Beijing pushes for charter cargo flights
Beijing is expected to announce a new policy about cross-Straits cargo charter flights on Friday in a major effort to push for direct air links with Taiwan, China Daily learned yesterday.
Pu Zhaozhou, director of the Office of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of the Civil Aviation of China (CAAC), said the mainland is willing to take practical steps to facilitate an early implementation of direct air links across the Straits, including cargo charter services.
"Related officials will elaborate on our attitude towards and our stance on the issue at the news conference to be held by the Taiwan Affairs Office," he told China Daily.
The mainland's move will be seen as another encouraging development in the proposed cargo charter programme after Taiwan leader Chen Shui-bian offered to discuss the issue with Beijing last Wednesday.
Ahead of his meeting with representatives of Taiwanese airlines at a Spring Festival party held in Beijing last night, Pu said the proposed cross-Straits cargo charter arrangement is set to be a main topic.
"Of course we will exchange views with each other on the issue but it is not a formal discussion," he said.
The festival party has been an annual event hosted by the CAAC to treat senior executives of airlines from the mainland, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao.
Representatives from six Taiwanese airlines attended yesterday's party, which was closed to the media.
Among the Taiwanese guests was Lo Ta-hsin, chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association, who reached an agreement with Pu on this year's non-stop cross-Straits charter flight programme in Macao on January 15.
"The passenger charters just concluded at the Lunar New Year holiday provided a sound basis for the future cargo charter flights across the Taiwan Straits," Lo told media before the party last night.
But he refused to give a timetable for the business to kick off, saying he has not been authorized to start talks about the issue.
Both the mainland and Taiwanese airlines expressed great interest in the cargo charter business.
Airlines eager for operations
Song Chengren, deputy general manager of the Xiamen Airlines, said his company is eager to make the charter flights regular since there are vast business opportunities between the two sides.
Song's company is headquartered in Xiamen, Fujian Province in East China, which is separated with the island by the Taiwan Straits.
Only 30 to 40 minutes are needed for direct flights.
"We have been preparing the cargo charters since 1990," Song said.
Song is echoed by his Taiwanese counterpart Stephen Tsuei, chairman of the Far Eastern Air Transport Corp.
"The passenger charter flights during the Lunar New Year holidays have benefited a lot of Taiwanese business people in mainland and we hope the cargo charters can also kick off as early as possible," the chairman said.
"Both the mainland and Taiwanese airlines desire the cargo charters, which can be turned into a reality technically since a good pattern has been established," Tsuei said.
The cargo charter business can help reduce the operating costs of airlines and are also a way of improving competition, he added.