Taipei and Beijing announced on November 18 last year that they had reached agreement on passenger charter flights for the period from January 20 to February 13, 2006 to bring Taiwanese home for the Lunar New Year holidays.

The charter flights will be non-stop but will have to fly via Hong Kong airspace.

Taiwanese and Chinese carriers will be allowed to operate a combined 72 flights for the holiday services this year, compared with 48 flights permitted in 2005.

China and Taiwan last year agreed to chartered flights taking Taiwan businesspeople and their relatives to their home island to celebrate the traditional Chinese New Year.

The flights were hailed as historic because they were non-stop as opposed to earlier flights, which made brief stop-overs in Hong Kong or Macau.

Taiwan normally bans direct transport links with mainland China, only allowing exchanges with stops in third ports, and even the 2005 Lunar New Year flights had to go through Hong Kong airspace, adding to the travel time.

China and Taiwan have been governed separately since the end of a civil war in 1949, but Beijing considers the island part of its territory awaiting reunification, by force if necessary.
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Old January 19th, 2006, 05:55 PM   #203
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Taiwan students on mainland aspire for permanent cross-Straits charter flights

BEIJING, Jan. 19 (Xinhua) -- Students from Taiwan who study on the Chinese mainland have welcomed the decision to allow them access to charter flights to take them home, and aspired that the practice will become permanent.

"Policies on charter flights for the traditional Spring Festival, or lunar new year, grant Taiwan students the right to get aboard. I believe they will continue to improve," said Chen Dongxu, a Taiwanese studying for a doctorate in Shanghai's Fudan university.

For the imminent Spring Festival that falls on Jan. 29, all Taiwanese on the mainland with legal personal documents are allowed to take charter flights back home. Before, these possibilities were limited to Taiwan businessmen and their families.

"Maybe in the short run, there will be charter flights during the Mid Autumn Festival or on Tomb-Sweeping Day. And we'll have charter flights in holidays, on weekends and regular days."

Lin Zhenxu, a Taiwanese student at the management school of elite Fudan University in Shanghai, was happy and contented with the news as he used to spend an entire day getting back to Taipei home, flying via Hong Kong or Macao and changing flights there.

But high air ticket prices may oblige many Taiwan students to drop their plan to take the flights. "The price is a little expensive for students and it's hard to book the ticket as the number of passengers is limited," said Kuang Guoxin, a Beijing University teacher.

Few Taiwan students at the university will take the charter flights, he said, adding that "price is the major factor".

In addition, the Jan. 20 - Feb. 7 flight schedule is much shorter than the students' winter vacation, making the offer less attractive.

According to an agreement reached by the mainland and Taiwan civil aviation authorities, beginning Friday, six Taiwanese airlines and six mainland Chinese airlines will provide a total of 72 round-trip charter flights until Feb. 7.
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Old January 20th, 2006, 07:21 AM   #204
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Non-stop Taiwan-China flights to begin for Lunar New Year

TAIPEI, Jan 19, 2006 (AFP) - Taiwan and China will soon kick off non-stop, cross-strait charter passenger flights for the upcoming Lunar New Year holidays, airline officials said here Thursday.

On Friday, Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) will operate two fully-booked flights between Taipei and Shanghai.

Five other local carriers, including EVA Airways, will also offer non-stop flights connecting Taipei and Kaohsiung in Taiwan with the Chinese cities of Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen until mid-February.

Six mainland airliners will also offer service between China and Taiwan. In total, the 12 companies will operate 72 flights this year, as compared with 48 flights in 2005.

China and Taiwan first agreed to offer the non-stop charter flights for the lunar New Year holidays in 2005, but only to Taiwanese businessmen and their relatives living on the mainland.

The decision was hailed as historic, as earlier charter flights had to make brief stop-overs in Hong Kong or Macau under Taipei's ban on direct transport links with rival China.

This year, all Taiwanese nationals are eligible for the service. The charter flights, although non-stop, will make the trip via Hong Kong airspace.
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Old January 21st, 2006, 03:11 AM   #205
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New Year Chartered Flights Start
By Li Luxia in Shanghai and Zhan Lisheng in Guangzhou
21 January 2006
China Daily

Taiwan's China Airlines charter flight 585 touched down at Shanghai's Pudong Airport at 10:34 am on Friday, signalling the first charter flight across the Taiwan Straits for this year's Spring Festival.

It left on the return trip 2 hours later and arrived at Taipei at 3:08 pm.

This year's charter flights have been expanded to allow all Taiwanese with valid travel documents across the Straits to fly, whereas last year's charters were restricted to mainland-based Taiwan business people and their families.

The non-stop charters are the closest thing to direct flights across the Straits, which Taiwanese authorities have banned since 1949. The planes technically must fly through Hong Kong or Macao air space.

The flight had 310 passengers aboard, though China Airlines officials said they had expected about 200 for the first trip.

"It's more convenient and faster to travel between Taiwan and the mainland," said the first passenger who got off the plane, surnamed Zhang. "The trip took me less than three hours."

A businessman named Yang was impressed by the customs clearance at Pudong Airport.

"It took me only seven minutes to pass through a special channel set for Taiwanese passengers," said Yang, who runs a factory in Kunshan, East China's Jiangsu Province.

According to Dong Guoliang, the head of the mainland office of China Airlines, 12 charter flights are scheduled this year.

The tickets for the first return charter flight were sold out, though the fare was raised because of an increase in the oil price and other factors.

In Guangzhou, China Southern Airlines reports it's ready for this year's first non-stop Spring Festival chartered flight to Taiwan, scheduled for 10 am Wednesday.

Tang Jing'an, who will be the captain of that first chartered flight, said: "All the crew members believe we will make smooth, safe and sound flights."

The company has scheduled six flights to Taiwan and another six back to Guangzhou, capital of South China's Guangdong Province.

According to Si Xianmin, general manager of China Southern, the company will use Boeing 777s for the flights and on each flight there will be two veteran captains and one technician.

Si said entertaining performances will be given during the flights, some of them in the local Taiwanese dialect.

Ground services will range from signs and guidance at Guangzhou's Baiyun Airport, to one-stop services of check-in, luggage consignment and boarding.

This is the third time Spring Festival charter flights have been arranged across the Straits.

Six airlines from each side will operate 72 flights between Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, and Xiamen on the mainland and Taipei and Kaohsiung, Taiwan, until February 13.

In all there will be 72 round-trip flights this year, compared with 48 last year.

More than 300,000 Taiwanese working, studying or living on the mainland go back to the island during Spring Festival.

Industry sources say they expect the number of passengers who choose the charter flights this year to be 50 per cent higher than last year.

Figures provided by the Taiwan Affairs Office under the State Council show that more than 4.3 million residents from Taiwan visited the mainland between January and November last year.

There are about 300,000 Taiwanese living in Shanghai alone.

If the "three direct links" in trade, postal and transport services were established, passenger flow between Taiwan and the mainland would reach 5 million a year, which would bring in 5 billion yuan (US$625 million) in revenue for airlines, Air China President Li Jiaxiang said earlier.

Xinhua and agencies contributed to this story
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Old January 24th, 2006, 07:24 AM   #206
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China Wants Talks On Extension Of Flights To Taiwan
23 January 2006

BEIJING (AP)--China on Tuesday called for talks to make the current holiday-only charter flights to Taiwan year-round in an effort to skirt the self-governing island's 57-year-old ban on direct transport links.

Such flights are now permitted only around the lunar New Year, when tens of thousands of Taiwanese living in China head home for the most important holiday of the year.

Otherwise, travelers must make an extra stop, typically in Hong Kong or Macau, adding considerably to the length of the trip.

Li Weiyi, spokesman for the Cabinet's Taiwan Affairs Office, said Chinese officials have repeatedly urged talks with their Taiwanese counterparts on year-round charters, showing China's "sincerity and good will."

"Responsible officials in Taiwan have also openly expressed their support for joint talks on starting passenger and freight charter flights," Li said at a regularly scheduled news conference.

The annual lunar New Year charters resumed last week, and in all, six Taiwanese and six Chinese carriers will operate 72 round-trip charter flights through Feb. 7. Flights this year were expanded to four Chinese cities with the addition of Xiamen, on the Taiwan Strait directly opposite Taiwan.

They were also open this time to any Taiwanese holding a mainland travel permit. Charters in 2003 and 2005 were limited to Taiwanese living in China. There were no such flights in 2004.

While the New Year flights aren't required to stop en route, they are supposed to fly through Hong Kong airspace during the trip.

The seasonal charters have been enormously popular with Taiwanese living in China, adding momentum to calls for a lifting of the Taiwanese transport ban that dates from the 1949 split between the sides amid civil war.

However, Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, who favors a strong independent identity for the island, has been wary of moves toward closer links with China that increase the island's already heavy economic dependance on the mainland.

Chen's government has the final say over air routes, although aviation talks with China must be held by nominally private industry groups because of Beijing's refusal to recognize Taiwan's government.

Also at Tuesday's news conference, Li denounced a recent call by Chen for stronger government controls over Taiwanese investments in China, now estimated at $100 billion.

The mainland buys an estimated 40% of Taiwanese exports. Without its $58 billion surplus with China, Taiwan would run a trade deficit, Li said.

"The victims of any man-made sabotage or harm to cross-strait trade would be the Taiwanese economy and the Taiwanese people," Li said.
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Old January 24th, 2006, 05:06 PM   #207
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Non-governmental contact on “three direct links” practicable by both sides of Taiwan Straits
24 January 2006
Xinhua's China Economic Information Service

BEIJING, January 24 (CEIS) -- The successful launch of the Spring Festival charter flights across the Taiwan Straits proved the non- governmental organizations on the two sides can directly communicate on the technical and professional issues of the "three direct links" across the Taiwan Straits, the mainland spokesman said.

The non-governmental organizations can reach consensus, make arrangements and implement the relevant consensus reached on the "three direct links", Li Weiyi, spokesman for the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council made the remarks at a regular press conference here Tuesday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao's speech on "three direct links" delivered in Xiamen fully showed the sincerity and good will of the Chinese mainland to promote the early realization of the "three direct links", which were welcomed and supported by the Taiwan compatriots, Li said.

The realization of "three direct links" is Chinese people's own affairs on both sides of the Taiwan Straits and can be discussed by the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Taiwan-based Strait Exchange Foundation (SEF), he said.

"It is well known why the talks between ARARS and SEF could not be resumed," he said.

"We maintain non-governmental organizations can consult on the issues relating to 'three direct links' to promote the early realization of 'three direct links' which the people on the two sides are longing for, he said.

Meanwhile, the administrative officials from the concerned departments can also join in the consultation in the name of non- governmental organization personages, he said.

"The methods of consultation can be as flexible as possible and the ways on solving the problems should be simple and practicable, in addition to simplifying the technical issues," he said.

Li stressed "if the Taiwan authority can take effective measures and lift barriers in consideration of the interests of the Taiwan compatriots and Taiwan's economic development, 'three direct links' across the Straits can be realized smoothly".

On the cross-Straits passenger and cargo charter flights, Li said "we promoted and put forward approaches for the cooperation of cross- Straits civil aviation industry immediately after the 2005 Spring Festival charter flight completed. "

Pu Zhaozhou, vice-president of the mainland-based Cross-Straits Aviation Transport Exchange Council, expressed his hope to start consultation of cargo and passenger charter flights across the Straits as early as possible in his letters to Fan Zhiqiang, president of Taiwan-based Taipei Aviation Transport Industry Council, Li added.

"This proved our sincerity and good will to promote cross-Straits passenger and cargo charter flights," Li said, adding "the Taiwan authority also agreed in public to discuss passenger and cargo charter flights at the same time."

Chinese President Hu Jintao urged the non-governmental organizations across the Straits to hold consultations on the regular passenger and cargo flights and implement consensus reached simultaneously when he visited Taiwan businessmen in Xiamen, southeast China's Fujian province, not long ago.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 07:32 AM   #208
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First charter flight of the year between Beijing and Taipei departs
By CASSIE BIGGS
24 January 2006

BEIJING (AP) - The first direct charter flight of the year between Beijing and Taipei took off from the mainland's capital on Wednesday, part of the annual Lunar New Year charters between the two rivals.

Air China Flight 197 left from Beijing International Airport at 8:46 a.m. (0046 GMT) carrying 100 passengers, including students and businesspeople and their families.

Such direct flights are now permitted only around the Lunar New Year -- or Spring Festival -- when tens of thousands of Taiwanese living in China head home for the most important annual holiday.

Usually travelers must make an extra stop, typically in Hong Kong or Macau, vastly extending the roughly 750 kilometer (470 mile) trip.

Taiwan's ban on direct flights dates from the Chinese civil war, when the two sides split in 1949. Taipei has worried that Chinese bombers and troop planes disguised as airliners might be used to attack the island, 100 miles off the mainland's southern coast.

China still claims the self-ruling island as its territory and has threatened war if Taiwan makes its de facto independence permanent.

But while political ties remain strained, economic relations are thriving and Taiwanese businesses that have invested more than US$100 billion (euro80 billion) on the mainland are lobbying their government to end the ban.

They complain that travel by way of Hong Kong or another third point is too time-consuming and costly.

On Wednesday, flight attendants held up a red banner saying "Welcome to our Taiwanese compatriots who are returning home." They also gave out gift bags containing mascots for the 2008 Beijing Olympics.

The passengers, some dressed in festive red to mark the Lunar New Year, boarded the plane, waving and smiling and joking with each other.

The charters began last week, including some from Shanghai, where an estimated 600,000 Taiwanese live.

In all, six Taiwanese and six Chinese carriers will operate 72 round-trip charter flights through Feb. 7. Flights this year were expanded to four Chinese cities with the addition of Xiamen, on the Taiwan Strait directly opposite Taiwan.

This is the third year that such flights have taken place.

In a possible sign of further warming of ties, flights were open this time to any Taiwanese holding a mainland travel permit. The 2003 and 2005 charters were limited to Taiwanese living in China. There were no such flights in 2004.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 02:58 AM   #209
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Direct Cross-Strait Flights Seen to Offer Fast, Cheap Service

BEIJING, Jan 25 Asia Pulse - Direct cross-Strait flights may become a reality based on the success of charter flights during Spring Festival, Assistant General Manager of the Xiamen Airlines Zhao Dong said yesterday.

"Ticket prices from Xiamen to cities in the Taiwan Province will be cut in half if direct cross-Straits flight is achieved," he told a press conference yesterday in the coastal city of East China's Fujian Province.

Xiamen Airlines will fly from Xiamen to Taipei and Kaohsiung respectively this morning, sources said.

This is the first time Xiamen is a destination for Spring Festival chartered flights across the Taiwan Straits, sources added.

There will be 14 round-trip charter flights by Xiamen Airlines, and four Taiwan air companies will take passengers between Xiamen and cities in Taiwan.

It will take 70 minutes to fly from Xiamen to Kaohsiung, as the flight has to cross Hong Kong in charter flights during Spring Festival.

"The time would be cut to a half hour if airplanes could fly directly between Xiamen and Kaohsiung," Zhao told China Daily.

"Then we will save tens of thousands of yuan per flight and the return ticket price could be considerably cheaper than the current cost of over 2,000 yuan (US$248)," he said.

Zhao predicts that direct flights would promote the development of tourism, industry and commerce relations across the Taiwan Straits.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 07:57 PM   #210
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Taiwan-Xiamen Lunar New Year Direct Charter Flights Kick Off

TAIPEI, Jan 26 Asia Pulse - A TransAsia Airways' Airbus A321 flew from Taipei to Ximen in China's Fujian Province Wednesday morning, marking the start of Taiwan-Xiamen direct charter flights, which are part of the 2006 Lunar New Year direct cross-strait charter flight services.

With 194 passengers aboard, the TransAsia plane departed from Chiang Kai-shek International Airport at 9 a.m. and arrived at Xiamen's Gaoqi Airport at 10:40 a.m.

Nearly 70 percent of the passengers were Taiwan tourists, while some were Fujian women married to Taiwan citizens. When the 194-seat Airbus A321 makes its return flight to Taipei later the same day, all the passengers aboard are expected to be Taiwan people maintaining business operations in China and their relatives.

The TransAsia flight marks the first Taipei-Xiamen direct charter flight since direct cross-strait Lunar New Year charter flight services were first offered in 2004.

Meanwhile, a Xiamen Air passenger plane arrived at the CKS airport at 9: 25 a.m., carrying Taiwan businesspeople back home for the Lunar New Year holidays.

Trans Asia Airways officials said that a direct flight from Taipei to Xiamen takes 100 minutes, which is three or four hours less than the travel time on the usual route -- which includes a transit stop in Macau.

In addition to Trans Asia Airways, three other Taiwan carriers -- UNI Airways, Far East Air Transport Corp. and Mandarin Airlines -- are also operating direct Taipei-Xiamen or Kaohsiung-Xia charter flights in the three days leading up to Chinese New Year's Day, which falls on Jan. 29 this year.

Six carriers from each side of the Taiwan Strait have been authorized to operate direct cross-strait charter flights during the Chinese New Year holiday period.

Each side will offer 72 charter flights between Taipei/Kaohsiung in Taiwan and Beijing/Shanghai/Guangzhou/Xiamen in China during the holiday period. Taiwan citizens with valid entry permits issued by the governments on both sides are eligible to take the special flights.

As Lunar New Year is just around the corner, operations of direct cross-strait charter flight services are in full swing. Also expected to land at Taiwan's CKS airport or Kaohsiung Airport on Wednesday will be flights offered by China Southern Air, Hainan Airlines, Air China International and China Eastern Air.
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Old January 27th, 2006, 05:09 AM   #211
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China Southern Airlines to make more chartered flights to Taiwan
27 January 2006
Xinhua's China Economic Information Service

BEIJING, January 27 (CEIS) – The first Spring Festival chartered flight operated by China Southern Airlines (NYSE: ZNH, HK: 1005, SH: 600029) took off in Guangzhou, south China, for Taibei of Taiwan at 10:00 a.m. Jan. 25.

This is the second time for the airline company to provide such chartered service from the mainland to Taiwan during the Spring Festival, the traditional Chinese New Year.

The number of chartered flights operated by the company during this year’s Spring Festival will increase to 12, from 8 last year. The 12 flights can altogether provide 4,536 seats.
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Old February 8th, 2006, 02:47 AM   #212
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Regular Cross-Straits Flights Urged
By Xing Zhigang in Beijing and Pan Haixia in Shanghai
8 February 2006
China Daily

A senior civil aviation official called for the establishment of regular charter flights across the Taiwan Straits as the Spring Festival charter-flight programme ended yesterday.

Packed to capacity with 260 Taiwan passengers, Shanghai Airlines' flight FM808 flew in from Taipei to Pudong International Airport at around 2:30 pm.

Flight MF884 of Xiamen Airlines touched down at Gaoqi airport in Xiamen, a port city in East China's Fujian Province, at 3:25pm on its return from Kaohsiung.

They were the last two round-trip cross-Straits charter flights for the Spring Festival.

Six Taiwan and six mainland airlines operated a total of 72 non-stop round-trip charter flights between January 20 and yesterday.

About 27,000 passengers took the flights this year, compared with 10,000 in 48 round-trip flights last year.

Pu Zhaozhou, director of the Office of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China, yesterday hailed the success of the scheme. "We will focus on cross-Straits charter flights for major festivals and weekends or even making them regular all year long," he told China Daily.

Pu, the mainland's top negotiator for cross-Straits charter flights, suggested Beijing push for early talks on the issue this year.

It was the third year the two sides of the Straits operated charter flights during the Lunar New Year holidays.

Due to Taipei's decades-old ban on the three direct links trade, transport and postal services across the Straits, travellers have to make an extra stop, typically in Hong Kong or Macao.

But in a one-off programme, non-stop charter flights were run between Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen on the mainland, and Taipei and Kaohsiung on the island this year through Hong Kong airspace.

The 12 Taiwan and mainland airlines in this year's charter programme offered a total of 32,076 seats and reported an average passenger occupancy rate of more than 80 per cent.

An estimated 1 million Taiwan people work or live on the mainland. Last year, Taiwan people paid more than 4.1 million visits to the mainland.
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Old February 8th, 2006, 07:42 PM   #213
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China Eastern Airlines fulfills cross-Straits chartered flight task
8 February 2006
Xinhua's China Economic Information Service

BEIJING, February 8 (CEIS) – China Eastern Airlines (NYSE:CEA, HK: 0670, SH: 600115) has transported 3,766 Taiwanese between Taiwan and Chinese mainland over 20 chartered flights between January 25 and February 5, the Chinese Lunar New Year period.

This is the second time for the company to provide such services to Taiwanese.

The company used its best airplanes and staffs to finish the half- political half-commercial task. But it is unclear how much profit the company has got from the service.
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Old February 14th, 2006, 04:28 PM   #214
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Charter flights prove profitable
8 February 2006
Shanghai Daily

Both of the local airlines that offered chartered flights to Taiwan for the Spring Festival earned a profit this year, the first time the program has been a money maker for the carriers.

The two airlines, China Eastern Airlines and Shanghai Airlines, said fewer restriction on who could take the flights made the government-backed program profitable. The airlines began offering the chartered flights ahead of the Spring Festival in 2003.

The flights allow people from Taiwan to return home for the holiday without having to switch planes in Hong Kong or Macau, as they normally do. Planes still have to detour to Hong Kong, however.

The two carriers handled 5,905 passengers on 16 charter flights between January 24 and yesterday, when the program wrapped up for the year.

Shanghai Airlines, which carried 2,139 passengers on six Shanghai-Taipei and Shanghai-Kaohsiung round-trip flights, said it earned a profit on both routes this year with about 85 percent of the seats on Shanghai-Taipei flights filled during the period.

"As the flights were no longer limited to Taiwanese business people and their families this year, we had passengers on our return flights from Taiwan for the first time," said Wang Wanlong, a Shanghai Airlines spokesman.

China Eastern said it handled 3,766 passengers on charter flights this year, up from 1,754 last year.

The airline offered more flights this year than last, and fewer restriction on passengers led to increased ticket sales.

Neither carrier would say how large a profit it earned from the charter flights.
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Old February 22nd, 2006, 04:53 PM   #215
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Taiwan Opposition In China To Discuss Air Links
22 February 2006

BEIJING (AP)--Taiwan's main opposition party opened talks with Chinese officials on Wednesday aimed at expanding charter flights between the self-governed island and China's mainland.

Nationalist Party delegation leader Tseng Yung-chuan said he saw 'no real hindrances' to adding more direct charter flights, now limited to a brief period around the lunar New Year. All other flights between Taiwan and China require a stop in a third point, usually Hong Kong.

The holiday flights, now in their third year, have laid the groundwork for more regular service, but 'progress has not been fast enough,' Tseng said, before reporters were ushered out of the meeting.

Relations between the Nationalists and communists have warmed in recent years as they found a common cause in their opposition to Taiwanese President Chen Shui-bian, whose party wants formal independence. The Nationalists favor eventual reunification.

As Taiwan's main opposition party, the Nationalist Party is free to take initiatives such as visiting the mainland but cannot represent the government in formal negotiations.

During a media briefing after his meetings, Tseng brushed off criticism that his trip was meddling in governmental affairs. He said charter flight discussions 'do not involve navigation rights and so do not require negotiations between government organs.'

China's top Taiwan policy official, Chen Yunlin, said talks would try to eliminate remaining barriers to charter flights and increased tourism.

Taiwan has banned direct flights since the sides split amid civil war in 1949, and has been wary of increasing numbers of Chinese allowed to visit the island, which Beijing claims as its territory and has threatened repeatedly to invade.

China refuses to recognize Taiwan's elected government, requiring most contacts between the sides to be conducted by nominally unofficial groups.

Tseng's delegation later met with Chen's deputy Li Bingcai, who said most technical issues surrounding expanded direct flights had been resolved already.

'We're very willing to do our utmost to promote the further expansion of these charter flights and hope that this goal can be realized at an early date,' Li said.

-Edited by David Bottomley
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Old March 15th, 2006, 05:24 AM   #216
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Stephen Lam says HK will push for three links
15 March 2006
South China Morning Post extract

Hong Kong's constitutional affairs chief said yesterday the government would push for the establishment of the "three direct links" across the Taiwan Strait, referring to the opening of air, sea and mail ties between the mainland and the island.

Responding to demands by democratic lawmaker Cheung Man-kwong to establish a trade office in Taipei during a budget hearing in Legco, Secretary for Constitutional Affairs Stephen Lam Sui-lung said the government supported better cross-strait relations.

But he said a trade office to encourage investment and promote Hong Kong's business was not being considered for now, despite lawmakers' concerns that any delays would harm trade.

"The government will encourage the three direct links and when it happens, we will have to plan and get prepared. We have to consider whether we need such an office in Taiwan, but that depends on long-term developments," Mr Lam said.

Premier Wen Jiabao yesterday criticised Taipei for hindering plans for the opening of air, sea and mail links.

When pressed on whether the government would welcome Taiwanese politicians, including Taipei Mayor and Kuomintang chairman Ma Ying-jeou visiting Hong Kong, Mr Lam said: "We are willing to take whatever steps helpful to improve cross-strait relations."
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Old April 13th, 2006, 07:06 AM   #217
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Taiwan seeks talks with China on tourism, charter flights in 6 mths - report
12 April 2006

TAIPEI (AFX) - Taiwan hopes that it and China can start and complete negotiations in six months on allowing more Chinese sightseers to the island and more charter flights across the Taiwan Strait, the United Daily News reported, citing a senior government official.

Taiwan does not rule out the possibility of unilaterally announcing opening to such charter flights and sightseeing tours by Chinese nationals directly from the mainland if the proposed negotiations fail to be completed in time, Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu said.

Wu, head of the cabinet body charged with charting Taiwan's China policy, made the remarks just as Lien Chan, honorary chairman of the island's largest opposition party Kuomintang, is about to head a mission to China for a cross-strait economic and trade forum.

Charter flights for passengers are being planned mostly for major holidays, weekends and humanitarian purposes, Wu said.

On the cargo side, up to two daily flights will be considered, he added.

From late January through early February, Taiwan's and China's airlines provided charter flights to bring Taiwan passengers on the mainland home for the Chinese New Year holidays. The charter flights were nonstop but were required to fly over Hong Kong airspace as 'direct flights' across the Taiwan Strait continue to be banned.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 05:54 AM   #218
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Taiwan opposition group in Beijing for meetings

BEIJING, April 13 (Reuters) - Taiwan's opposition politicians arrived in Beijing on Thursday ahead of an economic forum with China's ruling Communist Party, which is seeking to isolate Taiwan's president and court opinion on the island.

The former chairman of Taiwan's main opposition party, the Kuomintang (KMT), Lien Chan, is leading the group of more than 100 politicians and businesspeople attending the two-day forum that starts on Friday.

The meeting will discuss direct air links between Taiwan and the mainland and other ways to broaden trade, but -- with only opposition politicians representing Taiwan -- it is unlikely to prompt any immediate policy changes.

Before retiring in August, Lien made an historic visit to the mainland in April, ending decades of hostility between the KMT and the mainland Communists.

Shortly after arriving in Beijing on Thursday, Lien, again pressed for reconciliation between China and Taiwan.

"Economic and trade relations across the Taiwan Strait are extremely close," Lien said, according to China's official Xinhua News Agency. "Today compatriots on both sides of the Strait need to engage in mutual help and benefit."

While courting Taiwan's opposition parties, which favour closer contact with the mainland, Beijing has shunned Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian, who leans towards independence for the self-ruled island and has rejected China's conditions for talks.

China considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory.

On Wednesday, the Director of the Communist Party's Taiwan Work Office, Chen Yunlin, urged Taiwanese investors to embrace the mainland and oppose Taiwan-government limits on investment in China.

"Compatriots on both sides of the Strait should not accept any meddling and should seize opportunities and strengthen cooperation," he told reporters, according to Xinhua. Chen said Lien will also meet Chinese President Hu Jintao in Beijing.
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Old April 14th, 2006, 05:55 AM   #219
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Taiwan likely to lift ban on Chinese tourists

TAIPEI, April 13 (Reuters) - Taiwan's independence-leaning government said on Thursday it may lift a ban on visits by Chinese tourists to the island, a move that could trump an opposition delegation's talks in Beijing this weekend.

"Even if (China) continues to stall negotiations with us, we do not rule out the possibility of unilaterally lifting the ban on mainland tourists coming to Taiwan," Mainland Affairs Council Chairman Joseph Wu told reporters.

His announcement came as an opposition delegation left for Beijing to discuss a slew of economic issues at a meeting that underscores the determination of China's ruling Communist Party to sideline Taiwan's government.

The delegation of more than 100 businessmen and politicians from the main opposition Kuomintang (KMT), or Nationalist Party, will hold talks on direct flights and tourist visits from the mainland at a two-day forum opening on Friday.

Chinese President Hu Jintao will meet KMT Honorary Chairman Lien Chan for a second time on Sunday, days before Hu flies to Washington, where he is expected to seek words of support for China's stance on Taiwan.

The mainland council's Wu said the government may lift the tourist ban if Beijing offers a comprehensive plan at the forum. Previously, Taipei had said talks must take place before any opening.

Wu said the government still wanted China to discuss the issue, but would not insist on talks as a precondition for opening the door to mainland tourists.

China, which considers self-ruled Taiwan part of its territory, has refused to deal with President Chen Shui-bian, whose Democratic Progressive Party champions an independent Taiwan identity.

Taiwan and China have not been on speaking terms since 1999, when then-president Lee Teng-hui angered Beijing by defining bilateral ties as between "special state to state".
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Old April 17th, 2006, 04:58 AM   #220
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Direct Cross-Straights Air, Ship Links Urged
By Le Tian
17 April 2006
China Daily

Taiwan authorities have again been urged to allow direct air and shipping services across the Taiwan Straits to facilitate the increasingly frequent traffic of people and goods between the mainland and the island.

Participants made the call on the final day of the two-day Cross-Straits Economic and Trade Forum in Beijing on Saturday.

They pledged to work together to push forward the issue, to make current cross-Straits chartered flights more convenient and to ensure flights operate on a regular basis, during festivals and at weekends.

Speaking at the forum, Lin Chu-Chia, a professor from Taiwan's ChengChi University, said: "If the direct links of air and shipping services across the Taiwan Straits can be realized, at least 31 billion NT dollars (US$1 billion) of cost will be saved annually."

He added that the huge costs brought by indirect flights and shipments make it impossible for Taiwan to become a regional economic centre, and reduce the island's potential for external investment.

The honorary chairman of Taiwan's main opposition party Kuomintang (KMT), Lien Chan, told forum delegates that it took him eight and a half hours to fly from Taipei to Beijing, far longer than a direct two-hour flight.

Li Jiaxiang, president of the mainland's major carrier Air China, based in Beijing, said he hoped direct flights between Taiwan and the mainland could be operational as soon as possible.
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