CHINA> Taiwan, HK, Macao
Mainland-Taiwan direct flights to greatly benefit passengers, official
Updated: 2008-12-13 00:32

BEIJING -- Chinese mainland's civil aviation authorities on Friday said the upcoming direct flights between the mainland and Taiwan would greatly benefit passengers shuttling between two sides.

Wang Liya, an official with the Civil Aviation Administration of China (CAAC), said the distance and time for air travels across the Taiwan Straits would be significantly shortened after the direct flights are launched next Monday.

The mainland's Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), the two main negotiating bodies, on November 4 signed a historic agreement to allow civilian planes and ships to directly cross the Taiwan Straits from December 15.

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This will end a situation that has prevailed since 1949 that air and shipping transport between the Chinese mainland and Taiwan had to transfer through a third place, usually Hong Kong or Macao.

"Distance of direct flight from Beijing to Taipei will be 1,100 kilometers less than the current route (via Hong Kong) and the flying time will be shortened by one hour and 20 minutes," said Wang Liya.

Distance of the flight from Shanghai to Taipei will also be 1,000 km less, which will help the airlines to save fuel as much as eight tonnes for one single flight, he said.

Under the agreement, the two sides will launch regular passenger charter flights, to replace current flights only at weekends and the four major traditional Chinese festivals.

Besides five terminals already opened in Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, the mainland will open another 16 terminals for passenger charter flights in cities such as Chengdu, Chongqing and Shenzhen. Taiwan has already opened eight terminals.

The number of return flights will increase to 108 every week, compared with 36 at present.

Wang Liya said air control departments of the two sides had made thorough discussions on matters concerning air traffic control. Plans to deal with special situations have been in place in order to ensure the safety of flights.

Air control specialists of the mainland have also received particular trainings for smooth operation of the flights, he said.