BEIJING -- The Chinese mainland and Taiwan Friday agreed on starting weekend chartered flights across the Taiwan Strait.
Chiang Pin-kun (L), chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), shakes hands with Chen Yunlin, chairman of mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS), after signing agreements during a ceremony at Diaoyutai State Guesthouse in Beijing June 13, 2008. ARATS and SEF agreed on starting weekend chartered flights across the Taiwan Straits. [Xinhua]
Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (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: Taipei, Taoyuan, 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 mainland and Taiwan would start discussing the direct flight route "as soon as possible" and before that all chartered flights will have to fly over Hong Kong.
Also on the agenda would be air traffic control system coordination to facilitate direct flights across the Strait, and the start of regular scheduled flights, but no timetable has been set.
Negotiations on chartered freight flights will be held within three months after the weekend services start, the document said.
The two sides agreed that airliners will swap representative offices. Taiwan promised to allow mainland airline companies 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.
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 for festivals.
The two sides started chartered flight service for the Spring Festival, a major event for Chinese family reunions, in 2003 and since 2006, the service has been expanded to three other major Chinese festivals: the Qingming, or Tomb Sweeping, Festival; Dragon Boat Festival; and Mid-Autumn Festival.
The mainland-based Cross-Strait Aviation Transport Exchange Council and the Taipei Airlines Association (TAA) were entrusted to discuss and implement details of the agreement, which will take effect from June 20.