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Strait flights ready for takeoff

DEPARTURE date is rapidly approaching as Chinese carriers prepare to launch routine direct flights between Chinese mainland and Taiwan.

An official of Shanghai-based China Eastern Airlines, China's third-largest carrier, said yesterday that it planned to launch direct flights across the Taiwan Strait at the beginning of September.

"But we are still waiting for approval from the Civil Aviation Administration of China," the official told Shanghai Daily.

China Eastern will run 29 passenger flights weekly to link nine mainland cities and Taipei in Taiwan, including 10 weekly flights departing from Shanghai and four from Nanjing, capital of east China's Jiangsu Province.

Taiwan's EVA Air and its subsidiary, Uni Air, have announced that they will launch direct flights on August 31, linking 11 mainland cities and Taiwan.

On September 28, another three cities would be added onto the schedule, EVA Air said on its Website yesterday.

The two carriers are still applying to the mainland regulator about launch dates, but they say passengers can now start booking tickets.

Top negotiators from the mainland and Taiwan reached an agreement in April to allow routine direct flights across the Taiwan Strait.

Tourist rush

Weekly flights across the Taiwan Strait will increase from 108 to 270 and six terminals will be added, according to the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait and the Taiwan-based Strait Exchange Foundation.

About 383,330 mainland tourists in 13,731 groups had visited Taiwan in the 12 months since last July, when the island was opened to mainland tourists.

China International Capital Co Ltd said in a report that the routine flights were expected to generate 5 billion yuan (US$732 million) in profit to domestic carriers annually.

China Southern Airlines, the country's largest carrier by fleet size, and Air China will each run 27 weekly passenger flights across the Taiwan Strait, according to schedules revealed by the aviation regulator this month.


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