Cross-Straits jets ready for take-off
Airlines from the Chinese mainland are gearing up to operate charter flights across the Taiwan Straits following a landmark deal inked on Saturday.
Air carriers -- including Air China, China Eastern, China Southern, Shanghai Airlines and Xiamen Airlines -- confirmed to China Daily that they are all interested in conducting flights although they have not yet been given nod from the nation's industry watchdog.
"We have made full preparations for non-stop, round-trip charters, including market investigations, crew arrangements and air services," Cai Zhizhou, an official from the China Southern Airlines said yesterday.
Further negotiations about ground services, air control and air routes are to be held with related departments in Taiwan, said Cai with the Guangzhou-based airlines in South China's Guangdong Province.
So far, which airlines will be designated to operate the charter flights is still not known. But insiders have listed Air China, China Southern, Xiamen Airlines and China Eastern as possible candidates from the mainland.
Taiwan airlines could include China Airlines, EVA Air, TransAsia Airways and Far East Air Transport Corp, Mandarin Airlines and UNI Airways Corp, according to Taiwan media reports.
If approved, China Eastern will use 300-seat Airbus A340-600 aircraft to carry passengers, said Luo Chaogeng, the airlines' president.
As a pilot with 32 years of flying experiences, Luo hopes to fly the first non-stop flight to Taiwan with his colleagues.
Zhang Huilin, an official from the Xiamen Airlines headquartered in East China's Fujian Province, said her company feels it is "a great pity" that Taiwan has refused to make Xiamen a destination -- which was included in the mainland's charter flight plan proposal.
Zhang's airlines has been negotiating with its Taiwanese counterpart TransAsia Airways over the charter flights for several years, but got no response from the Taiwan authorities.
It has won the approval to fly over Hong Kong's air traffic control area for its planned direct charter flights across the Taiwan Straits, said Zhang.
According to Zhang, the air ticket price will be around 4,000 yuan (US$480) from Beijing to Taipei and 3,000-plus yuan (US$360) from Shanghai to Taipei for the direct flights, saving one-fourth the ticket expense.
"Four hours will also be saved from the trip with the direct flight," Zhang said.