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Mainland, Taiwan agree on weekend chartered flights
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The Chinese mainland and Taiwan on Friday agreed to begin weekend chartered flights across the Taiwan Strait, over which direct flights have been operated only at major festivals.

Chen Yunlin, chairman of the mainland-based Association for Relations Across the Taiwan Strait (ARATS), and Chiang Pin-kun, chairman of the Taiwan-based Straits Exchange Foundation (SEF), signed a minute of talks on weekend chartered flights in Beijing.

The service, scheduled to start from July 4, will include 36 return flights for every weekend, from each Friday to the following Monday, and the number will increase according to demand, the minute said.

The flights would be divided evenly between mainland and Taiwan airlines, it said.

The mainland will first open Beijing, Shanghai, Guangzhou, Xiamen and Nanjing to the flights, and will gradually add Chengdu, Chongqing, Hangzhou, Dalian, Guilin and Shenzhen, and possibly more if needed.

Taiwan will have eight terminals: Taipei, Taoyuan, Kaohsiung, Taichung, Penghu, Hualien, Kinmen and Taitung.

According to the minute, the flights from Taiwan to Shanghai will be restricted to a maximum of nine every weekend and those from the mainland to Taichung to six.

All passengers with legal passes to travel across the Strait can take the flights, the document said.

"The environment is favorable. Now there is a beginning, the next step will follow. We can't expect to reach the final target in one step," said Michael Lo, former chairman of the Taipei Airlines Association (TAA), in an interview with Friday's Beijing News.

The mainland and Taiwan would start discussing the direct flight route "as soon as possible" and before that all chartered flights will have to fly over Hong Kong, according to the documents.

Also on the agenda would be air traffic control system coordination to facilitate direct flights across the Strait, and the start of regular scheduled flights, but no timetable has been set.

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