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Tsai has no reason to politicize extra flights for Spring Festival travel rush

By Li Yang | China Daily | Updated: 2018-01-22 07:17
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Passengers make their way out of the arrival lounge after arriving on Taiwan's China Airlines (CAL) plane at Beijing Capital International airport January 29, 2005 in Beijing, China.

CHINESE MAINLAND AIRLINES planned an additional 509 flights from mainland cities to Taiwan to facilitate the annual rush to and from the island during this year's Spring Festival holiday. Yet the island's "civil aeronautics administration" did not approve the applications of 176 flights to be operated by China Eastern Airlines and Xiamen Air, on the grounds of "potential flight safety concerns" for those airlines flying the M503 flight course. Li Yang of China Daily comments:

This is a spurious excuse. The M503 flight course, which connects the Pearl River Delta and the Yangtze River Delta, was launched from north to south, on March 29, 2015, to relieve the air traffic pressure on the old A470 air route along the mainland coast.

Since then more than 100 flights operated by various airlines have used the route each day on average without causing any safety concerns.

Given the rapidly growing number of commercial flights in the region, it was only a matter of time before the south-to-north route would be opened, and this was launched on Jan 8.

The M503 air route in both directions is located about 12 kilometers to the west of the center line of the Taiwan Straits in the flight information region of Shanghai, and it is entirely an internal affair of the mainland. The mainland has not the least reason to secure the island's approval before opening the air route to traffic.

Reportedly, the island's "civil aeronautics administration" has twice demanded that airlines stop flying the south-to-north M503 air route since it was opened, and communicated with the four companies-China Eastern Airlines, Xiamen Air, Cathay Dragon and Hong Kong Airlines-that have flights using the route every day, but none have stopped using the route.

It is clear the rejection of the 176 Spring Festival flights is a retaliatory measure out of political pettiness. The island's uncooperativeness is simply absurd, as most of the people affected by the rejection of the Spring Festival flights-estimated to be about 50,000-are from the island. The new air route has obviously made the Tsai Ing-wen administration uncomfortable, even though there is no reason why it should.

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