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Airlines works for direct charter flights
By Li Dapeng (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-01-06 22:47

Fujian-based Xiamen Airlines has won approval to fly over Hong Kong's air traffic control area for its planned direct charter flights across the Taiwan Straits.

This is happening as mainland airlines carry out talks with their Taiwanese counterparts in response to the Chinese Government's latest push for direct charter flights across the Straits during the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year.

The approval, from the civil aviation department of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, means Xiamen Airlines has solved any technological and professional problems, and are capable of carrying out the flights as long as the Taiwanese authorities allow planes to land on the island, said a spokesman.

Beijing has been urging Taipei to hold talks about direct and two-way flights for the 2005 Spring Festival, which starts on February 9.

Xiamen Airlines would leave it to Taiwan TransAsia Airways to deal with its aircraft once they have landed in Taiwan. Details of the co-operation are still under discussion between the general managers of the two companies, said Huang Shaohui, a Xiamen Airlines official.

The airline has been negotiating with its Taiwanese counterpart over the charter flights for several years, Huang said.

The negotiations between the airlines have, however, got no response from the Taiwan authorities so far.

Seventy-minute flights would make detours through Guangzhou and Hong Kong air control areas for the 600-kilometre journey, then land at Taipei or Kaohsiung. T

Tickets would cost about 1,600 yuan (US$193), the same as the price of the flight from Xiamen to Hong Kong.

"We are very happy to see that Beijing has been actively pushing the direct charter flights across the Straits, which will make it easier for Taiwanese business people in the mainland," said Wu Jinzhong, president of Xiamen Taiwanese Enterprises Association.

"Taiwanese people attach a lot of importance to the Spring Festival," he said. "We really hope that the Taiwan authorities take into consideration the interests of mainland-based Taiwanese business people and make favourable decisions."

Before direct sea voyages between Xiamen and Jinmen started in 2001, Wu had to transit through Hong Kong or Macao between Taipei and Xiamen, which took him about eight hours.

This Xiamen-Jinmen voyage remains the only direct passage across the Straits and is still fraught with complications, said Wu.

He also suggested Xiamen should be designated a new mainland destination for the charter flight plan because Fujian has become an important residence for Taiwanese business people in the mainland.

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