Beijing reveals plan for cross-Straits charter flights
Chinese mainland officials Wednesday revealed, for the first time, the mainland's specific plan for the Spring Festival direct charter flights across the Taiwan Straits in 2005, Xinhua News Agency reports.
According to the plan, both Taiwan and mainland airways should participate in the flights on an equal footing, He Shizhong, chief of the Department of Economy under the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council said at a news conference in Beijing.
The terminals in the mainland will be expanded from Shanghai in 2003 to more cities, including Beijing, Guangzhou and Xiamen where Taiwan businessmen inhabit and work in large numbers, according to He.
The plan also suggests Taiwan adding new cities, such as Taichung, in addition to the previous terminals of Taipei and Kaohsiung, so as to meet the demands of more Taiwan businessmen and their relatives.
The two sides can exchange views on the flight terminals, according to the plan.
The chartered airplanes will not stop over in Hong Kong and Macao to ensure the passengers' security, save them from travel fatigue and help airways cut additional expenditures, according to the plan.
The first direct charter flights can carry passengers in both directions and will open not only to Taiwan businessmen and their relatives but also to all Taiwan people to-and-fro the Straits during the Spring Festival, the plan says.
Both He and Pu Zhaozhou, a senior official with the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), deemed that the plan has taken full consideration of the wishes and interests of the Taiwan compatriots and airways, and expected it to be realized via direct negotiations between non-governmental aviation companies of the two sides.
Negotiation has not begun
He said that charter flights across the Taiwan Straits for 2005 Spring Festival has nothing to do with governmental-level aviation agreements.
The question relating to charter flights constituted an internal affair of the Chinese people, according to He, adding that this issue could be solved through negotiations using the mechanism established by the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Straits (ARATS) and the Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF).
But the negotiation has not yet begun, he acknowledged.
He said the opening of non-stop round-trip charter flights to Taiwan is for the benefit of those Taiwanese who have businesses on the mainland.
Pu Zhaozhou, also vice chairman of the board of directors of the mainland-based straits aviation exchange commission, has sent a letter to his counterpart in Taiwan about the matters concerned. " We hope that Taiwan authorities could give a positive response as soon as possible," he said.
The charter flight attempt across the Taiwan Straits in 2003 was a success and it proved that the Spring Festival charter flights issue across Taiwan Straits was simple, convenient and easy to operate, and the technical matter involved was not complicated at all.
"As long as Taiwan authorities have sincerity, we have enough time to get
fully prepared for the 2005 Spring Festival non-stop round-trip charter
flights," he said.
Taiwan has stopped direct transport links with the mainland since the Chinese civil war ended in 1949. Travelers to and from the mainland usually have to go via Hong Kong or Macao, adding several hours to the flight.
Many Taiwan people who have business in the mainland are looking forward to having non-stop round trip charter flights, which will cost less time and money, during the Spring Festival, the Chinese Lunar New Year for family reunion.
In 2003, six Taiwan air companies opened 16 charter flights to the mainland during the Spring Festival but the flight was one way from Taiwan to the mainland and stopped in Hong Kong or Macao, which roused complaints about poor efficiency among passengers.
The air companies only sold 70 percent of the seats on average per flight in 2003.
The Taiwan authorities agreed to the indirect charter flights in 2003's Spring Festival on certain conditions: only Taiwanese airlines could operate the charter flights; the flights have to fly the routes by landing in a third place and the flight should be only one way, no passengers should be carried on the trip back.
Cross-Straits charter flight talks proposed
The mainland yesterday extended a formal invitation to Taiwan for non-governmental talks about direct cross-Straits charter flights during the upcoming Spring Festival.
Pu Zhaozhou, an executive board member of the China Civil Aviation Association, said the invitation was sent yesterday morning to Lo Ta-hsing, chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association.
"We invite him to lead managers of Taiwanese airlines to discuss technical and business details with us at a place suitable to both sides," he told China Daily.
Pu, who also serves as director of the Office of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China, said the talks should be arranged at an early date, since time is running out.
Minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State
Council Chen Yunlin (right) talks with Tseng Yung-chuan, head of a
six-member Kuomintang delegation from Taiwan, in Beijing Monday, January
10, 2005. They discussed direct cross-Straits charter flights during the
2005 Spring Festival.
Minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council Chen Yunlin (right) talks with Tseng Yung-chuan, head of a six-member Kuomintang delegation from Taiwan, in Beijing Monday, January 10, 2005. They discussed direct cross-Straits charter flights during the 2005 Spring Festival. [newsphoto]
The Chinese Lunar New Year, a traditional festival for family reunions, falls this year on February 9.
"The vital part of the talks is whether the Taiwanese side will agree to allow mainland airlines to run direct charter flights in line with the principle of equity," Pu said.
His invitation came as part of Beijing's latest efforts to push for the launch of two-way non-stop charter flights between the mainland and Taiwan.
Chen Yunlin, minister of the Taiwan Affairs Office of the State Council, gave official approval on Monday to such flight arrangements.
Taipei has proposed government talks to facilitate the participation of mainland airlines in a charter programme.
But Chen told a visiting Taiwanese opposition delegation that the talks should be held between industrial associations and airlines across the Straits to pave the way for the charter flight plan.
During the 2003 Spring Festival, six Taiwanese airlines operated 16 indirect charter flights to and from the mainland for the first time since 1949. But all charter planes were required to travel through Hong Kong, and mainland airlines were excluded from taking part in the scheme.
The charter flights were shunned during the 2004 Spring Festival because Taipei continued to exclude the participation of mainland carriers, while insisting on the Hong Kong stopover.
In response to Chen's remarks, Taiwan's "mainland affairs council" said yesterday it had always been prepared to discuss details of the proposed direct flights.
But it reiterated that the negotiations should be conducted in accordance with the "Taiwan-Hong Kong" model, which enables business representatives to negotiate flights under government supervision.