Thursday, April 16, 2009

Regular direct China-Taiwan flights

Talks with China about introducing regular direct flights are making better progress than before, the Civil Aeronautics Administration said Thursday.

CAA director-general Lee Long-wen left for Shanghai Tuesday for a round of talks with his Chinese counterparts. The talks form part of preparations for the next round of top-level negotiations and agreements expected for Nanjing next month.

The discussions in Shanghai were going better than previous talks, the CAA said Thursday. Apart from the regular flights, Taiwan is also requesting an expansion of the number of airports plied by the airlines.

The maximum daily number of Chinese tourists arriving in Taiwan reached 3,000 this week, raising the need for flights, the CAA said. The high demand is also having repercussions on the ground, forcing up prices for hotel rooms and buses.

The occupancy rate for the direct cross-straits flights reached 89 percent last week, the CAA said, leading to complaints from tour groups and from Taiwanese investors in China, the group which originally was the loudest voice in lobbying for the flights.

If an agreement is reached, regular flights can begin in July, but tour agencies are clamoring for a hike in the number of charter flights, currently at 108 a week.

The first round of talks in Beijing last June resulted in direct charter flights on weekends beginning in July. The second round, in Taipei last November, saw an expansion of the flights to the whole week, while planes were also allowed to fly more direct routes.

Apart from regular flights, the third round of talks will also touch on economic and financial liberalization and on the joint fight against crime, in particular the extradition of Taiwanese fugitives from China.

A 20-member delegation from China’s Association for Relations Across the Straits is arriving in Taipei Friday for an expected final round of preparatory talks Saturday with Taiwan’s Straits Exchange Foundation.