A senior civil aviation official called for the establishment of regular
charter flights across the Taiwan Straits as the Spring Festival charter-flight
programme ended yesterday.
Packed to capacity with 260 Taiwan passengers, Shanghai Airlines' flight FM808 flew in from Taipei to Pudong International Airport at around 2:30 pm.
Flight MF884 of Xiamen Airlines touched down at Gaoqi airport in Xiamen, a port city in East China's Fujian Province, at 3:25pm on its return from Kaohsiung.
They were the last two round-trip cross-Straits charter flights for the Spring Festival.
Six Taiwan and six mainland airlines operated a total of 72 non-stop round-trip charter flights between January 20 and yesterday.
About 27,000 passengers took the flights this year, compared with 10,000 in 48 round-trip flights last year.
Pu Zhaozhou, director of the Office of Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao Affairs under the General Administration of Civil Aviation of China, yesterday hailed the success of the scheme. "We will focus on cross-Straits charter flights for major festivals and weekends or even making them regular all year long," he told China Daily.
Pu, the mainland's top negotiator for cross-Straits charter flights, suggested Beijing push for early talks on the issue this year.
It was the third year the two sides of the Straits operated charter flights during the Lunar New Year holidays.
Due to Taipei's decades-old ban on the three direct links trade, transport and postal services across the Straits, travellers have to make an extra stop, typically in Hong Kong or Macao.
But in a one-off programme, non-stop charter flights were run between Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou and Xiamen on the mainland, and Taipei and Kaohsiung on the island this year through Hong Kong airspace.
The 12 Taiwan and mainland airlines in this year's charter programme offered a total of 32,076 seats and reported an average passenger occupancy rate of more than 80 per cent.
An estimated 1 million Taiwan people work or live on the mainland. Last year, Taiwan people paid more than 4.1 million visits to the mainland.